Marine phytoplankton is sometimes referred to as a "superfood" thanks to its robust nutrient profile. It's loaded with protein, essential fats, trace minerals and B complex vitamins. Phytoplankton, known as microalgae, is similar to seaweed, only it's microscopic. It's consumed as a dietary supplement -- it's too small to eat as you would seaweed. The usual formula contains 10 calories or less per serving. Despite its tiny size, phytoplankton offers big nutritional benefits.
Loaded with Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Marine phytoplankton is a rich source of EPA and DHA -- the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish like salmon -- according to David Wolfe, in the book "Superfoods: The Food and Medicine of the Future." Marine algae are the only plant sources of EPA and DHA, which may interest people following a vegetarian diet. Depending on the formula, a serving of phytoplankton may contain 600 milligrams of combined EPA and DHA, writes Wolfe. These particular omega-3 fats offer an array of health benefits. EPA and DHA are needed for proper brain function and may help prevent heart disease, reduce inflammation and benefit cognitive performance as you age.
Contains Complete Protein
Phytoplankton contains the nine amino acids that your body needs, but can't produce on its own, writes Wolfe. Amino acids are constituents of protein that play a role in your health. The typical serving of phytoplankton contains 10 grams of protein. Amino acids help the body repair and maintain itself and help break down food into usable components. Foods that contain the nine essential amino acids are called complete proteins. Typically, animal foods are the main source of complete proteins. Only a few plants foods, such as soybeans, contains all nine essential amino acids.
Abundant in Trace Minerals
Because many of the earth's minerals are found in the oceans, phytoplankton is packed with various minerals, including selenium, iron, iodine and magnesium. For example, a serving contains roughly 375 milligrams of magnesium, writes Wolfe -- more than a day's worth for women -- and 19 milligrams of iron -- slightly more than the 18 milligrams recommended for women. Minerals help your nerves function properly and regulate fluid balance. Iron is specifically required to make hemoglobin, a protein that carries oxygen in your blood.
Rich Source of B Vitamins
Phytoplankton is a excellent source of B complex vitamins. B vitamins keep your nervous system healthy and help the body convert carbohydrates to energy. Phytoplankton is rich in B-12, which is significant because naturally occurring B-12 is lacking in plant foods. Vitamin B-12 is vital for red blood cell production; without it, you can develop anemia. Strict vegetarians are particularly at risk. Scientists discovered a bacteria found in the ocean is the largest B-12 producer, according to a study appearing in the August, 2014 edition of "The ISME Journal." Phyotplankton rely on vitamin B-12 to help them perform the vital function of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
- Superfoods: The Food and Medicine of the Future; David Wolfe
- Advances in Nutrition: Omega-3 Fatty Acids EPA and DHA: Health Benefits Throughout Life
- MedlinePlus: Amino Acids
- WomensHealth.gov: Minerals
- The ISME Journal: Aquatic Metagenomes Implicate Thaumarchaeota in Global Cobalamin Production
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Magnesium
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Iron