When looking for the latest and greatest in nutritional ingredients, warm, shallow and all around less than appetizing bodies of water are some of the last places an individual might look. And yet, these marshy and pond-like environments happen to be the ideal blossoming grounds for one of today’s hottest green foods: Spirulina, or as we like to refer to it, the undisputed nutritional king of the single-celled blue-green algae family.
Taking its name from the spiral shape of its cells, spirulina has been recognized as one of the oldest forms of life on earth. According to Kerry Watson, a natural products specialist for SPINS, “Spirulina is a type of lake algae that contains a high percentage of complete protein as well as vitamins, minerals, carotenoids and antioxidants. It’s an ancient superfood…”1 Despite having been around for thousands of years, it seems that this single-celled wonder has taken the new millennium by storm.
Spirulina: Nutritional Benefits
When it comes to nutritional content, there’s no denying that these little guys can pack an incredible punch. Here are just some of the nutrients that spirulina has been found to contain:2
• Essential amino acids, in addition to Vitamin B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B-6, and Vitamin K.
• Spirulina comprises a whole host of minerals including calcium, iron, magnesium, selenium, manganese, potassium, and zinc.
• It is a rich source of omega 3 fatty acids.
• One cup of spirulina also provides 16% of the daily fiber requirement.
• The ORAC value is 24,000, which is 4 times the antioxidant potency of blueberries.3
But among the health & wellness and the fitness communities, spirulina’s most coveted trait is its protein content. Dried spirulina can contain anywhere from 50-70% protein by weight, which is about three times more protein per serving than beef!4 For a tablespoon-sized serving of about 7 grams, there can be up to 4 grams of protein.
Along with having been shown to contain a significant amount of protein per serving, structurally speaking spirulina lacks dense (cellulose-rich) cell walls – making it considerably easier for the human body to digest when compared to other popular plant sources of protein.
Consumers Are Warming Up
As an environmentally sustainable and nutritionally exceptional food, it should come as no surprise that consumers are warming up to the idea of incorporating algae into their diets. Over the course of the last five years, consumer interest in spirulina supplements and products has continued to rise.
With one national survey reporting that only 9% of Americans are regularly meeting the “Recommend Daily Intake” Levels (RDIs) for vegetables, spirulina has the potential to serve as an elegant and effective solution thanks to its nutritional content and its incredible versatility (i.e. that it can be delivered as a powder, in dietary supplement form, as a component of whole foods and beverages, etc).
While it may be small, it’s influence and popularity are anything but. As spirulina’s popularity continues to rise and the number of practical applications it can be used for continues to increase, the time to take advantage of spirulina supplements as a consumer and as a manufacturer is now!