With the theme of spring and detoxification in the air, a great addition to the diet is Spirulina. Vive’s Nutritionist Megan Crockart discusses the nutritional aspects and benefits of this fantastic super food.
What is Spirulina?
It is blue-green microalgae and is the most well known of all the blue-green algae’s. There are approximately 1800 of them! It is a single celled plant and because there are less structures we can digest spirulina more easily than other foods. Gram for gram it is considered the most nutrient dense food on earth.
Spirulina is densely packed in nutrients which is how it gets its super food name. One of the most interesting facts about spirulina is how well we can digest its protein. Up to 85% of its protein can be digested and absorbed in comparison with beef where only 20% can be digested. Other nutrients spirulina contains:
- High levels of minerals – calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, manganese, boron, copper, iodine, potassium, phosphorus and sodium;
- Extremely high amounts of phytonutrients particularly beta-carotene and chlorophyll. It also contains the blue pigment which is rarely seen in food, phycocyanin, which has been shown to increase mental capacity and studies suggest it also has some anti-cancer properties;
- One of the richest sources of the unsaturated fatty acid gamma linolenic acid (GLA) plus many other essential fatty acids including Omega 3;
- Vitamins – A (as beta-carotene), B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, folic acid, E, K, and the bioflavonoids inositol and biotin;
- It is a rich source of enzymes;
- Contains the nucleic acids RNA and DNA; and
- High in antioxidants such as Superoxide Dismutase “SOD” which is considered one of the most important in protecting against harmful oxidative stress and helping in detoxification.
- Being rich in chlorophyll it can accelerate liver rejuvenation;
- Stabilises and regulates blood sugar levels due to its high protein content;
- Regulates blood pressure and cholesterol;
- Alleviates pain from inflammation;
- Protects liver and kidneys;
- Removes radiation and toxins from the body;
- Improves the immune system as it alleviates allergies and has been proven to fight many viruses;
- Assists in eye and brain health;
- Helps with weight loss;
- Increases friendly flora in the intestines and improves digestion; and
- Provides athletes with long-lasting energy and reduces recovery time.
Who can benefit?
Any age can benefit ranging from children, adolescents, adults and even the elderly who all want to make sure their full nutritional needs are met. There are particular groups that can also benefit and include:
- Arthritis sufferers;
- People with digestive problems;
- People convalescing from illness;
- People who have low energy;
- Those who are watching their weight; and
- Anyone who works long hours, leads stressful, busy lives and/or uses a lot of physical energy.
Spirulina comes in powder or tablet form. Only 1 teaspoon of powder is needed a day, or 6 tablets.
Ways you can incorporate the powder into your diet could be as a natural green food colouring (only a tiny amount is needed), in smoothies/juices, mixed through salad dressings, mixed into homemade guacamole, avocado dip or pesto. Avoid heating as it can destroy some nutrients and enzymes therefore add it at the end of any cooking.