What’s So Great About Spirulina

What’s So Great About Spirulina

Seriously, what could be good about slimy algae? According to the website Inspired Living, “Spirulina is a planktonic blue-green algae found in warm water alkaline volcanic lakes.” Yum. But before you turn up your nose, check out this resume. Recent studies have shown that spirulina inhibits viral replication including HIV, strengthens the immune system and inhibits the growth of cancer cells. It is also anti-inflammatory and rich in iron, one of the most often diagnosed nutritional deficiencies. Oh, and if stopping disease in its tracks and slowing the aging process weren’t enough, it’s also a complete protein and “one of the most concentrated sources of natural nutrition known.” And it tastes like chocolate cake?!? Nope, sorry, it tastes like algae.

References to spirulina as a food source date back as far as the Aztecs. However,  it seems to be having something of a renaissance these days since we’re all clamouring for the newest and best ways to stave off illness, maintain youthful vigour and, quite frankly, jam as much nutrition into ourselves and our children as possible. By doing so, we hope to counteract that neon, multi-coloured monstrosity they ate at the last birthday party/school event/summer camp.

Of course, as with all things nutritional, you don’t have to look too far to find the naysayers. So, is spirulina too good to be true? Some of the criticisms centre around the fact that spirulina can be contaminated with certain toxins from the water it grows in and those toxins (like mercury and others) are then concentrated in the eventual end product.  For this reason as well as the fact spirulina is not subject to any regulation (like all supplements), proponents stress finding a reputable organic source.

The other criticisms tend to relate to the wide variety of claims. Really, how can one product be effective against everything from wrinkles to cancer and arthritis to allergies? Well, the science is really in its infancy and more research is definitely needed but what does seem to be proven is that spirulina is a very concentrated source of nutrition. And a quick review of the esteemed National Institutes of Health listing of published, peer reviewed studies shows two things: 1. once you strip away the superlatives and over-reaching, spirulina seems to be the real thing. And 2. Medical peer reviewed scientific journal reports are a viable alternative to sleep medication.

So whether you try one of the many products (bars, cookies, greens powders) that contain spirulina or go for the gusto and just have them throw a straight shot of the green elixir in your next smoothie it may just be worth adding algae to your grocery list. Hippocrates said “let your food be your medicine,” and it’s quite possible he was sipping a spirulina smoothie when he said it.

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