Aztec algae to Mars mission - The benefits of spirulina
by Ezra •5 minutes read
Last updated: 26 Apr, 2023
Spirulina, first harvested from the surface of Lake Texcoco in Mexico, is a superfood that is densely nutrient. It contains almost every macronutrient (macros) that the human body needs, and is extremely protein rich. These macros include high levels of iron, copper, riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, essential amino acids, potassium, manganese, calcium, and B vitamins.
History of spirulina
In the 16th century, the Spanish conquistador Bernal Diaz del Castillo discovered a blue-green algae that was regularly consumed by the Aztec civilization. Now known as spirulina, this food source was a staple in their diet due to its highly nutritious content.
Spirulina wasn’t rediscovered until the 1960’s, when French researchers realised it was being harvested by the Kanembu tribe of Lake Chad in Africa.
Spirulina, not to be confused with sea moss, is now popular in health stores. It can be consumed as a supplement tablet or as a whole food.
Blue spirulina vs green spirulina
Green spirulina has endless benefits due to its high nutrient content:
Improves brain function and memory
Effective antioxidant, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties
Reduces blood pressure
Improves muscle endurance and strength
Supports the immune system
Improves allergy symptoms
Helps the digestive system
Stronger hair, skin, and nails
Despite all of spirulina’s health benefits, its taste is off-putting to many people. For this reason, some people prefer blue spirulina.
It should also be noted that spirulina, although generally considered a safe supplement, has a few side effects. It may worsen some autoimmune conditions, due to it boosting the immune system and can cause allergic reactions in a small proportion of people. It is always best to consult with a dietitian or doctor before adding spirulina to your diet.
Blue spirulina is the phycocyanin extracted from the original, green spirulina. Phycocyanin is a powerful antioxidant, with anti-inflammatory properties, which boosts the immune system. This bright blue algae has a much nicer taste than original spirulina, so it is easier for people to consume.
As blue spirulina is only formed of phycocyanin, this form of spirulina comes without any of the other nutrients that spirulina is famous for. It is also more expensive as the process to extract the phycocyanin is longer.
Dried spirulina vs fresh spirulina
Spirulina is primarily consumed as a tablet or powder, however fresh spirulina provides a more ideal way to access all of its nutritional properties.
Fresh spirulina is unprocessed, containing all the enzymes the body needs for nutrient absorption. As a result, fresh spirulina has more bioactive compounds than dried spirulina. Dried spirulina is processed, leaving many of the nutrients not as readily available.
Fresh, and frozen, spirulina is more delicate in flavour than dried. This makes it easier to consume for those who do not like the taste of powdered spirulina.
In recent years, the notion of human settlement on Mars is becoming more and more likely.
As there is little water on Mars, in order for future colonies to survive they will need foods that are densely nutrient and also require little water to grow. Spirulina fulfils all these specifications, as it is packed with all the vitamins and minerals beneficial for the human body!
Spirulina smoothie recipe
Organic when possible:
1 large banana (ripe)
½ cup cucumber
¾ – 1 cup light coconut milk (or any dairy-free milk of your choice)
1 cup spinach or chopped kale
1 tsp spirulina powder
1 tbsp hemp seed/chia seeds/vegan protein powder (optional)
¼ cup blueberries
¼ cup granola
½ tbsp hemp seeds
Peel the banana, preferably one previously frozen, and slice the cucumber while keeping the skin on.
To a blender, add the banana, cucumber, coconut milk, spinach, and spirulina. If you choose to, also add hemp seeds/chia seeds/vegan protein powder.
Blend until all the ingredients are smooth and creamy. If the mixture is too thick, thin with water or slightly more coconut milk. If the mixture is too thin, thicken with more frozen bananas or ice).
Taste and adjust the flavour to preference. If you want the smoothie to taste more sweet then add more banana, for freshness add more cucumber, or for more of a green colour then add more spinach/kale or spirulina.
Serve as it is or with toppings of your choice. Enjoy!
- WILLPOWER STUDIOS / Spirulina - https://www.flickr.com/photos/williamismael/5680757625
- Kevin Gill / Mars and the Sun - https://www.flickr.com/photos/kevinmgill/14859520035
- Minimalist Baker / Green Spirulina Smoothie - https://minimalistbaker.com/super-green-spirulina-smoothie-5-ingredients/
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