(I hope the majority of you just said the title of this in the mouse’s voice from Cinderella)
Spiru- what? Spiru- who? Spiru- where have you been all my life?! But seriously… what is spirulina, you ask? It is a type of blue-green microalgae (stay with me now) that is packed with nutrients and known for it’s health benefits. Spirulina has been around for a very long time… think Aztecs. It can be found in most health food stores in the form of tablets, capsules, flakes or dark green powder. Before it makes its way to the store, it is first found in very alkaline freshwater and saltwater sources, where it is grown and harvested.
Spirulina is used in many different cuisines, but is probably used the most by those who follow a plant-based diet due to it’s bioavailable, easy-to-digest proteins (4 grams per tablespoon). Not only is it an excellent protein source but it is also a great source of other nutrients. One tablespoon (7 grams) of spirulina contains:
- 20 calories
- 1.7 grams of digestible carbohydrate
- All essential amino acids, making it a complete protein!
- polyunsaturated fatty acids
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Omega-6 fatty acids
- Copper (21% of RDA)
- Significant amounts of Magnesium, Potassium, Manganese, Zinc and small amounts of most other nutrients needed by the human body such as Calcium, Niacin, Iron and B Vitamins.
But that’s not all! Spirulina has other health benefits. One of those is in the area of heart health. Studies have shown that spirulina can lower triglycerides and LDL cholesterol, and sometimes may raise HDL (the “good”) cholesterol. Other studies have shown spirulina reduces blood pressure.
In addition to heart health, another potential benefit of spirulina is blood sugar control. With more than 29 million of adults being Diabetic in America, this could prove to be a very important supplement.
Spirulina is also a great source of antioxidants such as phycocyanin, which help protect our bodies from oxidative damage. Oxidative damage contributes to inflammation, cancer and other diseases. Spirulina is specifically well studied in the area of oral cancer and has been shown to have positive effects on cancerous lesions in the mouth.
Studies have shown improved symptoms of allergic rhinitis with spirulina use. What the heck is allergic rhinitis? If you suffer from this you may know but for those that don’t, allergic rhinitis is also known as hay fever.
Because of the strong smell and taste of spirulina, some prefer to take it in tablet/capsule form, but most people use the powder in smoothies. Bananas do a great job of masking the earthy flavor of Spirulina. Others have added it to things such as pesto, energy balls, tea and even… (wait for it…) no-bake cheesecake!