Superfood Sunday: Spirulina
Imagine a plant that can nourish your body by providing most of the protein you need to live, power up your immune system, increasing your blood cell formation and being so rich in antioxidants it can help protect you from cancer. Does such a superfood exist?
Yes. It’s called spirulina.
This truly is a miracle plant. Spirulina is a blue-green spiral algae that grows in freshwater. The name “spirulina” comes from it’s spiral-spring like character. The colour of spirulina is a beautiful deep rich green, which is derived from chlorophyll and the blue colour is derived from the exotic pigment phycocyanin. Though it is one of the simplest life-forms, spirulina has an extraordinarily long history in helping to sustain and develop the life chain. The use of spirulina dates back to 9th century by the African peoples living near Lake Chad. It is also believed spirulina was used by the Aztecs in 16th century Mexico. Spirulina and the wonderful superfood cacao have been eaten together since Mexico City was founded. In the Americas, spirulina currently grows on the southern tip of the Big Island of Hawaii.
Spirulina is so rich in nutrients that it is believed by some that you could live on spirulina alone for quite some time.
Spirulina contains the highest concentration of protein (by weight) of any food known, between 65 and 71% protein (depending on variety). It is a complete source of protein – contains all 8 essential amino acids. Protein is so important to include in our diet for building muscle, strength, endurance, balancing blood sugar, rapid healing, building strong neurological health + many others.
Spirulina is the perfect source of protein if you are vegan, or if you are looking to alternative non-animal protein sources. Spirulina protein is also more readily absorbed than animal protein because it can be easily blended into water and smoothies without coagulation or heat. Each gram of spirulina protein is four times more absorbable than the same gram of protein in beef.
When I first started on my healing journey, my iron levels were extremely low, I always felt depleted of energy and quickly forgot what it felt like to feel energised or ‘normal’. So I worked with my naturopath to incorporate more ‘blood building’ foods into my diet. High on the list was spirulina. There are so many studies which show that spirulina can help alleviate anaemia, increase haemoglobin levels, improve blood quality and increase red blood cell formation. How?
Spirulina contains as much iron as red meat, contains high concentrations of chlorophyll (a blood builder) and is rich in a brilliant blue pigment (known as phycocyanin) which helps the body produce more stem cells found in bone marrow and can stimulate the creation of blood.
Spirulina contains beta-carotene (carotenoids which improve the immune system), chlorophyll (purifier), zeaxanthin (best antioxidant for improving vision) and superoxide dismutase (important health-enhancing metabolic enzyme and antioxidant). When we ingest spirulina, its antioxidant green and blue pigments become available to our cells and so we become more protected from ultraviolet radiation at a cellular level.
Immune System Booster
Spirulina is very powerful tonic for the immune system. It accelerates the production of antiobodies and bone marrow stem cells which better protect the body from viruses and invasive microbes.
For any of you experiencing the onset of seasonal allergies (mine have been a little bit out of control lately!) – spirulina is a natural remedy that can help! According to one study, patients treated with spirulina reported relief of symptoms commonly associated with allergic rhinitis, such as nasal discharge and congestion, sneezing and itching, when given spirulina.
Gut Flora and Fights Inflammation
Spirulina is the best whole-food source of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) – this is an essential fatty-acid necessary for a healthy nervous system. It helps make your skin and hair shiny and soft, but strong. GLA has been proven to inhibit the formation of inflammation in the body. GLA also has strong anti-allergy fighting properties.
Spirulina has also been shown to encourage and support the growth of healthy bacterial flora in your gut. If you have an autoimmune disease like Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis, or conditions like candidia or yeast overgrowth, spirulina will help to restore the good bacteria in your gut.
How to incorporate spirulina into your diet?
You can buy spirulina in a powder or capsule form. I tend to buy the powder as it is more readily absorbed by the body. Spirulina can be added to smoothies, juices, cacao desserts, salad dressings or sprinkled on top of salads.
To me it’s really important to start my day off on the right foot… it sets me up for the rest of the day, not to mention it helps me to make more conscious decisions and choices about my food. One of the biggest changes I made to my food habits was to start including a green smoothie every morning. It has truly taken my health and wellness to a new level. I add spirulina to my morning green smoothies and I actually feel a little zing after I finish drinking it
So give it a go! Check out one of my previous posts for how to make the perfect green smoothie.
Spirulina Kick Smoothie
This is one of my new favourites that I have most mornings.
- 1 cup coconut water
- ½ banana
- ½ avocado
- ½ cucumber
- handful of spinach
- 1 Tbsp chia gel
- 2 tsp spirulina
- squeeze of lemon
Put all of the ingredients in the blender and mix well.
Enjoy with a big smile on your face 🙂
Spiry Salad Dressing
This one I have adapted from the amazing David Wolfe’s Superfoods book. It sure packs a punch!
- ½ cup hempseeds
- 1 handful fresh dill (including stems)
- 2-3 cloves garlic
- 1 Tbsp spirulina
- 1 Tbsp cold-pressed olive oil
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 cup spring water
Blend in blender or food processor until creamy and smooth.
Serve on a bed of salad for optimal goodness!