What is spirulina and is it good for you?

Guest post by Erin Cassidy

Spirulina, a blue-green algae with a strong taste, has been named as one of this year’s top “superfoods”. We spoke with Toronto-based registered dietitian and nutritionist Stefanie Senior about spirulina and whether or not it is as good as it is made out to be.

spirulina

 

Should you add spirulina to your diet?

Spirulina isn’t a must-have part of your diet like some vitamins and minerals but there are nutritional benefits to it. It’s a concentrated source of protein (it contains 70 percent protein) and it’s chock full of B12 and beta-carotene (a higher beta-carotene count than spinach and carrots), explains Senior. “It contains iron and it’s easily digested. As well it’s a source of omega-3 fatty acids,” she says.

How do you take this supplement?

“In Canada the only option is to get it in a powdered format or a pill format and that could be expensive for people [around 40+ dollars],” says Senior.

Listen up, vegans!

“If you’re a vegan and you want to add a little bit of protein to your diet and get another source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an essential omega-3 fatty acid, then spirulina would be something you might consider,” says Senior. “As vegans don’t eat fish (which has ALA) they don’t get enough of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), other fatty acids, which are found from converting ALA. So the idea is that spirulina and other blue-green algae is efficient in converting ALA into EPA and DHAs.” Click here to learn about the importance of omega-3 in your diet.

 Is spirulina a superfood?

“As far as I can see, they’re calling it a superfood because of its nutritional value: It’s 70 percent protein and has beta-carotene—which is high in Vitamin A. It’s also nutritionally dense—it has protein, beta-carotene, and B12,” says Senior.

Much research is still being done on whether spirulina can help with allergies and boost immunity but there’s not a lot of evidence about its efficacy yet. Before adding this supplement to your diet, talk to a healthcare professional.

Photo courtesy of thinkstockphotos.ca