If you're looking to increase the nutrient content of your diet, consider incorporating spirulina into your meals. This blue-green algae blends well into smoothies and juices, comes packed with protein and also provides considerable amounts of iron, copper and calcium -- minerals essential for good health. Spirulina also serves as a source of vitamins, especially B-complex vitamins important for a healthy metabolism.
Spirulina serves as an excellent source of thiamin, also called vitamin B-1. You need thiamin to metabolize nutrients -- including carbohydrates and proteins as well as fats. Getting enough B-1 in your diet also supports brain function because it helps you make GABA, a chemical that regulates your anxiety levels. A quarter-cup serving of dried spirulina provides 0.666 milligrams of thiamin. This contributes 61 percent toward the recommended daily intake for women and 56 percent for men.
Riboflavin and Pantothenic Acid
Add spirulina to your diet, and you'll consume more riboflavin and pantothenic acid, also called vitamins B-2 and B-5, respectively. Like thiamin, riboflavin helps you metabolize nutrients from your diet. It also affects your body's ability to use iron, and low riboflavin levels can contribute to iron deficiency. Pantothenic acid boosts the production of melatonin -- a chemical that controls your body's natural sleep and wake cycle -- and helps maintain your body's hormone balance. Each quarter-cup serving of dried spirulina contains 1.03 milligrams of riboflavin -- 79 percent and 94 percent of the recommended daily intakes for men and women, respectively -- as well as 0.97 milligrams of pantothenic acid, or 19 percent of your recommended daily intake.
Spirulina also helps you consume more niacin, or vitamin B-3. Your body converts niacin into nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, or NAD, a chemical essential for energy production. It also helps you produce fatty acids -- including the fats that make up your cell membranes -- regulates your body's response to stress and aids in cell communication. Consuming a quarter cup of dried spirulina boosts your niacin intake by 3.59 milligrams. This makes up 22 percent of the recommended daily intake for men and 26 percent for women.
Spirulina provides smaller, but still significant, amounts of some other vitamins. It contains other B-complex vitamins -- including vitamins B-9 and B-6 -- that complement the function of thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and pantothenic acid. Vitamin B-9 helps your nerves function, while B-6 supports red blood cell function. Spirulina also contains a small amount of vitamin E, a nutrient that protects your cells -- including your red blood cells -- from damage. Add spirulina and you'll also modestly boost your intake of vitamin K, a vitamin essential for controlling blood clot formation.
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Spirulina, Dried
- Linus Pauling Institute: Thiamin
- Linus Pauling Institute: Riboflavin
- Linus Pauling Institute: Pantothenic Acid
- Linus Pauling Institute: Niacin
- Colorado State University Extension: Fat-Soluble Vitamins: A, D, E, and K
- Colorado State University Extension: Water-Soluble Vitamins: B-Complex and Vitamin C
- Shippensburg University: Neurotransmitters