WTF: Spirulina

Like many of our WTF posts, this topic was inspired by our own blissful ignorance. We’ve occasionally seen spirulina listed as an ingredient on various menus, but never truly stopped to research and understand it. I recently ordered a smoothie that had spirulina listed as an ingredient, and when Hope asked me what spirulina is, my response was something along the lines of, “Idk, I think it’s a superfood.” Super helpful, I know. Ever since then, I’ve been itching to find out exactly what spirulina is and what makes it a “superfood”. Next time I’m faced with ordering a smoothie, I’ll know exactly what spirulina is and whether or not I want to include it in my order—and you will, too!

What is spirulina?

Spirulina is a type of blue-green algae that grows in both fresh and salt water. It’s often referred to as a superfood because of it’s nutrient-dense profile—and it is a popular supplement that can be found in both powder and capsule or tablet form. The powder looks very similar to matcha powder, but is a much deeper blue-green color.

What is this nutrient-dense profile exactly?

One tablespoon (or 7g) of dried spirulina contains roughly:

  • 20 calories
  • 4g of protein
  • 1.7g of carbohydrate
  • 0.6g of fat
  • 8mg of calcium
  • 2mg of iron
  • 14mg of magnesium
  • 8mg of phosphorous
  • 95mg of potassium
  • 0.7mg of Vitamin C

It also contains Vitamin B1 (thiamin), Vitamin B2 (riboflavin), Vitamin B3 (niacin), folate, and copper. Whoa.

Let’s talk about this protein count. Spirulina is about 60-70% protein and is one of the few plant-based sources of “complete protein,” meaning it contains all essential amino acids your body needs but can’t produce on its own. This is great news for any vegans or vegetarians (or anyone, really) out there who may be looking for additional ways to add protein and other nutrients to their diet!

What are the health benefits of spirulina?

If its nutrient-dense profile wasn’t enough to convince you, spirulina also has a number of proclaimed health benefits (some more researched than others). Spirulina has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, making it have a potentially positive impact on a number of health concerns. It’s thought that spirulina can help improve gut health, control blood sugar, reduce blood pressure, improve muscle strength and endurance, lower total cholesterol, etc. It may even have anti-cancer properties and help reduce anemia in older adults.

I don’t know about you all…

But I’ll be opting to add spirulina next time I hit up Sip-N-Glo Juicery and splurge on one of their smoothies!

This post is part of our WTF series—where we’ll break down some of the latest food, fitness, and health + wellness trends blowing up your Instagram feed.


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