Arthrospira platensis // Arthrospira maxima.
A cyanobacterium (blue-green algae) that can be consumed by humans and other animals. Arthrospira is cultivated worldwide; used as a dietary supplement as well as a whole food; and is also available in tablet, flake and powder form. It is also used as a feed supplement in theaquaculture, aquarium and poultry industries. Dried spirulina contains about 60% (51–71%) protein. It is a complete protein containing all essential amino acids, with slightly lower amounts of methionine, cysteine, and lysinecompared to certain animal-derived products.
Provided in its typical supplement form as a dried powder having 5% water (table), a 100 gram amount of spirulina supplies 290 Calories and is an excellent source (20% or more of the Daily Value, DV) of numerous nutrients, particularly B vitamins (thiamin and riboflavin, 207% and 306% DV, respectively) and dietary minerals, such as iron (219% DV) andmanganese (90% DV) (table). Spirulina’s lipid content is 8% by weight (table) providing gamma-linolenic acid, alpha-linolenic acid, linoleic acid, stearidonic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid, docosahexaenoic acid, and arachidonic acid.
Spirulina was a food source for the Aztecs and other Mesoamericans until the 16th century; the harvest from Lake Texcoco and subsequent sale as cakes were described by one of Cortés’ soldiers. The Aztecs called it “tecuitlatl”. Spirulina was found in abundance at Lake Texcoco by French researchers in the 1960s, but no reference to its use was made by the Aztecs as a daily food source after the 16th century, probably due to the draining of the surrounding lakes for agricultural and urban development.