By Naturopath and Nutritionist Kate Johnston
You may have heard of Spirulina as the little green powerhouse that is mixed into your daily smoothie, but now companies are getting creative and including it in a variety of foods that you know and love.
So how can you include Spirulina in your day-to-day regime? While the taste can be a little off-putting for some, the benefits certainly outweigh this drawback (plus there are plenty of palatable ways to get it in your diet!)
1. It is high in chlorophyll – this is the part that gives spirulina that deep green colour, think of it as plant blood. Chlorophyll is identical in structure to human blood, except where we have a molecule of iron attached, the chlorophyll has magnesium. It is no surprise then that chlorophyll can help to build and cleanse the blood, while also supporting the transport of oxygen.
2. It is high in Gamma-linolenic acid – otherwise known as GLA, which is an omega 6 essential fatty acid. And while other omega 6 get a bad rap for promoting inflammation in the body, GLA is of the anti-inflammatory nature. Research has also indicated that it has a positive effect on conditions including hypertension, ADD/ADHD, allergies and even rheumatoid arthritis.
3. It is high in protein – unlike most other vegetarian protein sources that contain an incomplete amino acid profile, spirulina is known as a complete protein, meaning it contains all eight essential amino acids. While technically it is true that spirulina is higher in protein than red meat (60% protein for spirulina vs 20% for beef, approximately), it should be noted that a serving size of spirulina is usually 5-10g compared to say 150g for steak.
4. It has an impressive nutrient and antioxidant profile – containing good sources of vitamins A, E & K, B1, B2, B6, as well as other antioxidants such as zeaxanthin, superoxide dismutase and phycocyanin. Think of it as a natural multivitamin, again keeping in mind that this is dose dependent.
5. It is low in oxalates – leafy green vegetables such as kale and spinach, while being impressively high in many nutrients (and still a favourite of mine!) are also high in oxalates – a potential precursor to kidney stone formation in the body. Traditionally, greens were rarely eaten raw, and more often were steamed/cooked or fermented. Today with our green juice culture, we are consuming these veggies raw at much higher levels, and while for some this may pose no risk at all, for others the oxalate content should be considered. Spirulina on the other hand is low in oxalates, and while still sporting an impressive array of nutrients, I personally think it is a much better choice in juices and smoothies.
So how can you get more spirulina into your life? You could…
Add it to your juice or smoothie in place of leafy greens
Make home made bliss balls – I love to include ingredients like dates, coconut flesh, cashews and vanilla bean along side my spirulina. And if you’re short of time or inspiration in the kitchen, you could try a pre-made blissball like Luv sum – almond seed and spirulina ball which is also packed with whole food seeds high in vitamin E, magnesium zinc and selenium
Blend it into a salad dressing – Whiz 1-2tbsp of spirulina in the blender with other ingredients like olive oil, lemon juice, garlic cloves, salt and fresh green herbs such as dill or parsley
So maybe you should seek a serve of spirulina each day, after all, it is often described as the most ‘complete food source’ in the world!
Kate Johnston is a Naturopath, Nutritionist, Health Educator and Speaker who practices at The Natural Health and Fertility Centre in Sydney. Kate combines naturopathic philosophy with scientific knowledge and functional testing to provide a fully integrated, personalised and holistic approach to health and wellness.