About a month ago, I was looking for a “super green” protein booster for my smoothies. I go in cycles with adding protein powder. I’ve used whey protein (oh the bloat!), then switched to vegetable proteins like pea and a host of other blends. For the past year or two, I’ve depended mostly on my “super seed trifecta” of flax, hemp, and chia. But then after listening to an interview with Naturopathic doctor Alan Christianson, who specializes in adrenal fatigue, discussing the way to eat protein throughout the day for maximal effect (more in morning, less at night), I thought I would start adding something extra in the morning. Enter the (oddly beautiful) blue/green algae, spirulina. Wow. I’m a big fan of algae for many reasons, but spirulina blew me away. It lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, fights allergies and those annoying symptoms associated with allergies, helps to regulate blood sugar levels, and on and on. For this post, I’m going to focus on spirulina as an excellent protein source, immunity booster, and brain protector.
Protein! Ideally, women need roughly 24 grams of protein in the morning, with 10-15 grams of carbs, and 10-15 grams of good fats rounding out our macro-nutrient needs. Spirulina is an excellent source of protein as it is not only 70% protein by weight, but it also has a high concentration of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. The rich color comes from a pigment known as phycocyanin, which fights free radicals and toxins. And, it contains all the essential amino acids. Yes, it has lower levels of methionine (bone cartilage, hair, nails) and cysteine (antioxidant support), but if you add nuts, seeds, oats or grains, you get a complete protein.
Immune system! Besides being packed with a crazy amount of vitamins and minerals like all the important B’s, K, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and calcium, spirulina is a potent detoxifier and has the ability to remove ugly toxins from our system. And let’s go back to phycocyanine, the antioxidant responsible for the rich color, but also helps increase white blood cells in our bodies — the ultimate infection fighters.
Brain power! Inflammation is a slow and deadly drain on our brains. Period. Spirulina, with its high antioxidant level, helps lower oxidative stress on our cells and DNA. Add phycocyanin’s superpowers in battling free radicals and you’ve got another reason to start adding this power food to your daily diet.
Full disclosure: you are a hearty soul if you can eat this without masking its taste. Not that it’s terrible, but it is definitely distinct. If you like taking supplements, spirulina comes in capsule form and the recommended dosage would be for 1,500 to 2,000 mg per day. I prefer powder form, so I typically add up to 1 TBSP to my morning smoothie. Two key points here: 1.) start small. Yes, it’s a wonderful power food, but make sure that it’s right for you in the beginning. Two tablespoons can be a veggie protein substitute, however, you can also add other things like grains, nuts, legumes, and seeds to round out your protein needs at a meal. Work your way up. As with all supplements, you need to make sure it’s the right thing for you first. Because, if you don’t feel good, what’s the point? 2.) Buy the purest, preferably organic, form you can find. You don’t want a blend with “some” spirulina mixed with dubious fillers. Do your homework. A couple of brands do stand out, Nutrex-Hawaii, and Earthrise, due to their growing practices in a highly controlled, environmentally friendly environment. The price points are higher, but I do think it’s worth it. And that you’re worth it!