I recently decided to educate myself as much as possible about spirulina.
It's a popular ingredient at many of our customer's juice bars, and I needed to source a good supply of spirulina powder (staying away from fresh spirulina, due to shelf life issues) for our new juice bar marketplace.
I asked around to our juice bar customers about what their favorite brands of spirulina powder are, and ordered every one of them to sample them myself. I also ordered every brand I could find online.
What I discovered about spirulina is that there are major quality differences between sources, and that pricing and quality isn't necessarily correlated. There is also some weird, gross stuff going on in the spirulina industry.
I'm going to share my findings and rate each brand of spirulina on a scale of 1 to 10 at the end of this article. Only the best spirulina powder I could find got a perfect 10/10 score, which is the one I chose for the marketplace.
But first, let's cover the basics.
What is Spirulina?
Spirulina is commonly referred to a a blue-green algae, which are actually bacteria that have the ability to perform photosynthesis and get energy form the sun. So even though spirulina has plant-like qualities it's not technically a plant, it's a bacteria. In that sense, spirulina is sort of like mushrooms - seems like a plant, but in a weird sort of mysterious way, it's something else.
Spirulina can be found growing in warm, fresh water. Climate is very important for Spirulina, which is why you won't find it at all in colder climates naturally. It's also extremely sensitive to the environment - although it should be warm, too much sunlight is bad.
What to Avoid When Buying Spirulina
As usual, while doing my research I found that things are not always what they seem. Here are some things to watch out for:
- Spirulina that smells like urine
Urea is used to increase spirulina production, and if too much is used it can actually give a "pee" smell to the spirulina powder. This is a pretty obvious thing to avoid.
- Spirulina falsely claiming to be from the US
Most spirulina comes from China. There are some companies that set up import companies in the US to import the spirulina from China, and then claim that the spirulina comes from the US. I discovered this by researching one of the brands and learning it's owned by Chinese importer with a US import office. Chinese food and beverage brands have been caught doing all sorts of weird things, including the 2008 Chinese milk scandal, that resulted in 54,000 children being hospitalized. If the brand is willing to lie about where the product is from, in my opinion their product can't be trusted. I recommend always researching parent companies of ingredient brands before purchasing for your business.
- Spirulina that is brown and smells burnt
Some spirulina is over-processed with heat to create the powder, which essentially burns it until it turns brown. Good spirulina should be bright green/blue. Look for freeze dried spirulina if buying powder, avoid it if it looks brown.
- Spirulina grown as animal feed
It's a common practice to grow spirulina as fish food or animal feed, since it's high in protein and can be grown cheaply in waste water. Spirulina that comes from waste water may be high in heavy metals and other harmful compounds. To be safe, ask your spirulina supplier for COA (certificate of analysis). If they are hesitant to provide one, it's probably a good sign you should avoid it.
Green vs Blue Spirulina
When shopping for Spirulina you will find two major options - Green spirulina, or Blue spirulina, the blue usually being much more expensive.
Green (technically blue-green) spirulina is what we refer to as the "full spectrum" spirulina, meaning it is spirulina in it's most natural form with all of the various nutrients. Blue spirulina is the pure, extracted phycocyanin from green spirulina. Phycocyanin is a phytonutrient that gives "blue-green" algae it's "blue" color. It's a powerful antioxidant and is high in protein and other nutrients.
So, when you purchase blue spirulina, it's much higher priced because you are actually only buying a small portion of the overall spirulina that was harvested. Additionally, the process itself of extracting phycocyanin is costly.
Nutrient wise, "full spectrum" green spirulina is higher in nutrients and much more affordable, so it's the clear choice if just looking at purely cost vs health benefits. However, green spirulina isn't as vibrantly colored as blue when adding to food and beverages, and it also can contain a slight taste and smell. The best way I can describe it is that it tastes slightly like a fresh water pond. I actually like the taste, but some people are turned off by it, and it can influence the taste slightly of a juice or smoothie.
Full spectrum green spirulina is a highly nutrient dense food-source, packed with protein and plenty of Vitamin B's, Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Vitamin C, and Vitamin D. It really is the super super food. Blue spirulina also contains a lot of protein and vitamins, but not as much variety as green.
Spirulina Comparison - Rating 8 Popular Brands
I sampled eight different Spirulina brands. I rated them based on sensory factors (smell, color, taste) out of 10 points.
Important Note: E3Live BrainOn product is not actually Spirulina, it is an extract that includes phycocyanin. But, when I asked juice bar owners about which type of Spirulina they use, this was one of the products mentioned. So I'm including it in the list, even though technically it's not spirulina.
In my opinion, the bottom 3-4 are all clearly worse than the top 3:
- Royal Spirulina - 10/10
- E3Live - 9/10 (technically not spirulina - the BrainOn product is an extract that contains phycocyanin as noted above)
- Vimergy - 6/10
- Spirulina Manna - 6/10
- Terrasoul - 3/10
- Micro Ingredients - 2/10
- Zazzee - 2/10
- Kates Naturals - 2/10
What is the Best Spirulina?
The best spirulina I could find (by far) is from a brand called Royal Spirulina. Their freeze dried spirulina powder is bright and vibrant and very high in nutrients, due to a proprietary process of harvesting the spirulina that leaves the cell walls in-tact. There's just something about it that seems magical. In my opinion it's far better than even the most expensive brands of spirulina labeled as organic.
The founder Paul was very helpful to me while researching spirulina, and he pointed me towards lots of interesting brands and information regarding spirulina. I'm very happy to have his brand on the juice bar marketplace, and I look forward to everyone of our Goodnature Family giving it a try.
Please comment below if you have any thoughts!
Are you able to explain why you gave Vimergy 6/10 and Royal 10/10? I just want to be well informed on the differences you found since I just started drinking the Vimergy.
This was based on my personal preference. Vimergy seems kind of dark / burnt
good morning this is Raja, I'm a intermediate student, with in small budget, I want to Start Spirulina Cultivation to support my father financial struggles, I'm expecting a very basic profit, Is it 2023 right time to start spirulin?
Hi Raja, We haven't done the research to be able to support an opinion on that, however, we have seen a rise in public interest for spirulina. Good luck!
I would like to know if it is necessary to take 1 Tbsp of the ROYAL SPIRULINA? Is 1 tsp enough? Also, should it be stored in the cabinet, refrigerator, or freezer?
Some experts recommend refrigerating spirulina after the package is opened to help preserve the amino acids, but if you plan on consuming it quickly, it is safely stored in a dry place at room temperature.
Below is a list of some of the essential minerals you receive in 10 gram (~1 tablespoon) of dried Spirulina compared with more traditional sources:
Iron: 5.4 mg – more iron than beef (recommended daily iron consumption) – M 8mg F 18mg
Potassium: 114 mg – more potassium than bananas (recommended potassium intake) 4700 mg
Calcium: 10 mg – more calcium than whole milk (recommended calcium intake) 1100 mg
Magnesium: 20 mg – more magnesium than walnuts (recommended magnesium) M 400 mg W 350 mg
Zinc: 0.2 mg – more zinc than spinach (zinc) M 11 mg W 8 mg
Spirulina does not replace a healthy diet but helps to balance out deficiencies and gives a great boost of energy.
Is spirulina safe for a woman with hormone receptive breast cancer? Does it increase or decrease estrogen?
Spirulina contains essential hormone-balancing nutrients, including calcium, magnesium and potassium. I have not read anything to suggest that spirulina would not be safe for someone with hormone receptive breast cancer, however, you should always discuss any supplement additions with your doctor. I have not found any studies to show that spirulina either increases or decreases estrogen levels, however, it has been reported that taking spirulina helps to balance hormones. Hope this helps 😄
We’re can I buy the royal spirulina
You can find it on the Goodnature Marketplace here: https://www.goodnature.com/products/category/marketplace-spirulina
For an extended period, I've been collaborating with numerous athletes, tackling the issue of inflammation. Despite trying various approaches with moderate success, the introduction of Royal Spirulina yielded astonishing results, reducing recovery time threefold compared to our previous methods. The company owner's expertise in nutrition and unwavering passion provided us with valuable insights to enhance our athletes' performance. I express my gratitude to Good Nature for connecting us with products and individuals who share their dedication to purity and quality.
I take Royal Spirulina for some time and I love it! Its not just the best product of Spirulina , the founder and person behind is producing it with high knowledge and ethics. What gives another great vibe to the product as an priceless add on.
Very informative. Good to know when buying for future us. Thank you.