Spirulina: Health or Hype?
I think most of us have heard of spirulina at one time or another (think green algae superfood). I know that I have. Truth be told, as I sit here writing this, I am not exactly sure what the health benefits of it are or how to use it. I know, pretty sad coming from a nutritionist, right? Believe it or not, we all have gaps in our knowledge. I'm fixing this one here and now. Let me go and do a bit of research and get back to you.
OK, I'm back, and it feels good getting to know a tad more about our little green friend. Needless to say I found much more health than hype, so continue on with this article I shall.
First of all, let's figure out what this thing is before we consider ingesting it. Spirulina is a type of blue-green algae that naturally grows in lakes in Mexico and Africa. While is sounds pretty gross to harvest and eat this if you ask me, it has long been a nutritious food source in these communities. After the rest of us recognized its incredible health benefits, we of course started growing it commercially all over the world ($$). It tends to grow very quickly and is easy to harvest, making this a readily available food source.
What are these amazing health benefits? Well for one, it's very high in protein and contains all of the essential amino acids, making it a complete protein source. It's also very easy for our bodies to break down, making it very digestible, and as such has been used to help treat malnutrition. It's high in a vast array of B vitamins, especially B12 (although its absorbability has been questioned) and is also high in Vitamins K, E and A. Another cool benefit is that it's a good source of iodine which many of do not get nearly enough of. This can ward off goiters and keep our thyroids healthy. It is also rich in many different minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, selenium, manganese, copper and zinc. Wow, so much going on in a little pile of blue-green mush.
Besides just vitamins there are also a host of potent antioxidants and even compounds known to help detox the body of heavy metals and other toxins. The list just keeps going.
Has your curiosity been peaked? Mine has. Inquiring minds want to know, what should we do with this besides shoving our faces full until we gag (almost immediately I would guess)? Well, most health nuts put this stuff in their smoothies, sprinkle a little in homemade salad dressings, or spoon some into guacamole or other dips. You can even just mix it straight into water (and gag, I suspect) or mix it into fresh fruit/veg juice, which I suspect would be more appetizing.
Since I am writing about spirulina I thought I should actually try the stuff. Seems appropriate. Well, I will report it really was quite pleasant to have in my smoothie, and mixing it into water wasn't so gag-inducing as I thought either. Considering the host of health benefits, I think this one is a keeper. Ditch the mulitivitamain and pick yourself up a few lumps of blue-green algae... I mean spirulina. It might just be the boost your body needs.Danielle VenHuizen, MS, RD, CLT is a Registered Dietitian who helps her clients achieve health and vitality through food, not pharmaceuticals. She specializes in working with food sensitivities, Diabetes, Cardiovascular health, Digestive Disorders, and healthy pregnancies. This article was originally published at http://www.foodsense.net/spirulina-health-or-hype/ and has been syndicated with permission. For more expert health advice visit her blog at http://www.FoodSense.net.