Quality Spirulina is determined by a number of main factors: quality control at the growth tanks or ponds, the harvesting and processing technology undertaken, and the protein content. In this article, we’ve reviewed some of the factors that will indicate whether a specific source of spirulina is recommended or not.
Organic Vs. Non-organic
When it comes to spirulina, the term organic can be misleading; in fact, Spirulina thrives on inorganic matter and requires very little “organic” nutrients, so technically, there is no such thing as organic spirulina. The more accurate definition to “organic spirulina” would be spirulina that was grown on natural minerals, as opposed to chemical minerals.
In terms of cultivation, there are various ways to feed spirulina with either chemical or natural minerals. As the later requires higher maintenance and involves the use of animal manure, it’s no wonder that true “organic” spirulina is difficult to find.
Another source of confusion with organic spirulina is that many organic certification bodies still don’t have a clear policy regarding the certification of spirulina as organic. For this reason, many organic growers are struggling to get certified, and it’s possible that some certified organic producers aren’t really practicing organic farming.
Sounds confusing? Here are a few guidelines to help you choose a reliable source of spirulina.
Quality Spirulina is High in Protein Content
Protein content varies with different growth and dry methods. High-quality Spirulina should contain 60-70% protein content. Since producers are obliged to provide a nutritional facts chart on the product packaging, it’s an easy way to identify whether or not the spirulina is of good quality, with low protein levels indicating a lower quality product.
The Country of Origin Matters More Than You Think
Always check the country of origin where the spirulina was grown. There’s a number of countries you should never buy spirulina from, for the following reasons.
Spirulina production in China is highly industrialized and money-driven. It is believed that Chinese manufacturers are extracting chlorophylls like Phycocyanin and beta-carotene from the spirulina, before packing it for sale as standard spirulina powder; in reality, most of the good nutrients are already gone by then.
To ensure we’re not just publishing assumed news, we went ahead and tried ordering some spirulina from a Chinese manufacturer who will remain anonymous for now. The product analysis that came with the parcel mentioned it contained rice protein. In other words, they were trying to deceive us by diluting the spirulina with rice protein to reduce the cost. This explains the cheap price of Chinese spirulina.
Our advice: don’t let the price mislead you, or you may as well take that money and flush it down the drain.
Japan, Hawaii and the Philippines
These countries are world pioneers in spirulina production, which began in the 1970s after the rediscovery of spirulina in the modern age. Sadly, due to the Fukushima disaster in 2011, nuclear radiation can seriously endanger the health of those consuming it.
One of the most magnificent qualities of spirulina as a micro-organism is its ability to absorb toxic waste, practically cleaning entire ecosystems from nuclear radiation. While this is highly beneficial for the environment, such spirulina would be deadly toxic.
Today, it is hard to tell whether Fukushima radiation still reaches all the way to the shores of the united states, however it’s very likely to still be affecting Japan, the Philippines, and Hawaii and its surroundings. For this reason, it’s best to avoid spirulina which was grown in those countries.
The American Spirulina industry is probably the most technologically advanced in the world, but it is relatively small and lacks in experts. Spirulina produced in California is suspected to also be contaminated with nuclear radiation from Fukushima, though the damage may not be as bad as in Hawaiian Spirulina. Other parts of the states are likely to be producing quality yields, however, consumers should be aware that some American companies are actually sourcing their Spirulina from Hawaii, which is the biggest manufacturer of spirulina in the states, as well as China and India.
India is the third largest spirulina producing country in the world. It’s got a hot, moist climate and vast surfaces with no pollution whatsoever, making it an ideal place for spirulina cultivation.
Indian spirulina production began in the 1970s when a team of UN scientists introduced it to the villages of south India to eradicate malnutrition. Indian farmers were taught the skills of growing and processing spirulina, and with vast governmental support, India quickly became a spirulina nation. Until today, the majority of spirulina produced in India is sold within Indian borders, and farmers, some of which with over 30 years of experience, are looking to export abroad. The main challenge for Indian Spirulina farmers is quality control, so spray dried would be the best choice. Although their technologies are relatively basic, the quality of Indian Spirulina seems to exceed expectations.
Check the Drying Method
The drying method is also a major factor in determining the quality of spirulina, although here too, there are variations in the result.
Spray Dried Spirulina
The standard way of drying spirulina is using a piece of machinery called a Spray dryer, which blows hot air into large containers filled with freshly harvested spirulina. Since heat can destroy some of the nutrients of spirulina, producers need to maintain a relatively low heat, which makes the whole process slower. At the same time, higher heat ensures that all residue of bacteria is exterminated.
Sun Dried Spirulina
Another popular drying method is Sun drying. Fresh spirulina is squeezed into thin spaghetti shape, then dried in the sun and finally grounded into a powder. Although this method is more energy efficient, it creates 2 major problems:
- Direct sun can ruin pigments such as phycocyanin, which is a major active component in Spirulina.
- The relatively low heat may not exterminate contamination if such had been present in the ponds.
- Drying spirulina in the shade offers a partial solution to this problem, given the moisture in the air is low.
Freeze Dried Spirulina
Freeze-dried Spirulina Powder is made without any preservatives or additives. In this process the Spirulina is flash-frozen; approximately 98% of water is removed within the freeze-drying chamber. The freeze-dried Spirulina retains all of its vitamins, minerals, and nutrients in a concentrated form.
Frozen Spirulina (without Drying)
This method of preserving Spirulina is becoming increasingly popular among farms that sell locally, as it maintains all nutrients in full, but has a short shelf life. Once defrosted, it should be consumed immediately, or live organisms will begin to thrive inside. To avoid contamination, manufacturers pack the biomass in very small daily portions, which isn’t very good for the environment. If frozen in vacuumed packs, spirulina can keep up to 6 months from the production date, as opposed to dried spirulina which can keep up to 2 years.
There are various aspects that affect the quality of Spirulina. Knowing where Spirulina is from and how it was grown and processed is a must. Sourcing your Spirulina from Spirulina.Network Shop ensures that you get the best quality available for a fair price.