5 Reasons to Love Spirulina [Infographic]
- Mar 29, 2022
- Lauren Mathes
Spirulina is an alkaline blue-green algae that's rich in protein and nutrients and is great for immune support.
When you set out to eat more greens in your diet, I suspect algae isn’t at the top of your list – but don’t discredit it!
Our top algae choices because they’re full of chlorophyll, packed with nutrition, and create an alkaline environment in the body.
As the hot summer proceeds, you might expect to see algae floating in a lake or river, but in your food? Yep! Food producers have started to use the stuff to make new foods, including cooking oil and even natural food dyes.
Some more common types of algae you may have heard of are spirulina (blue-green algae) and chlorella (microalgae). Spirulina’s a classic smoothie-booster with its biggest claim to fame being its protein content, especially as an option for vegans. It contains 8 grams of protein per 2 tablespoons, plus iron and antioxidants like beta-carotene. Aside from spirulina’s nutritional benefits, people also eat to improve cardiovascular health—in particular, cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and its anti-inflammatory properties.
Research suggests another green variety, chlorella, is a concentrated source of chlorophyll, shown to have antioxidant properties. Chlorella may also improve immune function and is high in lutein, an antioxidant prized for its role in supporting eye health.
Another reason to love microalgae is its unique sustainability potential. Unlike most crops or livestock that take months or years to grow, this ingredient can be farmed in a matter of days without large swaths of land. However, some experts say microalgae’s eco-friendly potential hasn’t been met yet because its production, particularly at the drying stage, still requires too much electricity.
The good thing is, you don't have to collect any pond scum yourself! There are lots of companies who collect it and turn it into tablets and powdered greens!
Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Live Superfoods
This recipe is fabulous, and I was initially drawn to it because of the all the superfoods it contained, but then found out it was created by a registered dietitian nutritionist, so of course I dig that. It’s a chewy, crunchy, all-natural protein bar. I love how this recipe uses dates and dried tart cherries to bind everything together, instead of relying on sugary syrups…and an added bonus, no cooking! These are all raw with no fuss of baking.
These bars are loaded with heaps of nutrients, plant-proteins, fiber, omega-3 fats, monounsaturated fats, and good carbohydrates. They’re a lovely combination between sweet, crunchy, chewy, and creamy. Not to mention, they’re packed with nutritious ingredients and superfoods—9, to be exact—to make one delicious bar!
Chewy Superfood Hemp Protein Bars are a great, on-the-go snack for both myself and my two toddlers. I’m always looking for something high in protein and healthy fat, which makes the bar very filling. With the cacao, it also satisfies a sweet tooth.
Cherries: Cherries are one of my favorite fruits, and provide anti-inflammatory properties. The antioxidants in both sweet and sour cherries have been found to inhibit enzymes involved in the creation of pain sensations in the body, thus acting as pain relievers.
Hemp Seeds and Hemp Powder: One serving of hemp protein provides roughly 20 grams of protein, along with omega-3 fatty acids and fiber. It’s a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids, and provides a nice, nutty flavor.
Spirulina: Is an excellent source of chlorella, which is important for cleansing the liver and removing toxins such as heavy metals and other pollutants from the blood.
It’s high in protein (4 grams per 1 Tbsp), and also adds a nutty flavor to these protein bars. Spirulina has potent antioxidant activity, particularly phycocyanin and beta carotene, antioxidants that can help protect cells from damage. Spirulina contains a variety of B-vitamins, and a very high concentration of bioavailable iron, which makes it excellent during pregnancy and for those with anemia.
Cinnamon: It tastes delicious, and is great for blood sugar regulation! Compounds in cinnamon improve the activity of insulin and the cells’ ability to use glucose, which helps to lower fasting blood glucose levels.
Ways To Enjoy
The obvious reason is as a quick grab-n-go snack, but you can easily chop them into bite sized pieces for a decadent dessert topping on BanaNO Cream or Coconut Ice Cream, or on your favorite yogurt.
These bars contain a ton of nutrition, and they're also calorically dense, so either use the bar as a meal replacement, or if you’re watching your calories, cut one in half to make it into a snack size friendly amount. Keep in mind, all of our caloric needs are different, let’s focus a bit more on the goodness of nutrients in these bars more than the numbers! I would use these on a day hike.
Tips From McKel, the RDN Who Created the Bars
I purposefully make larger batches of this recipe at a time and keep some in the fridge for quick snacking and I store the others in the freezer for a later day.
Simply wrap the bars individually in clear wrap or parchment and then place into a tupperware or ziploc storage bag in the freezer. They last well and are quick to thaw- you can also pop these into a toaster oven or microwave for 30 seconds or less and get them nice and warm/soft!
If you’re on the go, these are perfectly fine to keep at room temperature! It’s only dried fruits, nuts, seeds, and coconut oil, nothing will spoil if you’re bringing it with you to work, to school, the office, etc. Simply store it in a ziploc bag or wrap tightly with clear wrap.
1½ cup hemp protein powder, chocolate flavor (or original just add more cocoa)
½ cup hemp hearts, shelled
½ cup cacao powder
½ cup walnuts, ground into a coarse flour
½ cup pumpkin seeds, whole
¼ cup chia seeds, ground
¼ cup dried mulberries
2 tablespoons cacao nibs (optional)
2 tablespoons spirulina powder
¼ teaspoon pink himalayan sea salt
dash of ground cinnamon
1½-2 cups dates, about 20 pitted
½ cup dried tart cherries
5 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
1 heaping tablespoon almond butter
½ cup water (start with ¼ and add gradually)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Instructions for Dry Ingredients
1. Coarsely grind walnuts and chia seeds. Pour into a large mixing bowl and combine all remaining dry ingredients (hemp powder, seeds, cocoa, pumpkin seeds, mulberries, cacao nibs, and seasonings). Set aside.
Instructions for Wet Ingredients
1. Combine all wet ingredients in a high speed blender or food processor. This mixture is very thick and sticky so you'll need a powerful kitchen appliance or mix in small batches. Start with ¼ cup of water in this mixture.
2. Pour wet ingredients into the large mixing bowl with dry ingredients. This is where you can adjust the water and pay close attention to how much you use.
3. Using your hands (the best tools for this!), massage and combine the mixture until everything has come together to form a large ball.
4. If the mixture gets too wet, simply add more cocoa or hemp protein powder. If the mixture isn't wet enough, try adding more coconut oil or a few more dates. The desired texture is a thick, chewy, sticky bar.
5. In a 8x8 or 9x9 inch parchment lined pan, evenly spread the protein bar mixture into the pan. Using your hands and fingertips firmly press the mixture into an even layer until it's even and smooth on top.
6. Chill for at least 2 hours in the fridge.
7. Cut into small pieces or 12 whole bars.
8. Keep some for later in the freezer by wrapping individually in clear wrap or keep in the fridge for later use that week.
Serving size: 1 bar (1/12th of recipe) Calories: 320 Fat: 20 grams Carbohydrates: 26 grams Sugar: 4 grams Fiber: 7 grams Protein: 14 grams
Chewy Superfood Hemp Protein Bars Recipe from Nutrition Stripped by McKel Hill, MS, RD, LDN
Spirulina is great for an overall healthy lifestyle, particularly if you want to detox or cleanse because it aids the liver in detoxifying toxins.
The Aztecs discovered spirulina, a type of blue-green algae, thousands of years ago and soon made it a staple in their diet. Now days, spirulina is considered a “superfood.” The bright green color of spirulina indicates it is full of antioxidants and also contains many elements necessary for a healthy functioning immune system and nervous system. Give it a try!
1. Spirulina is rich in protein. In fact, amino acids make up 62% of spirulina and provide 4 grams per 1 Tablespoon.
2. Spirulina is high in B-vitamins: vitamins B-1 (thiamine), B-2 (riboflavin), B-3 (nicotinamide), B-6 (pyridoxine), B-9 (folic acid).
3. Spirulina is high in other vitamins and minerals, including vitamin E, manganese, zinc, copper, iron, and selenium.
4. Spirulina contains gamma linolenic acid, an essential fatty acid. It has amazing anti-inflammatory properties especially when taken with other quality Omega-3 supplements.
5. Spirulina can be used for increased exercise performance. In one study, taking spirulina for 4 weeks was associated with a significant increase in exercise performance and fat oxidation.
6. Spirulina has potent antioxidant activity, particularly phycocyanin and beta carotene—antioxidants that can help protect cells from damage.
7. Spirulina was clinically effective on managing allergic rhinitis through its anti-inflammatory and/or antioxidant properties.
8. Dried spirulina contains 8 mg calcium per 1 Tablespoon serving, which is more than raw spirulina.
9. Spirulina contains chlorophyll which is used for “detoxification” by helping remove toxins such as heavy metals and other pollutants from the blood.
10. Spirulina is often alternated with chlorella for detoxifying the body.
11. The very high concentration of bioavailable iron makes it excellent during pregnancy and for those with anemia.
When choosing Spirulina, make sure to choose a product that is organic, as others can have nitrate compounds as additives.
Some common ways to take Spirulina include:
Recommendatins vary, but start with a small amount of Spirulina, maybe ½ tsp. at a time and slowly increase your intake until you are eating 2 teaspoons per day. Take more—2 or more tablespoons—during illness, after radiation exposure, or during pregnancy.
If you have an autoimmune disease, such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, or lupus, you should avoid spirulina. Theoretically, it could stimulate your immune system and make your condition worse.
In Health and Happiness,
Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Healthy Goods
1. Kalafati M, et al. Ergogenic and Antioxidant Effects of Spirulina Supplementation in Humans. Med & Sci in Sports & Ex. 2009 DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181ac7a45
2. Spirulina. University of Maryland Medical Center.
3. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference; Seaweed, spirulina, dried