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Spirulina: Green Slime or Super Food of the Future?

Granted, Spirulina (Arthrospira platensis) is not much to look at. Often described as “pond scum,” Spirulina is labeled a blue-green alga, but it is actually a cyanobacteria – part plant, part animal, part unique. Unlike bacteria, Spirulina cells have chlorophyll and use solar energy as a food source. Unlike plants, they do not have cell walls or an organized nucleus. In addition to chlorophyll, they also have phycocyanin and allophycocyanin pigments, which capture more orange and red wavelengths of light. These plants can photosynthesize without roots, stems, or leaves.

Spirulina gets its name from the way it grows in spiral strings of single cells attached to one another. It is different from other algae in its ability to thrive in highly alkaline water with a pH of over 10, and is found naturally in only a few special lakes on the planet.

But this spineless, slimey, one-celled creature that loves to hang out in digs that would be lethal to most algae has been intensely studied since the 1970s as a future food and fuel source. When grown uncontaminated, it is one of the most potent and complete nutrient sources available to man.

Nutritional Rock Star

Spirulina just happens to be the super hero of health foods with incredibly high levels of protein, lipids and nutrients packed in each tiny cell! Its high concentrations of protein, calcium and iron make it a perfect food supplement during pregnancy or illness, after surgery or as an addition to a vegetarian diet.

Spirulina is high in B vitamins, carotenoids and minerals, many of which are strong antioxidants. With Omega 3, 6 and 9 and over 26 times the calcium of milk, this one-celled wonder has been shown to boost the human immune system, bring down inflammation and ease allergies.

And as if that wasn’t enough being one of the most nutrient-rich foods on the planet, Spirulina’s other claim to fame is its effectiveness in removing unwanted toxins and heavy metals such as mercury and lead from the body. Spirulina also shows promise in treating radiation, and has been used to treat chemotherapy patients and victims of the Chernobyl nuclear accident.

Quality Trumps Cost

Because of its ability to draw heavy metals and toxic chemicals from its environment, Spirulina needs to grow in pristine conditions. It will grow in wastewater quite nicely, but since wastewater contains pollutants and many heavy metals, the algae will easily absorb it, and who wants to eat health food that is full of toxins?

Beware of suppliers of Spirulina products that use low-grade chemicals containing higher than acceptable levels of heavy metals and other harmful impurities! Use only sterile reverse osmosis/distilled water and high-quality growth medium containing the highest grades of chemicals (ACS, GR or USP).

Farms of the Future

Microalgae like spirulina produce about half of the world's atmospheric oxygen, and they absorb CO2 gas as they convert sunlight to energy. With minimal resources and available land, they can be grown commercially for biofuels, human consumption, cattle and fish farm feed and cosmetic products.

Because it’s reproduces quickly and is easy and cheap to cultivate, many health food enthusiasts are growing their own spirulina cultures at home so they can enjoy the product freshly harvested instead of as a dried powder. What can be done on a small scale to feed an average family has the potential for large-scale production with very little space and water needed in comparison to traditional farming. Protein-rich spirulina also trumps raising livestock in being able to actually reduce greenhouse gases during its growth cycle rather than contribute to them. This unassuming green slime could feed the world someday while helping fight climate change!

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