Let’s talk spirulina. When I was first exploring the benefits of drinking my greens, I stumbled upon a veggie based cafe in Boston that had a sprawling menu of juices for me to try out. A long time citrus fan and a blended kale newbie, I felt drawn to one juice on the menu that mixed lemon water with an ingredient I’d never heard of: spirulina. The flirty name captured my attention but the flavor had me hooked. This spirulina cocktail had practically become a daily ritual before I finally decided to google this mystery ingredient I had come to love so much. Turns out, I’d lucked out my stumbling into an addiction to one of the most powerful superfoods on the planet.
But what is it? It’s a blue-green algae that grows everywhere from Hawaii to Mexico to the Republic of Chad. While it may technically be pond scum, (I know, I know, but bear with me) it’s an ecologically sound, nutrient-rich, dietary supplement that was a major food source for the ancient Aztecs, and is presently being investigated to address food security and malnutrion around the world and as a dietary supplement for astronauts traveling to Mars. When the ancients and the astronauts agree on something, you know it’s real.
So what are the benefits? Where do I begin?
It’s jam packed with nutrients.
At just 20 calories, one tablespoon of this stuff packs a pretty nutritious punch. We’re talking 4 grams of protein plus vitamins B1, B2, B3, iron, copper and omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Many scientists argue that, gram for gram, spiraling is literally the single most nutrient rich food on the planet.
It reduces blood pressure.
Studies suggest that spirulina helps your blood vessels to relax and dilate, lowering blood pressure and, in doing so, reducing your risk for heart attacks, stroke and chronic kidney disease.
It can minimize your allergic reactions.
Spirulina has been proven to reduce inflammation in the nasal airways, which soothes reactions to environmental allergies such as nasal discharge, sneezing, nasal congestion and itching.
It can prevent and treat cancer.
A recent study at the University of Maryland Medical Center found that “spirulina increases production of antibodies, infection-fighting proteins, and other cells that improve immunity and help ward off infection and chronic illnesses such as cancer.” A similar study found that as little as 1 gram per day lead to complete regression of precancerous lesions in the mouth for 45% of patients.
If that’s not enough, studies also suggest that spiraling can lower cholesterol, boost energy and speed up weight loss. So…you’re welcome.
So how do I incorporate this magic algae in my diet? Great question. Spirulina is sold in tablet and powder form. I prefer the powder because there’s so much you can do with it. I get mine at WholeFoods but Amazon has a comparably priced option you can snag here. ( One thing to keep in mind is that, despite all the health benefits, spirulina is incredibly susceptible to the environment it is grown in and contaminated spirulina can have major risks. With that said, be sure to get yours from a sustainable, trustworthy source.)