It’s only natural to hesitate before dumping a scoop of murky spirulina powder into your water or smoothie — even though you’ve likely seen it happen time and again on TikTok. “Is it worth it?” you might wonder, as you envision your drink turning a dark shade of green. But once you know more about the health benefits of spirulina powder, you might be more inspired to give it a whirl.
Spirulina is a type of blue-green algae or seaweed — and a popular green superfood — that is available in powder, liquid, and tablet form, says Carly Knowles, MS, RDN, LD, PCD, a registered dietitian nutritionist. The popular supplement has naturally-occurring proteins, vitamins, and minerals that bring about a slew of benefits, she tells Bustle — hence why you’re seeing countless wellness influencers posting about it on social media. And even though it looks intense, she notes that it’s actually super easy to mix into smoothies — or to drink straight up with water.
You may find that spirulina on its own tastes very green, slightly fishy, or a little bit earthy, though blending it with other ingredients can drown out the flavor. If that’s a turn-off, you can always take spirulina in capsule form, which may be easier to throw back. Consider adding spirulina to your diet if you need a boost of vitamins and minerals, Knowles says, or if you’re drawn to one of its many other benefits — keep reading for more intel on the superfood.
The Health Benefits Of Spirulina Powder
Any food that’s naturally brightly colored tends to be full of antioxidants, and that’s definitely true for spirulina. Diana Gariglio-Clelland, a registered dietitian with Soylent, says anyone looking to add more antioxidants into their diet might benefit from taking it. “Antioxidants can help reduce inflammation, which is the key driver behind many chronic diseases, like Type 2 diabetes and heart disease,” she tells Bustle.
Spirulina is also a great plant-based source of iron, Gariglio-Clellan says. That’s a great perk if you follow a plant-based diet or have anemia and aren’t quite sure where to get extra iron. What’s more, this supplement is an excellent source of many essential amino acids, which Gariglio-Clellan says are important for things like muscle development, mood regulation, and protecting tissue from oxidative damage.
If you aren’t into the idea of fish oil supplements, you could take spirulina instead and reap similar benefits. According to Knowles, spirulina contains both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, including DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and GLA (gamma-linolenic acid). And these fatty acids in spirulina may play a role in eye health and brain health, and may even help you cope with anxiety.
Though Knowles says there’s no standardized dosage for spirulina, she recommends starting with one teaspoon of the powder, which you can mix into Greek yogurt, a smoothie, or water. It’s best to read the package or bottle of your product and follow its specific recommendations. Also key? Knowles says that it’s important to buy from a quality brand that does third-party testing, since spirulina can be contaminated with heavy metals or toxins. And, of course, it’s always smart to consult with your doctor before adding anything to your routine, especially if you’re pregnant.
While spirulina is generally pretty easy to tolerate, Gariglio-Clelland says it might cause nausea for some. “If you’re taking a blood thinner you should ask your pharmacist about taking spirulina since it’s rich in vitamin K, which can interact with some blood thinners,” she adds. Otherwise, swirl some green powder into your glass, and cheers to good health.
Aguirre, N. (2013). The role of amino acids in skeletal muscle adaptation to exercise. Nestle Nutr Inst Workshop Ser. doi: 10.1159/000350261.
Ambrozova, J. (2014). Influence of Extractive Solvents on Lipid and Fatty Acids Content of Edible Freshwater Algal and Seaweed Products, the Green Microalga Chlorella kessleri and the Cyanobacterium Spirulina platensis. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules19022344
Karkos, PD. (2011). Spirulina in clinical practice: evidence-based human applications. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. doi: 10.1093/ecam/nen058.
Rao, TS. (2008). Understanding nutrition, depression and mental illnesses. Indian J Psychiatry. doi: 10.4103/0019-5545.42391.
Ruocco, C. (2021). Essential amino acid formulations to prevent mitochondrial dysfunction and oxidative stress. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. doi: 10.1097/MCO.0000000000000704.
Su, KP. (2018). Association of Use of Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids With Changes in Severity of Anxiety Symptoms: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA Netw Open. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.2327.
Trotta, T. (2022). Beneficial Effects of Spirulina Consumption on Brain Health. Nutrients. doi: 10.3390/nu14030676.
Zhang, AC. (2020). Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Eye Health: Opinions and Self-Reported Practice Behaviors of Optometrists in Australia and New Zealand. Nutrients. doi: 10.3390/nu12041179.
Carly Knowles, MS, RDN, LD, PCD, registered dietitian nutritionist
Diana Gariglio-Clelland, registered dietitian