Spirulina may sound like the name of the newest Disney princess, but this superfood is more superhero than damsel in distress.
Although it's not yet a household name, this spiral-shaped algae has been consumed for centuries in Africa and during the Aztec empire in Mexico. Why? It's incredibly rich in nutrients including manganese, B-vitamins, zinc and iron. Plus, this little algae is more than 60 percent protein. It is such a concentrated source of nutrients that NASA has studied it for long space flights.
Available as a capsule or in powdered form, spirulina is easily recognized by its bright blue-green color and earthy flavor. Some find it a bit of an acquired taste, but it can easily be blended into smoothies or added to juice for a pop of color and an even bigger punch of nutrition.
Your immune system wages battles on a daily basis, fighting off disease and toxins to keep you health, and your gut plays a key role— healthy bacteria here help fight toxins and promotes a healthy immune system. Spirulina may help arm your gut by encouraging the growth of those healthy bacteria. It also lends a helping hand to important immune cells and proteins like macrophages and antibodies that crush disease-causing invaders.
Not impressed yet? Spirulina may also help fight allergies. Runny noses, red eyes, sneezing, itching and other seasonal symptoms are triggered by the release of histamines. Spirulina may help block the release of those histamines and relieve the symptoms so you can put away the tissues.
And then there's what spriulina can do for your ticker. Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the US. And while high cholesterol levels and oxidative stress contribute to heart disease, research indicates that chronic inflammation plays a role as well. Small studies show that spirulina may help lower cholesterol levels and inflammation, effectively throwing a one-two punch at heart disease. Spirulina's fiber and plant sterols can also help sweep cholesterol out of the body while inflammation and oxidative stress levels are lowered by its high antioxidant content.
For a tiny algae, spirulina is a pretty powerful source of nutrition. You can pick some up today—for much less than retail—at Thrive Market. Try it mixed into a delightful green vinaigrette, as a tapenade-style spread, or even in a veggie risotto.
Photo credit: Paul Delmont