I’ve mentioned spirulina a few times on the blog and in my email newsletter, and thought it was worth a post of its own. With a lot of “fad” superfoods, I feel like it’s easy to hop on the bandwagon and start putting more kale, acai, [insert food here] into your diet without really knowing why you’re doing so. I mean, I seriously thought kale was seaweed for like three solid months back when it first burst onto the scene. LOL. Whoops.
It was only about a year ago that I started seeing spirulina pop up on lists of superstar ingredients and smoothie recipes. It’s, like, grass or something, said an anonymous friend (me). It’s, like, not.
So that you can all sound smarter than I usually do, let’s talk about what makes spirulina a superfood. The following info has been what I’ve learned from articles, documentaries and health books read over the past year. If you want to learn more, Kimberley Snyder’s books are like superfood encyclopedias. Also, the organic supplier I buy my spirulina from, Mountain Rose Herbs, provides info on all of its herbs, spices, oils, powders, etc. that I always find interesting and helpful.
Health Benefits of Spirulina
Spirulina is a blue-green algae found in the ocean and fresh water. Because it contains no cellulose in its cell walls, it’s easily absorbed and integrated into the body when ingested. You typically buy it in powdered form after it’s been slow dried at a low heat to preserve the nutritional content. What makes it awesome? Glad you asked…
- It’s the most concentrated known source of protein: Spirulina is 60% protein, and as with other protein-packed foods, this means it can help curb hunger and boost energy. It also means that consuming spirulina after a tough workout (or as a pre-workout snack) will aid in muscle recovery. Among high-level athletes who are burning a ton of calories a day, spirulina is often a nutritional supplement of choice.
- Rich in gamma-linolenic acid (GLA): GLA is an essential fatty acid that helps balance hormones, dissolve fat deposits, reduce bad cholesterol and even prevent heart issues.
- A great detoxifier: Spirulina helps clean mercury, heavy metals and other toxins out of the body. It’s been shown to increase the rate of cellular regeneration, and even helps slow the growth of bad bacteria while promoting the growth of the good stuff needed for efficient digestion.
- Plant-based source of iron: Spirulina is rich in iron, making it a great addition to the diets of vegans and vegetarians who may not be getting enough. Keep in mind that iron (especially plant-based iron) is best absorbed by the body when consumed with Vitamin C (think of adding a little spirulina to a citrus smoothie, for example).
- Packed with other nutrients: In addition to protein, GLA and iron, spirulina is also rich in B vitamins, magnesium, Vitamins D and K, beta-carotenes (10x the amount found in carrots!), enzymes, chlorophyll, and a slew of antioxidants.
How to Get More Spirulina in Your Diet
Spirulina usually comes in a powdered or tablet form. Tablets and capsules filled with spirulina powder are a convenient alternative to fresh greens when you’re traveling. You shouldn’t cook spirulina (it’ll lose most of its nutritional value), so the best ways to consume it are by:
- Adding a little to smoothies, acai bowls, juices and other drinks
- Mixing it into no-bake snack bites and chewy granola bars
- Stirring it into salad dressings, sauces and dips (guacamole, hummus, pesto, etc.)
The recommended daily intake of spirulina is 1-5 grams. If you add to much to your smoothies, you’ll be able to taste it (it’s a little bitter), so I find that ¼-1/2 tsp per drink is the sweet spot for me.
A while ago, I listed my favorite snacks from Whole Foods on the blog and mentioned Spirulina Chips—these are dehydrated at a low temp so as to maintain the nutritional value of all the ingredients and are delicious! If you don’t want to buy your own bulk spirulina, look for these puppies in the grocery store.
As for me, I order my spirulina from Mountain Rose Herbs. The bag is huge, so it’ll easily last you months, if not the year. You can find it in powdered and tablet form in many grocery stores and specialty health food stores as well.
Got any good spirulina recipes or additional facts about the superfood? Share ‘em in the comments!