Dip your toe in the algae-filled waters of Spirulina

[Global] Continuing on with our exploration of “weird spices and things you’ve probably never heard of,” this week’s column is about something called Spirulina powder. Spirulina is literally a microalgae that people have been adding to their diets as a nutritional supplement for centuries. It’s been referred to as both a “superfood” and a “miracle from the sea.”

One thing it’s never been referred to as, however, is tasty. Edible pond scum wouldn’t be that far off the mark, actually. I know what you’re thinking: “Sold! You had me at pond scum! Yum!” The powder itself is a shockingly bright blue-green and it even smells fishy. The key with Spirulina is to include it in recipes that will cover the taste, that way you get all the nutritional benefits without feeling as if you licked the underside of a boat.

If you start to research Spirulina, you’ll find people that claim it’s a medical marvel that’ll help you with everything from diabetes to mental disorders, even arsenic poisoning. But the fact is that there just isn’t enough scientific evidence to prove or disprove the theories, as it just hasn’t been studied enough.

The proven nutritional values are real enough, though, and impressive. Sixty to 70 percent of spirulina’s dry weight is just protein. According to the FDA, it also contains significant amounts of calcium, niacin, potassium, magnesium, B vitamins and iron. It also has significant levels of antioxidants. Some scientists think that further study of Spirulina may lead to breakthroughs in solving the problem of malnutrition in the developing world. There was also a study done with athletes that showed increased energy levels in the group that took Spirulina daily, compared with those who did not.

Adding spirulina to your diet or as a supplement is generally considered safe, as long as it was grown in safe conditions. (Just purchase it from a reputable store.) It should be avoided by people with autoimmune disorders and by pregnant women, as there just haven’t been enough safety studies done yet to call it safe. Any change in diet should also always be discussed with your doctor.

Sarah Bender, of “Make it Better!” fame, has worked with spirulina in the past and says it’s a great addition to energy ball recipes and that you can’t taste it at all. The following recipe is a great one with which to dip your toe in the algae-filled waters.

SPIRULINA ENERGY BALLS

“These tasty bites are little energy powerhouses, packed with nutrient-dense, energy-rich super foods. One or two of these will stave off hunger and provide energy for that 2 p.m. afternoon slump, or even in place of a meal if needed,” she said. “Most any type of nuts or dried fruits can be substituted for the ones listed, so feel free to experiment and find your favorite combination!”

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup cacao nibs or cacao powder
  • 1 1/3 cups dates, pitted and chopped
  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 1/4 cup dried cherries (dark or red, sweet) or goji berries
  • 1 T. spirulina powder
  • 2 T. chia seeds
  • 1/4 tsp. Himalayan pink salt
  • 2 T. almond butter or coconut oil
  • 2 T. unsulfured coconut, plus additional for rolling

Place all ingredients except coconut for rolling in food processor, being sure to place powders (cacao and spirulina) toward the middle.

Pulse until mixture begins to be incorporated; then process on high until mixture is thoroughly mixed and forms a homogenous ball in the processor.

Remove from processor and roll into walnut-sized balls and dip in coconut. Makes about two dozen.

Store in refrigerator in a glass container. Can be stored for up to two weeks. Enjoy!

Miranda Beverly is the front-end manager and marketing coordinator at Maple City Market in downtown Goshen.

 

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