Top ten happy foods: number nine – Spirulina
By Tyson Hammond
Why it’s good for you, how to grow it and my experience with its production around the world
Eating to feel good is something easy we can do to help our body and mind feel content and enjoy our lives a little more. Staying physically healthy is an essential part of keeping mentally and emotionally buoyant. One of the main things we can do to stay physically healthy is to eat good, nutritious food.
Over the next 9 weeks I will introduce you, one every week, to the remaining foods in my Top 10 feel good foods. Foods that work to support all the different chemical reactions that happen within our beautiful bodies to keep us healthy and strong, but most of all elevate our mood!!
Number 9 – Spirulina
I have an intimate relationship with Spirulina. I’ve grown, harvested and eaten live Spirulina. Eating Spirulina that is freshly harvested and still alive is the most enlivening thing I’ve ever done. It felt like eating pure unadulterated sun energy, possibly because Spirulina is our oldest ancestor… more on that later.
How does it elevate your mood? Well it’s one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet. But not only that, it’s a complete food. Humans could survive and thrive on Spirulina alone because it has such an array of nutrients.
Here’s our little spiral algae friend’s credentials: It’s between 60 – 70% protein, high in Iron, rich in B vitamins especially B12, which is rare in plant foods. Plus, it’s filled with essential Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids. It also contains Calcium, Magnesium, Folic Acid, Vitamin A, C, E and antioxidants. It doesn’t stop there but I won’t go on. All this helps the different systems of your body function smoothly. Your Immune System, Cardiovascular System, Digestive System and your Nervous System all benefit. You’ll be able to feel your cells jump for joy, I guarantee it!
Sustainable energy from Spirulina.
The protein that makes up 60 – 70% of Spirulina has the complete set of amino acids, which helps the body assimilate them in a balanced way. Spirulina is used to suppress appetite, which makes it a common food in weight loss management programs. The reason it dampens appetite is the high amounts of protein and amino acids it contains.
Protein in general, is complex in structure and with the whole range of amino acids Spirulina’s structure is a little more complex. This is a good thing because the body takes a while to break it down and assimilate it. This makes it similar to Kumara (number 10 on my Top 10) in that it supplies your body with sustained energy helping keep your blood sugar levels remaining steady. So a fruit smoothie with some Spirulina will definitely fill you up.
The magic of Tryptophan!
What is Tryptophan? I hear you ask. It’s one of the essential amino acids that the body cannot make and needs to source from the food we eat. Tryptophan is used by the brain to make serotonin. Serotonin is a natural chemical that is responsible for helping us feel happy, calm and have normal sleep. Spirulina on a biochemical level directly makes you feel happy. Impressive aye?!
How to grow your own Spirulina.
I learnt how to grow Spirulina in La Palma, the greenest of the Canary Islands. I learnt how to grow the organic way by using my own fresh urine to feed it. In parts of Africa like Mali and Senegal, they grow it for the local communities using the urine from cows. Commercially it’s grown using hydro-soluble chemicals but these aren’t so readily available in most parts of Africa unlike cow urine.
Starting with only one litre of live Spirulina algae in a bottle then by giving it what it needs (my urine), in 6 to 8 weeks I had 1,500 litres and harvesting about 200g of fresh Spirulina each day. In the right conditions Spirulina can grow 1/3 it’s own size in 24 hours.
Spirulina naturally grows in warm, shallow mountain lakes in Mexico, Hawaii and Africa. I did successfully grow it though in Austria during summer from live seeds that I transported from Tunisia. So it is possible to do it here in New Zealand – a small pond in a greenhouse or a purpose built greenhouse pond would need insulation from the low ground temperature.
I learnt to grow Spirulina from a Frenchman called Ureki. At that time I helped him translate his beautiful 200 page French book on how to grow Spirulina. We created a 16 page booklet, in English, on all you need to know on ‘how to grow Spirulina’. If you’re interested in a copy of this booklet, send me an email and we’ll sort it out from there.
Spirulina is our oldest Ancestor!!
The first life form on Earth to emerge out of the organic molecular soup 3,000 million years ago were single celled blue green algae, a close relative of Spirulina. Spirulina thrives and grows fastest at 37 degrees, becomes stressed at 40 degrees and dies at 42 degrees. Just like us. All you need is only 2 to 3 grams a day to feel the health benefits of this of this extra-ordinary little cousin of ours.