Spirulina is a cyanobacteria, skimmed from the tops of freshwater lakes and ponds, making it literal pond scum, as Moneyish so eloquently puts it. But the beautiful color of this trendy new superfood is taking over Instagram, and people actually want to eat and drink it.
Blue green algae is found in the highest concentrations in Lake Texcoco in Mexico and Lake Chad in Central Africa, and it has been consumed for centuries by many cultures including the Aztecs, so this is by no means a new discovery.
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Yes, when called "pond scum," spirulina’s origins sound unappetizing. But it’s beautiful deep blue-green hues turn the food it’s added to a stunning range of colors, from turquoise to forest green. Given it’s photogenic qualities, it’s been popping all over Instagram, in smoothie bowls topped with fresh fruit that look almost sea-foam green, to lime green bottles of juice that promise to cure all your ailments.
Besides being a beautiful color, Spirulina is densely packed with calcium, niacin, potassium, B vitamins, more iron than spinach, and especially protein, according to the FDA. Will it transform your body into an uber-healthy paradise that’s free from toxins? Probably not. But it does have some serious health benefits.
Scientific research has found that it can help combat chronic fatigue, has anti-inflammatory properties, can reduce your cholesterol, and is a powerful antioxidant. NASA considered using it as a supplement for their astronauts. Even Kate Middleton drinks it every morning.
I try to drink a few cups of water mixed with spirulina powder everyday because – and this is only anecdotal – I noticed that after I began drinking it, my skin recovered from breakouts quicker. If you want to try it, you could always mask the taste in a smoothie, but I take about half a tablespoon of the powder and dump it in a 16-ounce cup. You don’t need too much of the dense powder – it stains everything too, so use caution – before your water turns a color I like to call “sea-witch green.” Yes, it tastes a little like dirt. I recommend drinking with a straw so it goes down faster and re-filling the cup up with water three more times before you finish. It dillutes down the powder, and keeps you super hydrated.
Spirulina probably does give your health a boost, but would it be so popular if it wasn’t for those eye catching colors it produces? Maybe not. It’s the perfect continuation of the unicorn food trend, so don't forget to snap a pic if you sample it – and if you can’t quite stomach spirulina, we won’t hold it against you. At least you tried.