This article originally appeared on CookingLight.com.
You probably never thought you would be adding algae powder from tropical lakes to your smoothies, but spirulina is becoming quite the popular addition for many health-focused eaters. Even though this superfood is in the spotlight right now because of its nutrients, bright green color, and bounty of healthy benefits, spirulina has been a superfood long before 21st-century nutritionists began adding it to their smoothie bowls.
Spirulina is quite possibly one of the oldest life forms on Earth. The first people to ever use this algae as a food source is unclear, but Aztecs and African natives may have consumed the algae in their daily diet many centuries ago.
Fast forward to today, we understand why spirulina is here to stay. Our assistant nutrition editor, Jamie Vespa, MS, RD, breaks down why this superfood clearly has staying power and is gaining momentum in superfood circles:
Dried spirulina contains about 60 to 70 percent protein. It’s actually considered 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. It’s also a good source of calcium, iron, magnesium, and vitamins A, E, and K. Spirulina may be more beneficial for vegans or vegetarians that lack adequate iron in their diet. Touted as a “superfood," health claims surrounding the blue-green algae include its ability to boost immunity, fight allergies, and reduce fatigue.
With its high nutrient density, the benefits of spirulina reach far and wide. We love it in our smoothies in the morning because research suggestions the powder may boost energy, reduce fatigue, and naturally suppress appetite. Great benefits, right? That's why we say it's time to say goodbye to coffee and hello to spirulina smoothies.
Like other superfoods, spirulina may strengthen the immune system, help with digestion, balance the body's pH, and reduce inflammation. Small studies support these claims, but more research is needed to know if these claims are true.
Spirulina is available as tablets or powders. We prefer the algae in its powdered form because it's easy to add to recipes, such as our Best Green Smoothies. However, "spirulina can get a bit pricey, and it's always important to remember the lack of quality control in the supplement industry. As such, do your research to find a quality product that has been third-party tested and is certified free of contamination," Vespa explains.