Spirulina: Why This Algae Superfood Should Be Part of Your Diet

Mini but mighty.

By Lauren Zielinski, MSN, CNM

If you haven’t yet heard about this nutrient dense superfood, let me introduce you to Spirulina, an edible algae (or cyanobacteria) named for its intricate spiral shape and teensy tiny size. This vibrantly hued blue-green organism grows in subtropical salty lakes and oceans across the globe (so exotic!) Chock-full of chlorophyll and much like plants on land, Spirulina gathers energy to grow from the sun.

Spirulina has been used for thousands of years by ancient civilizations from Mexico all the way to Africa, and new research is confirming that this little green plant packs a major health punch.

It’s especially helpful for our vegetarian and vegan friends because of its naturally high iron content and is also packed with a surprising amount of protein, antioxidants, and b-vitamins. While much of the research is preliminary, early studies are extremely convincing that throwing just a teaspoon or two of this neon supplement into a smoothie on the regular may significantly improve iron levels and immune systems.

spirulina, morning smoothie, coffee, supplementimage by teal thomsen

It sounds…. weird?

The intense green color combined with the word algae may sound a little squirm-worthy…. But keep your mind open people! The taste is extremely mild and could be described as similar to broccoli, kale or brussels, with a little bit of salty ocean mixed in. Most people report getting used to the scent and taste quickly AND say that after taking Spirulina they feel naturally energized, light, and revitalized. In our busy world who couldn’t use a little of that kinda juice?

spirulina, veggies, green juiceimage by teal thomsen

Whats the big deal?

While more research needs to be done to back up all of the health claims behind Spirulina, ranging from clearing acne and anxiety to curing diabetes, the studies that have been done are pretty impressive! To start let’s talk about how Spirulina is one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet. You ready for this? Spirulina contains:

-Vitamin B1, B2, B3, B9 (folic acid)
-Vitamin C
-Vitamin D
-Vitamin A
-Vitamin E
-Omega 3’s
-Amino Acids

The most significant studies focus on the power of Spirulina to decrease rates of anemia by boosting hemoglobin (the red blood cells that carry oxygen through your blood) and increase immune cells, helping your body fight off bugs and illness. In one research study on malnourished children and women in Africa, supplementation with Spirulina improved hemoglobin levels across the board in subjects who were given Spirulina vs those who were not. In another study, test subjects who were HIV positive with poor immune systems (a major side effect of HIV) were supplemented daily with Spirulina and found to have higher levels of disease fighting immune cells after supplementation.

vitamins, supplements, spirulina, morning juiceimage by steven simko

There’s more: Impressive Bioavailability & Non-Constipating

If you’ve ever taken iron supplements before…you probably know one of the very common less than pleasant side effects is that it can cause some major constipation (I know zero people who enjoy that.) Because Spirulina is a plant based form of iron it’s much easier on your gut! Yas!

Spirulina also has fantastic bio-availability. Bio-availability is the amount of the nutrient that your body is able to use or store effectively that isn’t loss in the process of digestion or metabolism. Bio-availability is the reason behind health and nutrition experts recommending obtaining as many of your vitamins and nutrients from whole foods or whole food supplements. Spirulina interestingly contains an antioxidant called phycocyanin that increases the absorption of iron. About one ounce of Spirulina contains the same amount of protein as an egg! Impressive for an algae!

spirulina smoothie, spirulina, veggie, green juiceimage by teal thomsen

How should I take Spirulina?

— Brave? Go raw! Dissolving Spirulina into water and drinking it straight is an easy & effective way to get the algae power.

— Toss a few teaspoons in your morning smoothie. It makes a great addition to any smoothie or juice, packing an easy little nutritive protein punch.

— Take a capsule! Add this to your supplement and vitamin lineup to be sure you get a specific dose on a daily basis. I highly recommend this option for my vegan and veggie friends or people who are dealing with dietary anemia, or women who are pregnant or postpartum!