Spirulina. It’s got a beautiful name and lots of beautiful qualities. You may have read it on health food products, ingredient lists, or smoothie mixes. It’s obviously good for you, but what actually is Spirulina? And why is it so amazing?
From the Water
Spirulina is a microalgae that grows in both fresh and saltwater and is packed with nutrients. It’s a single-celled, free-living ‘good’ cyanobacteria, which is a class of bacteria that can produce its own energy through photosynthesis. Named for the spiral pattern that its filaments grow in, there are two main Spirulina species, Spirulina platensis, and Spirulina maxima.
Spirulina has been consumed by humans for centuries as a major source of protein and vitamins—specifically by the Aztecs in central Mexico where they harvested it from Lake Texcoco, home of Tenochtitlán. It was also harvested in west-central Africa from Lake Chad, which lies at the juncture of several countries and is still a major source for the algae today. In spite of its ancient roots though, Spirulina is now being touted as the food of the future, thanks to the credibility it earned during NASA studies over the past 20 years and the clear nutrition benefits associated with this incredible ingredient.
To the Land, Spirulina is the food of the future
Today, Spirulina is farmed (more to come in an upcoming Super-time post) thanks to fast-paced innovation in the farming community, the rising demand caused by scientists and nutrition experts everywhere dubbing Spirulina a “premium superfood” and a “food of the future”.
Spirulina is incredibly rich in protein and chock full of antioxidants and vitamins A, C, E, and B vitamins, as well as minerals like calcium, magnesium, zinc, and selenium. It’s made up of 55-70 percent complete protein and has all the accompanying amino acids to create a perfect balance. We like to call Spirulina the “food of the future,” because it increases the quality of food and the nutritional benefits of everything it’s added to tenfold, even in very small concentrations.
What forms Spirulina takes
Spirulina is categorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as “Generally Recognized as Safe” (GRAS) for use in foods and consumed products. As a dietary supplement, it is most commonly found as dried powder, tablets, or capsules. However, as the science and manufacturing processes get more and more innovative, Spirulina is being seen more like food in its own right.
If it’s green it’s good
The primary ingredient in Spirulina is phycocyanin, a natural blue dye used in food and pharmaceuticals that gives Spirulina its unmistakable color. Interestingly though, when farmed fresh Spirulina has no flavor, so it combines very well with a wide variety of food products and takes on the flavors around it. People typically use Spirulina in smoothies and shakes, on salads, on top of breakfast bowls and oatmeal, sauces, and mixed into desserts and juices and even just plain water.
To learn even more about those benefits and why Spirulina is one of the top superfoods, check out this post.