(NaturalNews) Spirulina, a blue-green algae, is a superfood by any definition. It has been used since the 16th century by the Aztecs and North Africans. It was later rediscovered by the French, who later opened the first Spirulina processing plant in 1969, and soon after in Japan, Thailand, California, and Hawaii. Its nutritional benefits are impressive and vast, making it an invaluable food especially for vegetarians, vegans, anemics, diabetics, and those who cannot take in enough nutrients in their diet due to economics or location.
Spirulina is not a sea plant, but is found mostly in fresh water lakes and thrives in very warm water that is 85-112 degrees Fahrenheit. Blue-green algae like spirulina are what give bodies of water a dark green appearance. Spirulina is named for its shape since it forms swirling, microscopic strands. There are over forty thousand varieties, which only need a little bit of water and some sun to grow. It is able to grow by itself in the wild, and not on a farm with the help of humans. After it grows, it is harvested and turned into a thick paste, and then dried. Then it is packed into a powder or turned into a tablet or granulated so it can be filled into capsules.
Spirulina contains a high amount of protein, vitamins, and minerals. It is about 60-70% protein, which is greater gram for gram than both red meat and soy. It also contains all of the essential amino acids, which makes it a complete protein; this is not very common in plant foods. It contains a large amount of Vitamin B12, which is very difficult to find in other plant foods. That is one reason why Spirulina is such a great choice for vegetarians. Spirulina is very rich in iron, which is the most common mineral deficiency. Spirulina also contains calcium, magnesium, and Vitamins A, B, C, D and E. Due to its ability to withstand high temperatures, it is able to retain its nutritional value during processing and shelf storage. Many other plant foods will deteriorate at these temperatures. It only contains 3.9 calories per gram and still has all of these great benefits. It is a low calorie, nutrient dense food.
Spirulina has been known to increase energy. It may also be useful in helping diabetics to control their food cravings, which would result in decreased insulin intake. It also has been used to help with weight loss/treat obesity, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, hay fever, stress, anxiety, fatigue, depression, and premenstrual syndrome. It may also help with alcoholism, herpes, arthritis, and cancer. As little as 2-3 grams per day can have great health benefits.
Woman who are pregnant or breastfeeding should first consult with their health care practitioner before adding Spirulina to their diet. Also, it should not be used by anyone who might have auto immune diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS), lupus, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and pemphigus vulgaris; because it may cause the immune system to become more active, it may increase the symptoms of these diseases. It should also be avoided by anyone who has Phenylketonuria, a metabolic disorder where the body cannot metabolize phenylalanine, since Spirulina contains phenylalanine and may make Phenylketonuria worse.
Try putting a little in your smoothie or even putting a little in your children`s fruit smoothie. You can also tap a little onto salads for a little protein boost.
Alex Malinsky aka RawGuru is an award winning chef and one of the leading experts in the field of raw food. He started to learn about raw foods at the early at of 15. After 10 years on the raw food diet he continues to be on the cutting edge of nutritional research and product development. Visit Alex's website at: www.RawGuru.com for more information.