Katie's Healthy Bites: What is Spirulina?

What is spirulina and how can you add it to your diet?

With so many so-called super foods on the market it’s tough to decide which are worth shelling out some dough.  Here are a few facts on a funky green powder called spirulina; I think it’s worth at least a try!

What is spirulina?

It is an edible blue-green algae that is available in tablet, flake or powder form.

What nutrients and vitamins does it contain?

Spirulina is about  60% complete protein, which is a lot compared to about 25% in chicken or beef. It contains all the essential amino acids, and 10 non-essential ones. Ever wonder where fish get their fatty acids? Fish eat algae like spirulina which is rich in fatty acids, especially omega 3. Spirulina contains B complex vitamins including B-12 but there is insufficient evidence as to its bioavailability. Beta-carotene is also found in this super-cool supplement.

What kinds of health benefits does it have?

The vitamins and nutrients that are found in spirulina have been associated with the prevention of heart disease, promoting the health of red blood cells and nerve tissue and having positive antioxidant effects which leads to increased immune system function. Spirulina is really easily digested, and therefore the body is able to absorb most of these nutrients. It's also a great source of vitamin B12 for vegetarians.

How can I add spirulina to my diet?

You can add it to your favorite fruit or vegetable juice. In studies, most of the health benefits were seen when people added about two tablespoons a day to their diet. Spirulina can also be added to vegetable dips or guacamole. If you have spirulina in the powder form, you can even sprinkle it over some homemade potato chips. Here’s a recipe from our café called the “Green Machine” Smoothie:

Green Machine Smoothie
½ banana
1 tbsp spirulina
1 cup coconut water
1 leaf of kale (stem removed)
1/8 avocado
1 cup of crushed ice
Blend and enjoy!

Katie Cavuto Boyle, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian, personal chef and owner of HealthyBites, LLC. See Katie's full bio »

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