Not everyone has heard about Spirulina. Its scientific name is Arthrospira platensis and it is a spiral-shaped small microscopic organism. Commonly, people call it chlorophyll or algae. There are several species of the genus, but Arthrospira platensis is the one most widely distributed. Probably all of us have at some time in our lives, seen that green scum-like stuff floating on top of ponds and dams, not really believing that it would turn out to be an invaluable and viable food source. Naturally, all the special processes of turning it into spirulina didn’t just happen overnight. Nevertheless, It has a rich history of starting off as that “scum”, to what it is today, enjoyed and accepted as a food packed with nutrients with many, many health benefits.
Humble beginnings to life-giving properties
Spirulina goes way back in time to the 14th Century, from the times of the Aztecs when they started eating it and harvesting it. They called it Tecuitlatl, which means ‘stone excrement’. Some proclaim that it dates back even further, to the 9th century from the people of Chad during the Kanem Empire. The Chad people today, make cakes of spirulina called ‘Die’, where it is harvested from the small ponds and lakes around Lake Chad.
Coming back to today, Spirulina is eaten and consumed by people from all over the world in their millions. Back in 1974, it was declared as an ultimate food for the future, this announcement coming from the World Food Conference. At that time; it was declared a food to help out with malnutrition in certain areas of the world. Later, as it became more noted in the established countries of the world, it was hailed as a superfood. Such a superfood it was, that it actually became the main constituent in the diet plans of the NASA astronauts who would eat it in space. It supplied all the nutrients they needed. When the world heard that NASA was using it in this way, it impressed them so much that it grew into the superfood it is today – astronomical!
Let’s look at ways spirulina gets your green on
Spirulina is actually just one type of microalgae. It has some cousins too, namely chlorella, kelp and seaweed. Another fact is that spirulina is not really a plant at all; it is really a member of the world of bacteria; naturally found in salt water and other freshwater bodies. Many fish use it for their diet, adding to the food chain link.
Even though it has created quite a buzz in the world of supplements, it’s not a discovery that is fresh out the box. It’s really been around for ages, people have just got to know about it today by its name, spirulina – the superfood. The reason it is touted as a superfood is simple, it comes crammed with heaps of the B vitamins, vitamin E, beta-carotene and minerals such as selenium, copper, and iron as well. It also contains gamma-linolenic acid or GLA, which is an omega-6 fatty acid.
Many people who take spirulina are vegetarians – they have found it an amazing addition to their diets because of the high concentrations of proteins which vegetarians are always looking to add into their diets, particularly vitamin B12 and iron. Usually, vitamin B12 is found in animal proteins and it is why the non-meat eaters are so drawn to spirulina. It also contains lots of Omega-3 fatty acids, nutrients often found in fatty fish.. Others believe that the benefits of spirulina go even beyond that of nutrition. People are heard to take it because of its help with weight reduction; let alone other things such as ADHD and PMS. Research on spirulina goes on, and it looks to continue to be promising, proving to help in nasal allergies as well. And of course, others are always looking for that added energy which it is supposed to offer as well. It makes sense, seeing as it is packed with the B vitamins, the catalyst for producing energy reactions in the body. There are some Japanese seniors who have only relied on Spirulina and water for more than 20 years proving just how beneficial and wholesome it is for the human body.
To produce such an abundance of nutrients for us, it needs to thrive itself
This particular strain of micro-algae, spirulina, grows naturally in warm water lakes that are alkaline in nature. These lakes have high PH values which sustain the large flocks of flamingos you often see wading in the water. It is these alkaline warm waters that are renowned for giving flamingos their beautiful and distinct pink colors. But besides their natural habitat of lakes, it is also grown in artificial ponds and basins made by man. This is possible, as long as it has the right environmental conditions to accommodate the algae culture, the right sunlight, and temperatures. Covers for the ponds need to be provided so as to avoid cross-breeding and contamination. Salts also need to be added to soften the waters and to keep the PH values of the water alkaline. Spirulina likes saline alkaline water. It absorbs nutrients from the water and if the water is not pure and contains metals or pollution, these will come forth in the cells – then that spirulina will not be suitable for consumption.
How do I store it?
Storing spirulina in high temperatures, in moisture or pollution will reduce the best effects of the spirulina. When you buy it, you shouldn’t keep it longer than 6 months – in fact, it is recommended that you use it within 3 months. Always keep the packaging well sealed again after use. Don’t let it stand near any heat sources or be stored in strong light or sunlight.
It is suggested that people take between 5-10 tablets a day for adults and between 3-5 tablets for children who are under 12 years of age. It is best taken only with warm or cold water; no juices or soft drinks, teas and coffees. Once you have it, you need to avoid alcohol, coffee, and soft drinks for about 30 minutes. Taking these drinks can destroy some of the valuable enzymes and nutrients. Increase your water intake as well when taking spirulina.