Since it’s been raining nonstop for almost 2 days here, the farm where I work is pretty muddy, which means no work today. I’ve therefore been stuck inside while the wind and the rain get to play outside, leaving me with a case of the blues. Normally I’d remedy that with a bag of chips or a chocolate bar, but I try to keep the junk food limited to the weekends. Instead, it’s smoothie time.
There are 2 superfoods I turn to when I need a quick energy boost: the blue-green algae spirulina and chia seeds. Sounds fun, right? Combine them with a little yogurt and some fresh fruit, dump it into a blender, and you’ll have a glass chock full of so many nutrients that your body will practically sing with energy. Both spirulina and chia seeds help regulate digestion, so they’re also good for an upset stomach. You can also add either to just plain water, iced tea, or juice – if you can handle the taste of grass, that is. Chia seeds have no taste, so I usually put them in my waterbottle & chug them that way. But, like all algae, spirulina tastes like the bottom of a fish tank. I’ll add it to iced tea or juice in a pinch, but even just a tablespoon or two will overpower any drink. Which is why adding it to smoothies is my favorite option. There are spirulina pills for those who don’t like the taste.
Still not convinced? Let’s talk about the health benefits of these two miracle foods. I use spirulina mainly for its protein content, which is one of the highest of all algae (it’s almost 70% protein – wow!); it contains pre-digested proteins (amino acids) which are more readily absorbed by our bodies. The brand that I use (NOW Foods Spirulina Powder) has 4 grams of protein per tablespoon. If you use 2 tablespoons in your smoothie, you get the same amount of protein as most protein bars – as well as less calories and so many more nutrients! It provides a huge amount of nucleic acids, the building blocks of DNA. Spirulina also contains most of the B vitamins, including B6, B12, and folic acid, beta-carotene, magnesium, and antioxidants. These antioxidants, along with its high levels of chlorophyll, make it a great blood cleanser. It’s a good source of the omega-6 fatty acid GLA, which supports brain and reproductive health as well as helps maintain healthy skin. Like all algae, spirulina also provides those ultra-important omega-3s – in fact, it’s actually the source of the omega-3s we get from fish, since algae is their main source of food. To top it all off, spirulina has antimicrobial, antibacterial, and anticarcinogenic properties. It even helps with allergies by blocking histamines. (Discover the Superfood Power of Spirulina)
Compared to spirulina, chia seeds might seem a little boring. They lack the broad spectrum of nutrients algaes boast, but they do have some fabulous properties of their own. Those super-smart, Armageddon-prophesying Mayans knew all about chia seeds – “chia” is Mayan for “strength” – and chia seeds became a staple of many South American diets. It gives an amazing energy and endurance boost, and its outer layer, which absorbs water & becomes gooey, is ultra-hydrating, so these mini-eggs are great for athletes (or farm workers!). Because they absorb water and swell up, they keep you feeling full for hours, which makes them popular for weight loss; they also slow sugar absorption, another weight loss aid that can also benefit diabetics. And like spirulina, they’re bursting with omega-3s. The best part is that chia seeds are easily digested, unlike many other seeds, so all those nutrients get put to work right away. (Chia Seeds & Chia Seen Health Benefits – This website also has some good chia seed recipes if you want to try cooking with them.)
So next time you need a quick energy boost or a remedy for tummy suffering from too much junk food, turn to one of these superfoods. I always keep both in the house; both are pretty inexpensive, which makes them even more attractive.