Spirulina: Health Benefits Of The Superfood Algae, Plus How To Eat It

Spirulina has been knocking around on the planet for a long time, but it's only recently become a staple superfood in pantries of the health conscious.

The microscopic equatorial algae used to make up part of the Aztec and Kanem diet thousands of years ago. Nowadays, however, it's used as a dietary supplement to help keep people in top shape.

While the green powder smells (and tastes) pretty potent, its health benefits are numerous - making it a popular choice for those looking to stock up on their essential vitamins and minerals.

What is it?

Spirulina is a single-celled, blue-green micro algae that has lived on Earth for roughly 3.5 billion years.

Algae can work wonders for your health because it provides a rich source of nutrients and antioxidants such as beta-carotene and zeaxanthin, selium, zinc, and vitamins C, E and B-Complex.

Health benefits

"Spirulina has an incredible nutritional profile, 65-70% complete protein, which is the highest of any known food," says Tipper Lewis, head herbalist at Neal’s Yard Remedies.

"It has no cellulose wall making it highly digestible and contains 18 essential amino, nucleic and essential fatty acids, chlorophyll, and a full spectrum of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals."

She adds that the algae is also rich in GLA (gamma linolenic acid) which makes it anti-inflammatory and beneficial for inflamed or dry skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, rosacea and acne.

It's also detoxifying (chlorophyll rich), alkalising and provides the body with 17 different betacarotenoids (antioxidants), over 2,000 enzymes and a full spectrum of minerals including sulphur, all of which are essential for vital, glowing skin.

"Spirulina has highly absorbable protein which is essential for skin repair & rejuvenation. The algae also has large stores of nucleic acids which are known to benefit cell renewal and are anti-ageing," says Lewis.

Because it's rich in protein and amino acids, spirulina also helps the body to fight infection, while also encouraging the growth of good bacteria in the gut.

There are, however, a few downfalls to the plant, says LiveStrong, as it's highly prone to contamination. It also absorbs local pollutants such as toxic metals like mercury, which can be dangerous to health.

There is also some evidence to suggest that spirulina might aggravate symptoms of autoimmune diseases.

How to eat (or drink) it

Spirulina is usually sold in a dried powdered form which can be easily added to smoothies (try this one), soups, pestos and stir-frys. The texture is quite gritty, which can be slightly off-putting.

Alternatively, the supplement can be taken as a tablet.

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