A type of blue-green alga, spirulina has been nourishing humans for thousands of years—from the ancient Mayans and Aztecs to today’s nutrition-savvy, multitasking women and men. And for good reason. A mere 3 grams of spirulina powder, or about 1 teaspoon, can match the benefits of 5 servings of fruits and vegetables, according to Gerald Cysewski, PhD, co-author of The Hawaiian Spirulina Equation.
Of course, spirulina doesn’t have the high fiber content or exact same nutrients as fruits and veggies. With some nutrients, such as iron and certain antioxidants, spirulina has more, and with others, such as vitamin C and calcium, it has less. But according to Cysewski, the comparison is a fair one because it takes into account the benefits of the combination of nutrients in each case. And the fruits and veggies used in the analysis were ones commonly eaten in the United States.
Cysewski focuses solely on Hawaiian spirulina, which is cultivated in pristine water 2,000 feet below the surface of the Pacific Ocean. While the exact nutritional profile of spirulina harvested from other areas will differ, there are common properties. And various types of spirulina, including varieties from Hawaii and California, have been tested in lab, animal, and human studies.
Nutritional analysis shows that spirulina is high in protein and contains healthy fats, a variety of vitamins and minerals, and powerful antioxidants. A few of its documented benefits:
Available in both pills and powders, good quality spirulina is produced by companies that document and share information about their cultivating, drying, and storing processes. Algae grow in water—and will absorb toxins from their surrounding environment—so it’s important to choose spirulina that has been harvested from non-toxic environments. If in doubt, call the manufacturer and ask, or visit company websites.
The suggested dosage for adults is 3 grams (equivalent to about 1 tsp.) daily. For children, adjust for body weight as a fraction of 150 pounds (considered the average adult weight).
If you don’t enjoy the flavor of spirulina, there are many ways to disguise it. “So little spirulina is needed to boost a recipe into superfood status that it’s quite easy to hide, from a taste standpoint,” says Julie Morris, author of Superfood Spirulina. Here are a few suggestions, plus two recipes from Morris’s book to help get you started:
Makes 2 16-oz. servings
Concentrated health benefits are accompanied by a margarita-style tartness in this tasty beverage.
3 cups (packed) chopped baby bok choy
2½ cups coconut ice (coconut water frozen in ice-cube trays)
½ tsp. fresh lemon zest
¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
½ tsp. Hawaiian spirulina powder
1 cup coconut water
Sweetener to taste
Blend all ingredients together until frosty and smooth. Taste, and sweeten as desired.
per serving: 103 cal; 3g pro; <1g total fat (0g sat fat); 25g carb; 0mg chol; 158mg sod; 2g fiber; 20g sugars
Makes about 12 bars
½ cup raw almonds
1 cup chopped dates
¼ cup shredded coconut
¼ cup pumpkin seeds
Put all ingredients in food processor, and pulse 30 seconds. Roll mixture into ball and spread into 8 X 8-inch pan lined with wax paper. Allow to set 10–15 minutes, and cut into 12 bars.
per bar: 134 cal; 3g pro; 6g total fat (2g sat fat); 18g carb; 0mg chol; 11mg sod; 3g fiber; 14g sugars
|Earth CircleOrganics Raw Organic Spirulina Powder is cold-processed for maximum potency.||HealthForce SuperFoods Spirulina Manna has been dried at low temperatures to preserve nutrients.||Nutrex Pure Hawaiian Spirulina Pacifica tablets can be refrigerated after opening to retain freshness.|
Vera Tweed has been writing about healthy living since 1997. She specializes in covering research and expert knowledge that empowers people to lead better lives. She is the author of Hormone Harmony and other books.