Is Spirulina The Most Nutrient-Dense Food On Earth?
Many foods make appearances on the "Superfood Hit List". Turmeric, coconut oil, kale, butter... (Hey, they all deserve it!) Yet, one blue-green alga is making its way up that list, too. The thought of eating algae may make you cringe -- especially when it's hard enough to get your kids to eat their vegetables! Once you learn the amazing health benefits of spirulina, you may just declare yourself its newest fan. Spirulina is a nutrient-dense bombshell that's earned its superfood status. Is it the most nutrient-dense food on the planet? Keep reading and decide for yourself!
The Origins Of SpirulinaHistorians discovered references to spirulina as a food source for the Aztecs right up until the 16th century. The Aztecs referred to it as tecuitlatl, and it grew in abundance in Lake Texcoco. Then spirulina sort of dropped off the radar. Further mention of spirulina in medical literature didn't occur until the 1960s. During his travels through Africa, botanist Jean Leonard discovered tribal folk in Chad, Africa, selling dried cakes of blue-green algae they called dihé' (source). They were using these cakes as a base for broths and soups. Through further analysis, Leonard discovered the algae to be none other than spirulina. In 1966, Leonard went on to conduct the first scientific study of spirulina at a Sosa-Texcoco production facility in Mexico. This study established the groundwork for spirulina cultivation. From this, the International Association of Applied Microbiology hailed it as a wonderful food source. They recognized its potential use "as a food supplement, food additive, animal or aqua feed and to combat against all forms of Protein Energy Malnutrition (PEM) and Protein Energy Wasting (PEW)" (source). A strengthening body of scientific evidence to support its health benefits has led to its more common uses in health foods. These include bliss balls, protein bars, smoothies, shakes, and as a standalone health food supplement. Let's take a deeper look at why spirulina is stealing the spotlight in the health food realm.
What Is Spirulina?Spirulina is an ancient form of blue-green algae that thrives in natural alkaline lakes. Unlike many other plants, spirulina is a largely self-sufficient survivor. Spirulina has an incredible ability to thrive even with large variances in temperature and neglect. Under such conditions, many other plants would die. By virtue, spirulina absorbs trace minerals from the water in which it grows. Naturally, the healthier the environment, the more nutrient-dense the spirulina. The reverse is also true; spirulina absorbs toxins from its growing environment. Take caution when sourcing spirulina to ensure that it hasn't been grown in contaminated waters.
Potential Health Benefits Of SpirulinaOver of 1,400 studies have been conducted on spirulina. What does this say about the health-promoting potential and value of such seemingly insignificant algae? Like other plants, spirulina converts sunshine into bio-available nutrients and carbon dioxide into oxygen. There's something far more powerful going on within spirulina's cell walls because the final product packs one intense nutrient punch. In fact, it has widely been recognized as the most nutrient-dense food on the planet! When compared with other foods gram for gram, spirulina lives up to this claim.
The Most Nutrient-Dense Food On EarthAnalyses show just 1 tablespoon (7 grams) of dried spirulina powder contains the following impressive nutrients: High In Protein Spirulina contains complete protein, unlike many plant foods. Around 65% of spirulina is a complete protein. A complete protein is one which contains all the essential amino acids the body needs in a bio-available form. High In Carotenoids & Antioxidants Spirulina contains 10 times the amount of beta-carotene (the plant-based precursor to Vitamin A) than carrots. Carotenoids and antioxidants are known for helping to prevent cell damage. Bursting With B Vitamins B vitamins are important for helping your body to break down food nutrients and in maintaining eye, brain and nerve function. Spirulina contains impressive amounts of B vitamins:
- 11% of the RDA for vitamin B1 (Thiamin)
- 15 of the RDA for vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
- 4% of the RDA for vitamin B3 (Niacin)