Why These Greens Should be on the Top of your Superfoods List
What is Spirulina (Blue-Green Algae)?
Spirulina is a single-celled spiral-shaped blue-green algae (BGA) that grows in fresh and salt water. In technical terms, BGA like spirulina are cyanobacteria, capable of turning sunlight into energy via photosynthesis and have been used in traditional cultures for centuries – most notably the Aztecs in the 16th century – it rose to prominence in the 1970s when NASA believed it could be grown in space as food for astronauts.
Benefits of Spirulina
Spirulina is incredibly nutrient-dense; it contains 4g of protein (with all essential amino acids) per tablespoon. It has an ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats, and is a robust source of vitamins B1, B2, and B3 required for energy production. It contains minerals like iron, copper, magnesium and potassium. Pound for pound, it may be one of the most nutritious superfoods on the planet!
Other major benefits of spirulina include its antioxidant power and blood sugar support. Today, two-thirds of the population are classified as overweight or obese, which means their blood sugar is chronically high. A single teaspoon serving per day has been shown to reduce blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.(1) Weight gain and high blood sugars also tend to lead to systemic inflammation. These little “fires” in the body are produced by reactive oxygen species (ROS) and the blue-green colour of Spirulina, rich in the antioxidant phycocyanin, protects the body from oxidative damage.(2)
Benefits of Spirulina for Weight Loss
If you’re struggling with weight gain or poor heart health, you likely have higher triglyceride and “bad” LDL cholesterol levels, which research shows can be improved by 16% and 10%, respectively, with only a 1g daily dose serving of spirulina.(3) Not all LDL cholesterol is bad. However, if it becomes oxidized, it wreaks havoc on the body. A simple daily dose of 1-2 g of Spirulina Powder can protect your arteries from this oxidation and damage. (4)
Benefits of Spirulina for Allergies
One of my favourite uses for Spirulina is for allergic rhinitis. A countless number of clients come in with symptoms of chronic congestion, sneezing, itching or post-nasal drip and a 2g dose of Spirulina has been shown to be clinically effective compared to a placebo.(5)
Lastly, while spirulina does contain vitamin B12, the type found in blue, green algae is known as pseudovitamin B12, and the evidence unclear if it’s biologically available in humans.(6)
How to Buy Spirulina
Look for Spirulina that is 100% organic and Non-GMO, this way common harmful substances like Chilean nitrates are not used in the processing. Look for Spirulina that has been tested for heavy metals, aflatoxins, and microcystins which are harmful to the body because they can be present in different products that are grown in water. Finally look for Spirulina that is grown in covered pools and from fresh underground water to ensure no cross contamination from the ocean and or radiation.
What is Chlorella (Green Algae)?
Chlorella is another super green “superfood” to add to your superfoods list. It is a micro-algae; however, it differs from Spirulina in a few areas. It grows only in fresh water and is a green algae which is richer in chlorophyll than spirulina (blue-green algae). It also has a round shape, not spherical, and contains a unique growth complex factor that enables it to reproduce at incredibly rapid rates – every 20 to 24 hours – thus providing potential benefits for nerve related conditions.
Benefits of Chlorella
Chlorella is also incredibly nutrient-dense, but it must be consumed via supplementation due to its hard cell wall that cannot be broken down by the human digestive tract. Like Spirulina, Chlorella is a complete protein source containing all essential amino acids, provides a significant source of iron and vitamin C, as well as 100mg of omega-3 fats per teaspoon.(7,8,9)
Chlorella is also a robust antioxidant, containing several potent free radical scavengers such as chlorophyll, vitamin C, beta-carotene, lycopene, and lutein. As I mentioned above, if you struggle with weight gain or are actively trying to improve your health, you’ll benefit from increased antioxidant support. Chlorella, like Spirulina, also helps lower blood sugar. Have you ever wondered what to do to help your liver function better? Chlorella is particularly useful if you’re struggling with fatty liver from too many processed foods or alcohol.(10)
Chlorella also has a unique ability to enhance your immune system function, boosting your body’s “first line of defense” against infection by increasing natural killer cell activity and protecting you from catching nasty colds and flu.(11) It also contains carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin, that crucial for protecting your eyes and reducing your risk of macular degeneration; important in senior populations.(12)
How to Buy Chlorella
Look for products that are 100% certified organic, natural powders, filtered with spring water and containing no added fillers, chemical solvents, heavy metals, artificial colors or flavours. Chlorella products must also have “broken cell walls” to be bioavailable and usable by the body.
If you’re looking to upgrade your health and improve your energy, the super green superfoods Spirulina and Chlorella are essential to put on your superfoods list. Add these ancient superfoods to your nutritional arsenal and feel the difference today!
Dr. Marc Bubbs ND, CISSN, CSCS