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Algae: what are the benefits?

July 20, 2021 3 min read
Algae: what are the benefits?

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    Eating algae sounds unappealing, right? But algae is actually one of the most nutrient-dense additions you can make to your diet.  Whether you’re plant-based or meat-eating, algae offers a rich source of key minerals and vitamins which are often lacking from our grab-and-go lifestyle.


    With so many supplements offering us synthetic alternatives to natural nutrients, it makes a nice change that we can get the nutrition we need directly from nature. Algae offers us so much goodness in such a tiny amount that it makes an easy top-up to our existing nutrient intake.


    We wanted to find out more about exactly what the benefits of regularly consuming algae were, along with how we could get more of the good stuff into our diets. 

    Is algae a superfood?

    While science is a little sceptical of the term superfood as it’s hard to define, the incredible findings from many well-conducted studies indicate that algae is, indeed, super.

    Chlorella and spirulina (both common sources of dietary algae) are uniquely impressive when it comes to our health. Not only do they provide us with high levels of essential proteins, vitamins and minerals, but they also have unique properties with the ability to reduce inflammation, increase our antioxidant supply, and much more.

    Studies show a role for algae in the management of blood sugar, cholesterol control, hypertension management, and crucially, our ability to work out and perform to our maximum ability. It’s hard to find such a range of benefits from one single food substance or supplement. 

     

    What are the health benefits of algae?

    Algae offer us a host of benefits – not only for our general health but also for our performance and fitness goals.  The particular benefits you may be able to get from algae depend on the form in which you consume it. Below are two of the most common sources of dietary algae, along with their unique health benefits.

    Spirulina

    Spirulina is gram for gram one of the most nutrient-dense foods available. It’s naturally rich in protein, B vitamins, and Iron, making it great for anyone on an exclusively plant-based diet. A low-calorie supplement, spirulina contains small quantities of nearly every nutrient which you may be lacking.

    Spirulina also acts as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Antioxidants are important for our general health, but studies have shown that the antioxidant power of spirulina is also capable of improving muscle strength and even boosting endurance in active people. A special algae supplement helped a test group of athletes perform harder for longer as it contributed to reduced levels of fatigue. 

    Chlorella

    Typically freshwater growing algae, chlorella also packs a punch nutritionally. Made up of 60% protein, chlorella is a good post-workout add-in with the complete range of essential amino acids. Conveniently chlorella also combines Iron with Vitamin C – helping you to ward off anaemia with enhanced Iron absorption. 

    Aside from being so nutrient-dense, chlorella may be able to bind to heavy metals such as mercury in the body, aiding the excretion of these unwanted toxins.  As a bonus, chlorella can also enhance aerobic performance when compared to a placebo – making it a good pre-workout aid.

    Just like spirulina, chlorella is also a valuable source of omega 3 fatty acids. The oily fish we associate as high in omega 3 actually obtain these essential fatty acids via the marine algae they eat. So in a way, we’re cutting out the middle man (fish) and just enjoying the omega 3 directly from the source! 

    How can I add algae into my diet?

    Most people aren’t super keen on the taste of these earthy algae, however, you can get many superfood blends that incorporate either chlorella, spirulina, or both with other sweeter tasting ingredients like berries or cacao. These powdered blends are a great option if you’re a fan of a morning smoothie and want to enjoy the general health benefits of algae in a tasty way. 

    How you choose to add algae into your diet depends a little on your health goals too. If you’re mainly interested in plant-based essential fatty acid intake, there are several good quality, purity assured algae-based omega 3 supplements available.
    If you’re more concerned with improvements in physical endurance and muscular strength then consider trying a pre-or post-workout (or both) which will likely combine other beneficial ingredients such as caffeine or creatine into the mix.
    Sweatband stocks a range of superfood supplements designed to help you reach your goals. For the full lowdown on everything you need to know about nutrition, as well as our range of products, check out the nutrition corner of the Sweatband website. 


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    References:
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20010119/
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23754631/
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10459507/
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19299804/
    https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/
    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1364032114002342
    https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1747-0080.2011.01569.x

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