Spirulina – What is it and why we should all be munching it?

What may look like swamp thing is actually one of the worlds healthiest foods

Spirulina, the funkiest of green powders on the block.  Something Jane and I love dearly and take regularly to perk up our bodies and give us a super energy and health boost.

We recently visited Auroville, Tamil Nadu, India.  A community based on free expression, virtue and peace.  Its actually a difficult place to explain in an article like this, best to check it out for yourself here.

Jane worked opposite the Aurospirul Farm, a place we have bought Spirulina from in the past.  It was amazing to be so close to a fine producer of many varieties of organic spirulina. We love the spirulina mixed with Amla (like a gooseberry) which has potent levels of vitamin C which helps with the absorption of nutrients.

The Aurospirul Farm in Auroville, Tamil Nadu, India

We are spirulina converts and have been for a while now, mainly due to the fact that it contains 60% easy to digest complete vegetable protein without the bad fats and cholesterol of meat.  It also contains loads of Vitamin B12, which is a vitamin generally lacking from a vegan/vegetarian diet.  Considering all of this, many people still look at us strangely when we pop the bright green pills (or powders) of a morning, so we thought we’d share some things that we know and get us excited about spirulina.  An ancient source of  brilliant nutrition that we hope will be used much more in the future and is one of the only food ‘supplements’ that we’d whole heartedly recommend.

What exactly is Spirulina?

Spirulina (Arthrospira platensis) is a tiny blue-green algae in the shape of a perfect spiral coil.  Biologically speaking, it is one of the oldest inhabitants of planet earth.  Appearing 3.6 billion years ago, it provided an evolutionary bridge between bacteria and green plants.  This water plant has renewed itself for billions of years and has nourished many cultures throughout history, in Africa, in the Middle East and in the Americas.

Spirulina grows naturally in mineral rich alkaline lakes which can be found on every continent, often near volcanoes.  The largest concentration of Spirulina today can be found at Lake Texoco in Mexico, around Lake Chad in Central Africa and along the Great Rift Valley in East Africa.

For many generations, Kanembu women have passed from mother to daughter the traditional methods of harvesting spirulina from Lake Boudou Andja in Chad

“Let your food be your medicine

and your medicine be your food”

Hippocrates 460-370 BC

Spirulina is called a super food because its nutrient content is more potent than any other food.

Many of the essential nutrients needed by the body are concentrated in spirulina.  It is comprised of of at least 60% all vegetable protein, essential vitamins and phytonutrients such as the rare essential fatty acid GLA, sulfolipids, glycolipids and polysaccharides.

Spirulina is a low fat, low cholesterol, low calorie, vegetable protein containing all the essential amino acids that cannot be produced by the body but are needed to synthesize the non-essential amino acids.  Spirulina has no cellulose in its cell walls and is therefore easy to digest and assimilate.

Whats it got in it then?

Natural Beta Carotene (provitamin A)

Spirulina is the richest source of natural beta carotene, ten times more concentrated than in carrots.  Beta carotene is a very important anti-oxidant, some studies show it reducing the risk of cancer.

Gamma-Linolenic acid (GLA)

This rare essential fatty acid in mothers milk helps to develop healthy babies.  GLA is the precursor to the body’s prostaglandins, master hormones that control many functions.

Spirulina is the only know food, other than mother’s milk, to contain concentarted levels of GLA.

The best natural iron supplement

Iron is essential to build a strong system, and yet iron deficiency is the most common mineral deficiency.  Studies have shown that iron in spirulina is absorbed 60% more efficiently than from iron supplements.

High in Vitamin B-12 and B Complex

Spirulina is the richest source of B12, richer than beef liver.  Because B-12 is the most difficult vitamin to obtain from plant sources, vegetarians have taken to spirulina.  B12 is necessary for the development of red blood cells.

Phytonutrients

The polysaccharides in spirulina are easily absorbed with minimum intervention of insulin.  Phytonutrients provide quick energy without ill effects on the pancreas.

Sulfolipids

In blue green algae can prevent viruses from attaching to cells or pentrating them, thus preventing viral infection; they are ‘remarkably active’ against the AIDS virus, according to the NCL.

Pycocyanin

Is the most important pigment in Spirulina; it has both magnesium and iron in its molecular formation and therefore may be the origin of life, common to both plants and animals.

Chlorophyll

Is known as a cleansing and detoxifying phytonutrient.  Spirulina contains 1% chlorophyll, among the highest levels found in nature and the highest chlorophyll A level.

Cartotenoids

Are a mixed carotenoid complex functioning at different sites in the body and working synergistically to enhance antioxidant protection.

All the pills and funky green potions made by Aurospirul (our favourite Spirulina heroes)

How to use Spirulina?

Spirulina is a perfectly safe natural food which provides quick energy and nourishment.  Spirulina powder can be added to fruit or vegetable juices or to dishes to enhance the nutritional content.  It is tasty in soups, salads, pasta and breads or mixed into yoghurt.

There is no way around it, Spirulina tastes a little like very healthy ponds.  It is an algae after all!  Aurospirul make a crunchy capsule that can be eaten straight up and is actually very pleasant.

Special tip – Make a fresh lemon juice and stir in Spirulina.  The vitamin C in the lemon will help in the absorption of minerals like Iron.  

Do not cook spirulina as this affects its nutritional value.

Dosage – 1-5 grams per day to result in significant health benefits. Take it everyday for best results.  You cannot take too much spirulina, there are no side effects at all.

Spirulina nutritional composition

General Analysis

Protein 60%

Lipids (fats) 5%

Carbohydrates 25%

Minerals (ash) 7%

Moisture 3%

Values per 100g spirulina

Energy 387 kcal

Phycocyanin 1.37g

Total caroteniods 0.19g

Chlorophylls 0.97g

Vitamin B12 16.41ug

Gamma Linolenic Acid 0.02g

Iron 37.73mg

Spirulina grows naturally in alkaline lakes around the world

All info taken from a the lovely people at Aurospirul.  

Categories: Healing foods, Healthy Eating, Nutrition, Superfoods | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “Spirulina – What is it and why we should all be munching it?

  1. WAY back when Stevie-boy and I used to weight train we bought 4kg of spirulina powder in large tubs. I still have 3.99999kg left ;) I can’t think of a way to eat it that doesn’t make me feel ill. It’s VERY strong stuff. I did have about a quarter of a teaspoon in my summer green smoothies but much more than that and you can really taste it.

    • Its one of those things, you just need to take the funky green powder plunge! Tastes like swamp thing, makes you shimmer inside and out. Not a bad trade off!!!!

      • Makes me twitch as well and I really don’t like the taste. I figure that by the time I learn to like it (using a quarter tsp at a time) it will be next century ;)

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