This Superfood Is So Special, It Can Be Grown in Outer Space—Here's Why It's So Good For You
Superfoods are so ubiquitous nowadays that it's tough to keep them all straight. But spirulina distinguishes itself in a couple of key ways.
Everywhere we look, we are bombarded by the wellness industry with superfood after superfood. And while it’s totally cool if you want to douse yourself in coconut milk, swim in a sea of matcha, and eat kale until your face turns green, the pressure to consume all of the superfoods every single day is pretty unrealistic.
But hear us out on this one: Spirulina may very well be the superfood to end all superfoods. It’s ultra rich in nutrients, supports the immune system (hello, cold and flu season!) and can even help the body’s natural detoxification process. In fact, it’s so powerful that it’s grabbed the attention of the International Space Station, and astronauts are currently studying its ability to grow in outer space.
While it may be some time before we're all hanging out, drinking spirulina smoothies on Mars, there are plenty of ways to add it to our diets here on Earth. Below, check out some out-of-this-world health benefits of spirulina, plus how to add it to your daily diet.
So, what is the heck is spirulina? And other valid questions
In short, it’s a blue-green algae. But, before you start dry heaving and decide it’s not the superfood for you, behold:
Yes, spirulina is basically fish food, but it’s also so much more than that. “Spirulina is pure nutrients, meaning there is nothing about spirulina that our body can’t use to become healthier,” says Traci Mitchell, M.S. in Health and Nutrition and Director of Education and Marketing at Vital Proteins. On top of that, the concentrations of said nutrients are super high. “In fact, spirulina contains 230 percent of our daily value of vitamin A, which not only supports our immune system, but bone health, as well,” says Mitchell.
The coolest part? It can be grown anywhere (hence the whole outer space thing). That said, one of the key factors to spirulina’s super powers is it’s environment. “The higher the quality of air and water that make up spirulina’s environment, the more nutrient-dense spirulina will be,” says Mitchell.
What makes it so special?
Thanks to its highly concentrated source of nutrients, spirulina is arguably one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. Meaning, “You get a lot of power in a very small amount,” says Mitchell. And on top of its ultra high levels of vitamin A, the superfood is also packed with vitamin K and B vitamins, and is also a very good source of protein. But, that’s not all. Mitchell adds, “Spirulina is an excellent source of chlorophyll, which is prominently apparent in the nutrient’s green color. Chlorophyll helps our body maintain a more optimal detoxification system.”
How to get your daily dose
Before reaching for just any jar of spirulina powder or capsules, Mitchell suggests taking a good look at the color of the supplement. “As a general rule, the brighter or bolder the color of a natural food, the better,” says Mitchell. The brightness of color indicates the powerful phytonutrients (aka, plant nutrients) inside.
“This makes spirulina king among colored foods. The beautiful blue color can be attributed to phycocyanin—a nutrient that can help improve [the] body’s immune system,” she adds.
Next, you’ll want to decide how to consume spirulina—in either a supplement or powder-form. “Spirulina can be taken in supplement form any time of day, or it can be added to water or smoothies [and] enjoyed that way,” says Mitchell.
“There’s really no bad time of day to [consume] spirulina,” she adds. In addition to taking a supplement or adding the powder to your morning smoothie, you can also get creative. Mitchell suggests using it as a natural green food coloring. “Small amounts of spirulina added to a baked good or frosting in need of a green hue can go a long way.”
Talk about having your cake and eating it, too.
Words: Jessica Quinn