Superfood Algae

Did You Know…that algae is poised to be the superfood breakout star for 2016?

If you don’t think of algae as appetizing—and not many people do!—you may be surprised to know that it was an ancient food staple that supported the Mayans and Aztecs through flood and famine.  However, since the rise of Western civilization, algae has been one of the most overlooked food sources.  That’s changing in 2016, as algae emerge as an alternative protein source to meat and soy-based products (maligned for their estrogen-mimicking qualities).

According to food technologists, algae is one of the best protein sources in the world… and it’s showing up as a primary ingredient in protein and health bars as well as a host of other food products.  Its tough cell wall doesn’t affect the texture of the food or the function of the other ingredients, making it the perfect protein boost.  Not to mention, algae is highly sustainable, with a terrifically low carbon footprint!

Protein… plus more! 

The type of algae we eat are actually tiny photosynthetic plants that grow in both marine and freshwater environments.  If you eat sushi, you’re already eating marine algae in the form of seaweed.  Algae convert energy from the sun into sugar and proteins, and marine microalgae (also known as phytoplankton) generate half of the world’s oxygen.

Blue-green algae are the most potent form of edible algae.  It’s made up of:

  63-70% protein
  15% fiber
  4% carbohydrates

It also contains 65 vitamins, minerals, and enzymes, and contains the gamut of 8 essential amino acids and 10 non-essential (meaning the body can make them on its own) amino acids in a truly bioavailable form for best absorption.  It’s also high in omega-3 essential fatty acids.  Why take fish oil supplements when you can go straight to the source!

Of the many varieties of algae, 3 stand out for their health-boosting properties:

  • Spirulina—in the form of supplements, powders, and juices—is perhaps the most well known type of blue-green algae.  It’s 70% complete protein; every bite delivers more protein and more iron than 20% ground beef.  Spirulina is also high in beta-carotene (more than broccoli) and phyocyanin, which enhances its innate antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Aphanizomenon flos-aquae (AFA) is another form of blue-green algae with high antioxidant activity.  Preliminary research shows that it’s also a good source of vitamin B-12.  Many vegans are at risk for B-12 deficiency because B-12 is best sourced from animal products, so AFA may be a promising B-12 alternative for non-meat eaters.  AFA is also the world’s most biologically active food source of chlorophyll, which has been associated with weight loss, detoxification, and numerous healing benefits.
  • Chlorella is a third type of algae that has a demonstrated favorable impact on immune function and chronic conditions such as hypertension (high blood pressure) and fibromyalgia.

Cooking with Algae Oil 

Algae isn’t just making an appearance as an ingredient in our favorite foods; it’s also outshining olive oil as a cooking and flavoring substitute.  Its fatty acid profile is 90% heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, while olive oil’s is only 74% monounsaturated fat… and it has far less saturated fat than olive oil does.