Spirulina derives its name from the spiral shape of its filaments and has been used as a food source by several ancient civilizations, including the Aztecs. It is a photosynthetic bacterium that grows abundantly in freshwaters in Greece, Japan, India, the US, and other places.
Spirulina has often been marketed as a superfood and the food of the future. But what is spirulina good for, and why should you include it in your child’s diet? Read on to learn more about this lesser-known food:
1. Spirulina is a Power House of Nutrients
Spirulina is about 70% protein and is a very rich source of vitamins B12 and beta-carotene. It also is a great source of minerals like iron magnesium, potassium, calcium, and zinc. It’s rich in antioxidants such as phenolic acids, tocopherols, gamma-linolenic acids1. Spirulina is also known to increase gut-supporting bacteria like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, thereby producing vitamin B6 and improving gut health.
Spirulina supplements have been used throughout the world by researchers to help combat malnutrition. A study of children between six and sixty months who were administered just 10gms of spirulina every day found that the weight and height of these children increased rapidly when compared to children who received a local diet2.
Interestingly, spirulina can also help combat obesity. Data obtained from over five studies found that spirulina helped reduce body fat and waist size. Another study found that it helped reduce food cravings.
2. Spirulina Boosts Your Child’s Immunity
Spirulina helps to build immunity and improve resistance to viral infections like the common cold, fevers, etc. in children by stimulating the production of antibodies. This has been scientifically proven using pre-clinical animal studies that have shown good immune-stimulatory effects in a variety of species, including humans, mammals, chicken, and fish3.
Sulfolipids derived from spirulina are also found to be effective against HIV as the disease weakens the immune system. Spirulina can also protect children against allergic reactions by stopping the release of histamine, a substance that contributes to allergy symptoms4.
3. Spirulina Helps Fight Iron Deficiency-Anemia
Anemia is a condition in which one lacks enough healthy red blood cells or hemoglobin to carry adequate oxygen to the body’s tissues. A World Health Organization report found that anemia affects nearly 24.8% of the global population, among which the highest prevalence is in preschool-age children5. In a recent randomized clinical trial in the Gaza Strip, among malnourished children under age five who were receiving 3 grams of Spirulina per day had significant improvement in their blood hemoglobin levels by the end of 12 weeks therapy6.