Spirulina - that magical blue green algae that pops up in smoothies or the famous, delicious millet dish at Jivamuktea Café in Union Square - is a tricky food to work with. It has a very pronounced flavor (think grass and dirt, kind of; it’s an acquired one for sure!) and its color is nothing short of shocking.
It just happens to be the most nutritionally dense food in the world, with over 40 vitamins/minerals, Omega-3, antioxidants, nitric oxide, and 64% protein - and if we’re creative, it can also be pretty darn tasty.
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Spirulina is often sold as a powder, making it easy to add to things like smoothies, salads or sauces. Its cell walls are easily broken down, which means no uncomfortable fiber-induced bloating for you and efficient nutrient delivery to your cells.
Here are a few reasons to add it to your life, pronto:
It makes anything you add it to infinitely more nutritious with very little effort. One kilogram of spirulina is said to be nutritionally equivalent to 1000kg of fruits and veggies… and that is an awful lot of veggies to try and break down! Instead, toss a scoop into a protein shake to add an extra boost of plant-based goodness to your day.
Algae is also the answer to many irksome how-are-you-vegan questions, like ‘How do you get enough protein?’ and ‘Won’t you die if you miss out on the calcium from milk?’. It can also be an easy way to cover your body’s nutrient desires in a busy week or on a day when you know your food intake won’t be quite as clean or balanced as it might be otherwise.
In particular, this sea veggie is a great source of many of the nutrients that can are essential to a balanced plant-based diet, including:
Spirulina is a powerfully potent source of calcium, thanks to the environment in which algae grows and the components of its cells.
These are the vitamins the body needs in order to extract energy from the foods we eat. Spirulina contains a useable form of all of them (except B12), including niacin and folate (see below).
Spirulina has all of the amino acids in its makeup, making it a complete protein.
Vitamin A (beta carotene)
Essential for bone and skin development, eyesight and immune function, adults need about 1mg of Vitamin A each day. 1-2 grams of spirulina provides this.
Chlorophyll out the wazoo
Five times as much as any other plant, in fact. Chlorophyll is the substance in plants that, through photosynthesis, creates carbohydrates out of water and carbon dioxide. Its molecular structure is very similar to the molecular structure of human blood (whoa!), and it greatly aids in the body in building new blood cells. It’s also a digestive aid, helps detoxify the body, builds immune function and helps assimilate calcium.
And for bonus nutrient fun…
… it’s packed with Niacin, Folate and Iron, all of which are essential to tissue growth and repair, immune function, energy and metabolism, and healthy baby-growing (for any pregnant mama readers).
There are a few ways to work this superfood algae into your food style.
I love these Green Bliss Bites from Happy as a Herbivore.
This Spirulina Guacamole from Young and Raw is also seriously delicious.
I also recently had the chance to try some wild new spirulina tablets called EnergyBITS. They’re a fun new company that’s all about the benefits of easy, accessible nutrition, and their tablets are a quick way to work spirulina into the day without whipping out the blender.
I’ve been loving them as a snack (again, acquired taste, so do be prepared!), but the company also recommends just taking them as a supplement with water until your tastebuds acclimate. Particularly on a busy day where, say, a salad and a green juice aren’t going to be an option, tossing back a few of these could be a great base-coverer! Plus, as a snack, they provide all of the crunchy, repetitive eating action of nuts without the invariable omghowmanynutsdidijusteatandwhyamistillhungry fallout.
The tabs themselves are just powdered spirulina pressed and compacted together: the fatty acids and protein naturally present in the plant hold them together. (I specifically reached out to the company to inquire about this.)
If you’d like to out this superfood for yourself, the fine folks at EnergyBITS have offered to send a prize pack of edible goodness to one From the Ground Up reader! Just comment below with your thoughts on spirulina - Tried it and loved it? Love the color? How would you use it? Have a superfoodie question? - to be entered in the draw! You have until Tuesday October 28th at midnight to enter.
Good luck! And happy superfooding,
Photo credit, The Sanctuary Thailand
Photo credit, Microorganics UK
Photo credit, Shutterstock
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Photo Credit, EnergyBITS on Pinterest