While algae may never make it onto mainstream restaurant menus or people’s list of tastiest foods, many health food aficionados believe in the benefits of eating spirulina. This blue-green algae is loaded with nutrients. If you’re interested in trying spirulina but can’t imagine yourself eating it fresh, consider taking it in a capsule.
Algae are responsible for 90 percent of Earth’s photosynthesis. More than 10,000 species of algae dwell in aquatic environments. But unless you’re an algae expert, don’t go harvesting it yourself. While some species, like spirulina, are incredibly nutritious, others are toxic. They range from the microscopic to 200-foot-long giant sea kelp. Spirulina’s cell walls are soft and easily digestible. This alga is full of nutrients, including a significant amount of magnesium.
Magnesium is necessary for hundreds of biochemical reactions, including steadying the heart’s rhythm, keeping bones strong, maintaining the immune system and normalizing blood pressure. About half the body’s magnesium is stored in bone. The other 50 percent is mostly inside organs, cells and tissues. The blood carries only 1 percent of magnesium, but this small amount is critical. Spinach and other green vegetables, which share certain nutritional similarities to spirulina, are good sources of magnesium. The chlorophyll molecule, which lends its green color to these vegetables, contains magnesium. Nuts, seeds, legumes and whole grains are also worthy sources. Women aged 19 to 30 require 310 milligrams per day of magnesium. The recommended daily allowance for men is 400 milligrams. After the age of 30, the requirements go up to 320 for women and 420 for men.
Chlorophyll is a chelate, meaning it consists of a central metal ion that bonds to a bigger organic molecule. Magnesium is chlorophyll’s central ion, and it’s bonded to four nitrogen atoms. Chorophyll uses photosynthesis to channel the sun’s energy into chemical energy. This turns water and carbon dioxide into oxygen and carbohydrates. Algae is extremely rich in chlorophyll, which is why spirulina and other types of algae are so important for the planet’s photosynthesis. The word “chlorophyll” comes from Greek word “chloros,” which translates as yellowish green. Chlorophyll is used as a green dye in cosmetics and soap.
Magnesium and Other Nutrients in Spirulina
Dried spirulina is a better source of magnesium than raw spirulina, containing about 20 milligrams of magnesium per 10 grams. That’s about 1 ½ tablespoons. So if you add three tablespoons of dried spirulina to your smoothie, you’ll get about 10 percent of your daily dose of magnesium in just under 60 calories. Dried spirulina also contains 5.75 grams of protein per 10-gram serving, making it a concentrated protein source. It’s also a good source of iron, niacin, copper, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and beta-carotene. Raw spirulina doesn’t seem to have any nutritional advantages over dried.