Superfood: A naturally existing bundle of powerful, densely packed nutrients that enhance health and protect from disease. Generally derived from plant life. The original vitamin supplement. See also: ‘marketing.’
Yes, the word ‘superfood’ is everywhere; and yes, at times it’s misused. But as with any cliché, the term exists for a reason; there are certain fruits and vegetables that are absolute powerhouses when it comes to nutrient density and health benefits. Think you know all of them? Meet spirulina, a spiral-shaped blue-green algae that grows in freshwater lakes and ponds around the world. Used as a primary source of protein by ancient Aztec and African populations, this nutrient-packed organism is now making a comeback – and then some – thanks to its convenient, add-to-anything form and unique, powerful blend of vitamins and minerals that together boost energy, remove toxins and could even ward off serious health problems like cancer. Here, five reasons spirulina deserves its new title.
Gram for gram, it offers almost three times more protein than a flank steak, with 100 percent less risk to your heart.
Protein helps us stay lean by building up our muscles, upping our metabolism and making us feel full longer (bye, snacking!). Even a single ounce of dried spirulina powder sprinkled into a shake or smoothie delivers 16 grams of complete protein—containing every essential amino acid you need for optimal health. That’s more than a third of the protein you need every day—with none of the artery-clogging cholesterol you get when you opt for an animal source of complete protein like red meat. And when your spirulina is sourced naturally and organically, you know you’re getting all the benefit of this amino-acid lineup without any harmful additives like dyes, pesticides and fertilizers.
It’s an instant energy boost.
Spirulina offers lots of iron, which helps your body use the oxygen you breathe in to support pretty much every function of the body. Feeling sluggish during workouts? Increased dietary iron might give you the boost you need. The plant is also an excellent source of vitamin B1 and B2, both of which play an important role in how your body metabolizes energy from carbohydrates. Plus, when the spirulina is dried properly, the resulting powder retains the vast majority of these important nutrients, unlike most produce, which starts losing vitamins and minerals as soon as they’re picked from the earth. Mid-day slump? Ditch the chocolate chip muffin and down a spirulina shake instead. No sugar crash required.
It’s edible detox, legit.
If you’ve heard of this algae, maybe you’ve picked up on the recent bad press about toxins in spirulina supplements. Like anything growing in nature, an alga picks up substances from its environment, including good ones (like nutrients) and bad ones (like bacteria and harmful metals). Much has been made of this, but the reality is that there’s no reason to worry as long as your spirulina is sourced responsibly: harvested from a clean and controlled environment and continually tested for contaminants, just like you’d expect for any food product you buy. Not only is high quality, consciously sourced spirulina free of toxins; the stuff is actually packed with chlorophyll, which clears your blood of impurities and increases your body’s oxygen levels. It even reduces body odor!-
It may up your immunity.
Though findings are preliminary, some research indicates that spirulina spurs the creation of antibodies—proteins that fight infection—to help ward off illness and disease. In another study, spirulina even seemed to stop the growth of oral cancer cells. Miracle cure? Who knows. Potential bonus of a new superfood that offers tons of other health benefits? You bet.
Look. A superfood that’s impossible to get access to, or that’s ridiculously expensive? File that under “For Celebs Only.” They can have at it! But spirulina is different. Generally sold as a powder, spirulina goes for roughly $1 per ounce and is easy to stick in the bag you bring to the gym or office. You can try it out without spending a dime by signing up for a six-day free trial of Aloha’s delicious, natural nutrient packets, Daily Good Greens, all of which contain spirulina and its health-enhancing properties—accessible to all.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com