A recent news article sparked SupermarketGuru’s interest in superfoods – a topic we’ve been discussing for years, the term superfood has been applied to many common everyday foods like avocados to the more exotic goji berries. One superfood (also a nutritional supplement) SupermarketGuru hasn’t talked about is spirulina. Spirulina is a type of blue-green algae that provides easily digestible minerals, phytonutrients, enzymes and more. In fact, spirulina is a great source of protein, and it’s packed with iron, chlorophyll, and antioxidants. The Aztecs even consumed spirulina as a food source in the 16th century, and more recently spirulina was found to be a source of nutrition in the tribes living along the alkaline lakes of Chad and Niger.
Spirulina, a simple, one-celled organism, got its name from the Latin word for spiral or helix because of its shape. As mentioned spirulina contains all of the essential amino acids and 10 non-essential amino acids, making it a great additional source of plant protein in many of our diets.
Spirulina’s other nutritional benefits include:
More beta-carotene than carrots – some believe it contains about 10 times as much! Beta-carotene is a precursor to vitamin A, necessary for our immune system, eye health and much more.
A source of the essential amino acid gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), necessary for a healthy inflammatory response.
Spirulina is also great source of minerals including calcium, chromium, copper, and iron, all of which play a part in maintaining and promoting good health.
Chlorophyll is also abundant in spirulina and gives it its rich green hue. Chlorophyll is found in both plants and algae and is essential for their production of energy from sunlight. One of chlorophyll’s most notable nutrients in magnesium and according to the Office of Dietary Supplements (http://ods.od.nih.gov/) magnesium is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body. It helps maintain normal muscle and nerve function, keeps heart rhythm steady, supports a healthy immune system, and keeps bones strong as well as helping to regulate blood sugar levels and more.
There have been many studies looking into the possible health benefits of Spirulina - ranging from reducing cholesterol and cancer to boosting the immune system, increasing beneficial gut bacteria, and more. Anecdotally, those who consume spirulina usually notice an increase in energy and boost in overall health.
Spirulina can be purchased as a dietary supplement, and is also being included in some products such as granolas, meal replacement or snack bars, beverages and more. So now you’ll know what it is if you see it on a label!
Remember to always consult you health care practitioner before making any changes to your diet.