Pond scum, anyone?

It is deep blue-green. When I mix it with water it looks freakishly like my old school skirt. Did our uniform suppliers use spirulina to dye the cloth? The smell is sock-ish and soupy, the texture muddy. It’s like eating Plasticine. Or Pleistocene. But the buzz is worth it (so I’m told!) and its amino acids quench food cravings. It’s the snack you can eat between meals that will ruin your appetite – in a good way, though, because it stops you overeating when you sit down to dinner.

Spirulina is a highly nutritious microscopic freshwater plant. Nowadays it is grown in nutrient-rich ponds but it is one of the oldest chlorophyll-producing organisms on earth. It was originally found flourishing on Lake Chad and on unpolluted lakes in Mexico, where it is believed to have played a part in the diet of the Aztecs. So what’s so great about this blue-green algae and how can it help you achieve world domination too?

Spirulina contains over 100 naturally occurring nutrients that work together in concert. It is easily absorbed and rich in alkaline-forming protein; indeed, 60-70% of its weight is protein, which, pound for pound, equates to a lot more than fish, meat or poultry without the acid-forming disadvantages of flesh foods. It is vegetarian and loaded with bio-available chlorophyll, B Complex vitamins, beta-carotene, Vitamin E, iron, selenium, zinc, essential fats, enzymes, trace elements and minerals. It also contains phycocyanin, a blue pigment rare in nature that acts as a powerful immune stimulant (1).

The three most common comments I hear from people who have tried spirulina are:

‘Wow! This is amazing! I’ve so much energy I’m bouncing off the walls!’
‘I don’t feel hungry at all when I drink spirulina.’
‘Ugh! This tastes disgusting!’

First things first. Spirulina is saturated with chlorophyll. Chlorophyll traps sunlight to create energy, then kindly gives that energy back to you when you ingest it. Spirulina’s other nutrients also provide a safety net against nutritional deficiencies that may be dragging you down. I have seen people buzz after a glass of blue-green goo.

Spirulina is helpful for weight control because it contains natural appetite suppressants. If taken half an hour before meals it can help curb the urge to overeat. It manages this not only because it’s nutritionally rich and easily assimilated but also because it contains phenylalanine and valine, two amino acids which induce the brain to release an appetite-controlling hormone signalling fullness. It is particularly helpful for busy vegetarians who find it difficult to balance the proteins in their diet, or for people like me whose bodies naturally require a lot of protein.

Now for the hard part: the taste. Some people like it. I hate it. I hate the powder, the capsules and the tablets. Or maybe I should say I used to hate it until my genius colleague Jasmine made a smoothie and offered me a slug. That delicate shade of cyan should have given it away but I was concentrating on the taste – the apple juice, the nice creamy banana – and I failed to notice that she’d sneaked a tablespoon of spirulina into the blend. It was actually very good. (I’m beginning to think apple juice is the universal solvent for superfoods.) I am happy I liked Jasmine’s smoothie because I suffer from protein cravings that often lead to bad food choices. I hope spirulina smoothies will – over time – help me reform my eating habits (the German word for health food shop is not ‘Reformhaus’ for nothing!) and change my life forever ;-).

Swedish Spirulina Sensation (more or less!):

– Apple juice (e.g. Chegworth Valley)
– A ripe banana
– A tablespoon of Synergy spirulina powder (15mls in American spoon measurements – more like a dessertspoon in Ireland)
– Good quality distilled, filtered or bottled mineral water

Put the ingredients in a blender. Whizz. When the spirulina has fully dissolved (this may take a minute or two) transfer the smoothie to a flask or bottle and drink at intervals throughout the day. If you are trying to lose weight, try drinking some half an hour or so before lunch and dinner (2).

If you are taking medication or have an underlying health condition, do not take spirulina without consulting your doctor first. As spirulina is rich in phenylalanine, do not take it if you have PKU.

(1) Check out http://www.synergynatural.com for more information on Synergy spirulina, the brand we sell chez Hopsack.
(2) Spirulina has qualities too numerous to mention here. For more information on magical algae, visit http://www.chlorellafactor.com (this e-book contains lots of interesting information about spirulina and chlorella).


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