40: Are microalgae a superfood? (2023)

Did you know that there are single-celled organisms that produce up to 90% of Earth's oxygen, help clean up the ocean, are the food source for some of the longest-living species on the planet, and can reproduce multiple times a day? I refer to microalgae asSpirulina,Chlorella, zPhytoplankton.

These microscopic but powerful organisms could be part of the puzzle for the future of natural healthcare and sustainable sources of nutrients.

Microalgae are tiny single-celled organisms. There are hundreds of species and they come in many forms, but certain specific strains of microalgae can be extremely beneficial to human health.

They are extremely effective producers of energy and most can reproduce at least once a day (sometimes much more). Organisms such as spirulina and phytoplankton are examples of microalgae. Phytoplankton grow in the ocean and make up 1/4 of the planet's plant life. Spirulina can grow in fresh water.

Although microalgae are most commonly found in oceans and freshwater sources, they are found in various forms in virtually every part of the planet.

They are vital to ecological health, but increasing research shows that they also contain many compounds necessary for human health.

While extremely beneficial, microalgae is technically a food, not a dietary supplement, and is generally considered safe. I definitely still recommend speaking to a doctor or health professional before taking them or anything else.

Thank you for being with us this week. Please leave comments or feedback in the comments section below.

Hello, welcome to the Wellness Mama podcast. I'm Katie from wellnessmama.com

Did you know there is a unicellular organism, a substance responsible for producing over 90% of the world's oxygen, an extremely fast-growing food source that many of us have never heard of? And I'm talking about microalgae and that's what this podcast is going to be about. In fact, today you're just stuck with me. I don't even interview anyone. It's just something I've been researching so intensely lately and now so intrigued that I wanted to share it with you.

Before we begin, I would like to say a big thank you to our sponsor for this podcast and also to the sponsor of the latest web podcast, Vital Proteins. They have amazing grass-fed gelatin and collagen powder and it's actually something I consume in some form every day, whether it's mixing it into a soup or smoothie or even coffee or tea. I use gelatin and collagen all the time. And gelatin is the form that gels. So if you want to make homemade gelatin or sauces or sauces or panna cotta, you need gelatin for that. Collagen is unique because it's almost tasteless and you can mix it in anything. And like I said, I use them in some form every day.

And even though I have five kids, I often get people at least once a week saying, "You look too young to have five kids," and I think gelatin played a big part in that because it's important to maintain the body Its collagen levels are at their peak, keeping skin healthy and youthful. So if you haven't tried it yet, I encourage you to go to wellnessmama.com/go/gelatin and just read about Vital Proteins and their amazingly sourced products and all the benefits they can offer.

Now let's talk about microalgae. Thus, microalgae are unicellular organisms that have a multitude of advantages and can be downright harmful unicellular organisms. But today I'm going to talk specifically about three forms of microalgae. You've probably heard of some of them and the many benefits they have.

So the first is spirulina. And in fact, I think I probably mispronounced it for the first three years that I took it. But it is a form of microalgae. Many people call it a superfood, which is an apt name given all the amazing properties it has. But it's not technically an herb or a medicine. It is a cyanobacterium and has many health-promoting properties. Thus, spirulina is considered an alga and is in most cases in powder form. You can also get a tablet. But it is very high in protein and also in antioxidants, B vitamins and all kinds of nutrients. And when harvested correctly from an uncontaminated source, such as B. a natural farm where they can grow where the water has been tested, it is one of the most potent sources of plant nutrients available.

Therefore, it consists mostly of proteins and essential amino acids and many vegetarians consume spirulina for its natural iron content. It's also said to be high in B12, although there's some debate about this and whether or not it's absorbable. So I'm not considering it specifically for the B12 content, but it does have some B12 as well. So the high concentration of protein and iron also makes it something I took during pregnancy to keep my iron levels up. I'll warn you if you've never tried it, spirulina tastes a bit like sea foam, which is why most people prefer the tablet version, but it has great properties.

Spirulina is made up of 65% protein and amino acids. One of the amino acids it contains is called gamma-linolenic acid or GLA, which has been getting a lot of attention in the news lately. If you may have seen an article about its anti-inflammatory properties, especially if you take it with other omega-3 supplements or foods that contain omega-3s like fish. And so perhaps part of the benefit of the GLA in spirulina, even more so what the studies have found is that many of the foods we consume use vegetable oils as a source, and the GLA and omega-3 fatty acids together are a more natural fuel source for the body Body. Maybe that's why the body responds so well.

And so, spirulina is one of the few foods with a natural source of GLA. It also contains omega 3, 6 and 9 in small amounts and its highest concentration is in omega-3. Due to its green color, spirulina is also very high in chlorophyll, something I would always take towards the end of my pregnancy to increase my clotting factors and reduce the risk of bleeding. But many people use it to remove toxins from the body and boost the immune system, and it is said to cleanse and flush out the body.

As I mentioned earlier, Spirulina has a high concentration of bioavailable iron. And so many doctors and midwives will recommend it during pregnancy or you will see it in some pregnancy supplements. It is a good source of other nutrients such as B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin D, A and E and to a lesser extent selenium and zinc. And it contains many pigments that we are still trying to fully understand. It has such a high ORAC score that if you've been following the news lately you really don't care much for an ORAC, which stands for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity. And that was a big deal a while ago. Chocolate should be high in ORAC and antioxidants, as are plenty of berries and superfoods. With more recent knowledge, they've kind of moved away from the score because they said it doesn't really measure how well the body is using its antioxidants. But spirulina is very high in it. It has an ORAC score of 24,000, which is four times that of blueberries. It is therefore very rich in natural antioxidants and must be in a form that can be easily absorbed. Spirulina also has 26 times more calcium in milk. So not consuming dairy can be a way to get a natural source of calcium, and if you read my blog a lot you know I always say, "Balance that with magnesium, too."

There is some research to suggest that spirulina may be helpful for some people with allergic reactions, but some people also have reactions to spirulina. So you want to make sure you don't have any allergies, so use caution when adding supplements like spirulina. There is some emerging evidence, and I haven't seen anything double-blind or controlling on this, but spirulina may help bind to radioactive isotopes. So there might be a use for it in post radiation therapy, although they haven't studied this in depth yet. Some experts estimate that 51% to 61% of spirulina's components are highly digestible in the body which, if true, means that it is an extremely digestible food as we are not actually able to utilize everything percent of most of the foods we eat.

So Spirulina can... Spirulina is a great addition to many people's diets. I always say it's actually a food, not a dietary supplement. But you really should still... definitely see a doctor or healthcare professional, especially if you have a medical condition. You also want to make sure that when you try spirulina, you choose one that is organic. Because some spirulina may come from a contaminated source or contain other additives.

It tastes awful. Although the powder is the least expensive option, they make capsules and pills a bit easier to take. I also always like to mention that anyone with phenylketonuria should check with their doctor or medical issue first since it contains other amino acids. So it's definitely not for everyone, but it can be extremely beneficial for some people.

Well, the second microalgae I like to talk about is called chlorella, also known as a superfood. In a way, it's a cousin of spirulina and a freshwater algae with a multitude of benefits. It is also a unicellular organism and is thought to be one of the oldest known species on the planet that we have been able to identify. They… Chlorella in particular has the unique ability to reproduce eight times a day, making it not only a sustainable source of nutrients, but also one of the fastest reproducing food sources on the planet. It has a very hard outer shell. So this is an important thing to know. It is almost entirely indigestible by humans unless the outer shell is broken open because it is intended to be consumed by other organisms in the ocean, where most of them grow naturally or in water sources. So supplements have a special process that breaks down the shell so it can actually be used by the body. And it's usually made in Japan, where most of the world's chlorella is produced.

It's like spirulina. It's a source of chlorophyll you can...it's high in protein. Also a good source of iron. It contains slightly more magnesium than spirulina, but also contains many other amino acids. And like spirulina, it's often used as a detox supplement and in cleansing programs. It is tiny in size and...but its unique properties make it capable...especially it is often used in cleansing programs for heavy metals and chemicals in the body because of its supposed ability to bind and safely remove heavy metals from the body . Of course if you have heavy metal poisoning it would absolutely be a concern to see a health specialist but many of them will recommend using this as part of treatment.

I've seen it used by people undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy to reduce the body's chemical load due to its binding ability. Again, of course, a medical condition that you'll want to check with a doctor, but you need to do this by assisting the body's liver in the detoxification pathways and binding those chemicals as well. Even WebMD, the website, lists it as boosting the immune system to help with digestive issues and increasing the good bacteria in the digestive system. Because of this ability to only bind to certain substances, it wouldn't necessarily kill good, beneficial gut bacteria like some supplements would. For example, oregano oil can be very powerful, but it can also kill good, beneficial gut bacteria. Therefore, you need to be careful with certain supplements that can do more harm than good in the long run.

I recently read some interesting studies showing some anecdotal evidence that chlorella may help lower high blood pressure, cholesterol and increase energy. So, for the growing segment of the population struggling with these issues, it could be something to watch. And while they're both blue-green and both taste like pond mud, I think it's important to know that there are also some differences between Spirulina and Chlorella, and the structure is part of that.

So both are types of algae. Chlorella is a true unicellular algae and Spirulina is more of a multicellular plant that does not have a distinct nucleus. So spirulina is really much bigger than chlorella and that's why chlorella has to break the shell to use the inside too. Spirulina is more blue-green. Chlorella is greener. Both are good sources of nucleic acids, although spirulina only has about half. And in case you don't know what nucleic acids are, they are important factors in the growth and replication of DNA and RNA in the body, hence cellular and genetic health.

Spirulina can be consumed right after it's harvested, while chlorella, in turn, has to go through a process to help break it down. Both contain chlorophyll, although spirulina only has about half that. Spirulina is higher in the iron, protein, and GLA I mentioned, and chlorella is known to be better at removing heavy metals. Spirulina is usually not an option for this.

On the other hand, both are generally considered safe, but chlorella does contain some cautions and warnings. It has a moderate iodine content. Anyone with an iodine-sensitive thyroid condition like myself wants to check with a doctor first and be very careful when using it. Therefore, iodine is generally good for the thyroid. Some people, myself included, believe that this can do more harm than good, especially for thyroid-related autoimmune diseases.

Sources are really divided on the safety of these during pregnancy. So if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, of course consult your doctor before taking anything. Every record company says that. Since both can have a detoxifying effect, so can they...they can create a diode effect in the beginning. So you have to be careful when launching any of them, especially when launching quickly. Again, if you're going to buy one of these, find a quality source.

And finally, I'm probably going to talk about mine the most - the microalgae that I'm most excited about right now, mostly because I've only recently found them, but I've also been reading a lot of research on them lately, and it's called marine phytoplankton . And this one is often referred to as the “King of Superfoods”, which again I distrust with that name. I don't usually call things superfoods. But phytoplankton is definitely unique. So the microalgae we are talking about are already known for their health and detoxifying benefits, but phytoplankton is a specific ancient microalgae and certain strains can be hundreds of times more potent than other microalgae such as spirulina. And note again, as with all microalgae, it seems to be an issue. It tastes extremely bad, but it's still a supplement I take every day and here's why.

Therefore, marine phytoplankton is a microalgae. It is a unicellular organism. It's a great source of trace elements, chlorophyll, amino acids, DHA, EPA, carotenoids, antioxidants, nucleic acids and necessary vitamins. And as you might have guessed from the name with the "marine" part, it originally came from the ocean where... that's the part I mentioned at the beginning. Thus, marine phytoplankton are responsible for providing 90% of the Earth's oxygen supply. And it does it extremely quickly and effectively. So it's much, much more efficient at producing oxygen than the largest adult trees.

In fact, NASA called marine phytoplankton "the world's most important plant," and really without them, our planet would cease to exist as it disappeared because we didn't have enough oxygen. It also serves as a food source for many marine life and contains a variety of human nutrients that are also required by humans. In fact, a lot of research is being done on whether it could be a sustainable food source for us given how quickly it reproduces. And although it's beneath the oceans, so let's not think too much about it, phytoplankton makes up about 25% of all vegetation on the planet.

But it's unique because, as I said, it can reproduce very quickly. For example, for a tree to reach adult size, some trees take hundreds of years, and phytoplankton takes literally a day. It has some of the same oxygenating and detoxifying effects on the body that it has in the ocean, and that in the ocean creates oxygen, it's able to take in harmful substances and neutralize them, it will make useful things out of it, and there are they hundreds of elements in phytoplankton. We don't even understand all of them. But there are hundreds, and that's why many researchers are calling it the natural medicine of the future.

And it's said to have more combined power, antioxidant power, than all superfoods combined, including spirulina, chlorella, astaxanthin, and other antioxidants. So it's extremely potent. And when I started reading the literature about it, I was amazed at how little we still understand it and how much we already know about how useful it is. Like spirulina, it's antioxidant and nutritious, but lab tests showed that there were hundreds of nutritional chemicals in phytoplankton, including every known nutrient molecules and including others we haven't even identified yet. And now researchers are studying these specific molecules to find out what purpose they serve in both the ocean and the body.

Its unique composition and the fact that it is extremely small allows it to nourish the body in a unique way. So the cells of marine phytoplankton are actually about five times smaller than our red blood cells. So it's extremely small, which I'll talk about in a moment, but that makes it very bioavailable. And that's why... So many nutrients, if you have impaired digestive function, if you have leaky gut, if you have any type of digestive problem, you're going to have trouble absorbing nutrients through your digestive system. A common example of this is that many people have difficulty absorbing magnesium through their digestive system, as even a little too much causes diarrhea with loose stools and makes absorption difficult.

Some things just aren't processed well by the body when they reach the digestive system, but because phytoplankton is so small, it doesn't really depend on the digestive system or liver for processing. It can be taken sublingually and is absorbed by the body so quickly that most of the time it does not make it to the stomach or small intestine where it can be neutralized. Therefore, it is a very unique and interesting source of nutrients. As I said, we're still trying to fully understand it.

But a really cool thing about phytoplankton, and yes I'll warn you I'm a total nerd because I'm about to say something called superoxide dismutase is super cool and that is and here's why. Scientists have identified a substance in living things that tends to correlate with the lifespan of something. In other words, the more of them they found in a creature, the longer it lived. And mice have a very small amount. They have a very short lifespan. Certain marine animals, such as Galapagos tortoises and most whale species, have extremely high levels of superoxide dismutase, or SOD. In fact, Galapagos tortoises have some of the highest values ​​on record, typically and routinely living to 180 years or more.

And what's interesting is people, when you test them, they test in all aspects. We're more in the middle. We have a lot more than mice and small animals, but a lot less than whales and turtles. But the amount we all have is different. Researchers speculate that this is part of what contributes to how long we will live. Our SOD values. And it's also extremely difficult to get it through diet and supplements because it has to be attached to a living form in a certain way and be very bioavailable. So phytoplankton is a really good source of this superoxide dismutase, or SOD. And we have to... Every human being creates it internally. But even if some of us have limited function in our bodies for some reason, or have a genetic predisposition to not making much of it, this could be a reason why certain people live longer than others.

We're still trying to understand this, but SOD is really unique and important because it helps protect cells and controls cells' ability to get rid of toxins. In other words, those with high levels of it would be able to clear more pollutants from the body faster and repair cells faster. Perhaps that is why it correlates with longevity. As we know, certain levels of certain pollutants increase the likelihood of cancer and other diseases that can lead to death. So that's a potential piece of the puzzle.

But superoxide dismutase also deactivates a free radical called superoxide with the process of this dismutation, so superoxide dismutase, and basically converts this free radical into hydrogen peroxide, which the body breaks down into oxygen and water. So it has a very, very unique role in the body, and statistically most of us have declining levels, especially after a certain point.

So, SOD is said to be about 3,500 times more potent than vitamin C because of its antioxidant capacity and traceability to clear things out of the body. And it's so important that a fetus start producing SOD before birth in the womb because it's so important to this cellular protective process. We've known for years that free radicals can contribute to disease, increased risk of cancer, etc. is becoming increasingly important as we see more and more environmental toxins in our environment.

Now, phytoplankton is also unique in that it contains many essential minerals. And you may have heard of minerals if you've been into natural health for a while. The reason for this is that because our food supply has decreased and the soil does not contain as many nutrients as it used to, due to overgrowth processes etc., we are lacking certain amounts of minerals that require very small amounts. In. And there's... they estimate that about 80% of us are deficient in one or more of these. And there are supplements called mineral drops and things you can take specifically for minerals, but phytoplankton are an excellent source of all of these minerals that the body needs. So almost everything in one. They would not have consumed any additional mineral.

Well, some of the factors I mentioned earlier, how the body can absorb it quickly and how it contains minerals, also make phytoplankton really good for the liver. And if you've ever taken a biology class, you know that the liver is the organ in the body responsible for detoxification and energy production, the liver does a lot. And it is also important for nutrient absorption. So as we age or have health problems, the liver's ability to carry out these tasks can decrease, making it even more difficult for it to absorb vital nutrients, and this is somewhat of a vicious cycle. Our capacity is reduced, we can't get the nutrients we need to sustain our body and absorb it, etc., etc. Since phytoplankton are absorbed at the cellular level, the body therefore doesn't have to rely on the digestive system or liver for it exit processing.

Not only does this allow the body to get the nutrients it needs, but it can also help restore liver health by removing things from the body that it doesn't need without overloading the detoxification pathways that the liver uses . And a study I saw showed that consuming high-quality phytoplankton from an uncontaminated source can cause the body to create and regenerate billions of healthy cells. So it's a very unique connection. I wouldn't call it a dietary supplement because it really is a food and it is actually a complete food source for many organisms on the planet.

It is also truly unique in the way it helps protect cell membranes and regenerate cells. That's perhaps one of the biggest benefits, and again one we're just trying to understand. But doctors and naturopaths who have used phytoplankton on patients, many of them there... If you read their case studies, which is fascinating, many of them talk about an improvement in patients with chronic diseases within a matter of days. And this is almost unheard of in the natural health community. There are many things our bodies need and many foods, supplements, and lifestyle changes we can make to support the body, but almost none of them result in drastic changes in a matter of days without major side effects.

And the explanation for this is probably in part why phytoplankton can multiply so quickly and also why it triggers cell regeneration in the body. And living in the modern world, virtually all of us have weakened cells somewhere for various reasons. And I already talked about that in my post about why I never consume vegetable oils or margarine. However, one of the dangers of this is that the body needs certain essential fats and proteins to build cell walls and cell structure. And if we're not getting enough of those specific essential oils...or proteins and essential oils that the body needs, the body has to use whatever is available. And certain processed rancid plasticized fats, when incorporated into cells, lead to an increased likelihood of cell mutations because they are not the original building blocks the body needs for its cells to grow. But there is a more pressing problem here.

So a healthy cell, back to first year biology, a healthy cell should have a good number of extra electrons because the extra electrons correlate and mean there is extra oxygen available to the cells. And because the electrons can stay there. The more electrons, the more oxygen the cells have, the healthier the cell and the easier it is for the body to regenerate. But when the cell walls are made of artificial fats, because that's all the body has available, the cell isn't as strong and can't hold those extra electrons. So health is being compromised at the cellular level and that's a really big problem.

Thus, marine phytoplankton can improve cellular health in two ways. It can help provide the electrons your cells need, but it also provides the necessary amino acids and fatty acids your body needs to build healthy cell walls so it can regenerate properly. So that's a big piece of the puzzle and hopefully we'll see a lot more about this in medical research because it could be hugely important to the future health of many of us.

Another slightly geeky topic I'll delve into briefly is how to deal with methylation and the role of phytoplankton in methylation. From the moment of conception onwards, this process, known as methylation, is constantly taking place in the body. And that's basically a metabolic process that's going on in the body billions of times a second all the time. And I've written about this before, when I was Dr. Ben Lynch and also in the post about so-called MTHFR defects. And basically, this is a defect that occurs in a cell and interferes with the body's ability to methylate, or transfer, those nutrients when needed.

If I remember correctly, MTHFR stands for methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase. And this is specifically related to folic acid. But this methylation happens to many nutrients and substances in the body. And methylation is basically when -- so you have a molecule that gives a methyl group to another molecule. And this process is vital for us to absorb things like folic acid, B12, B vitamins and many nutrients in the body. So if you have an impaired methylation, it will definitely affect your body negatively and you will not be able to properly absorb or use certain nutrients. And that's something we can all suffer from without ever knowing it, because unlike a headache or something like that, it's not going to show up very well on a practical level because of this transmission. Methylation is necessary to repair DNA and remove harmful substances from the body.

The opposite of this is a process called demethylation. And this is associated with cellular degradation like cancer, cellular mutations, etc. And methylation occurs mostly in early childhood in utero etc. it can be a big piece of the aging puzzle. But phytoplankton supports the body's natural methylation process and aids in this proper cell division and growth. That could be one of the reasons why we're still not sure why phytoplankton can help with chronic diseases and increase longevity.

And then I practically take phytoplankton because it gives me so much more energy and strengthens my immune system. And I think there was even a study, I think it came from the University of Utah, and it showed that those who ate phytoplankton regularly had a higher level of CD3, which is an indicator of immune cells, and that they also scored higher on the test of mental health and happiness. So phytoplankton is a very interesting substance, a form of microalgae. And I really think we're going to see that a lot more in healthcare as we start learning more about it.

And I'll just add one important warning here at the end. If you consume phytoplankton, make sure it is from a very pure and tested source, as some phytoplankton may be contaminated or inactive. And since its natural source is in the sea, you want to make sure it grows in a place where you don't have to deal with radiation issues, heavy metals, or plastic chemicals in the sea. So I personally take a form called Nannochloropsis Gaditana, a strain that is a reputable source and grown in a special sterile facility that uses only the exact elements needed and ensures there is no toxicity to marine phytoplankton.

Regardless of which source you use, be sure to look for a high-quality source that is carefully manufactured, bioavailable, and active. And I also link you to the one I use in the show notes. But if you have never heard of or experienced microalgae or phytoplankton, I would definitely encourage you to do some research and read up online. Like I said, they taste absolutely awful in my opinion, but they could be some of the most important dietary sources of nutrients we have going forward. And I'm really excited for continued research on this topic as we move forward.

So thanks for listening anyway. I know that today it was just me. We'll come back to the interview shortly so you can hear from someone else who's probably funnier and smarter. But I really appreciate you joining me and I hope you will join me soon.

And thanks for listening to the Wellness Mama podcast. If you enjoyed this podcast or any of the previous episodes, I would really appreciate it if you would just take a minute to go to iTunes and leave a review and a rating and just... It'll let other people know the Find the podcast and I would really appreciate your feedback Two minutes for this. If you would like to receive my 'Seven Easy Steps Guide to a Healthier Family' in addition to my quick start guide and a free week of meal plans, go to wellnessmama.com, enter your email address and receive it now. .

And now a big thank you to our generous sponsor Vital Proteins Gelatin and Collagen Powder. They provide healthy grass-fed gelatin and collagen. And if you don't understand the shape, gelatin is basically the one that gels in liquids. So this is great for making jello and marshmallows and whatever you need to thicken it up. And the collagen easily blends into any type of food or drink. So if you don't want something that thick, but just want to get gelatin and the benefits of both gelatin and collagen in your food and drink, then collagen peptides are the way to go.

And gelatin, in one form or another, is one of my favorite daily supplements. I am so amazed at all the benefits it has. It is known to support the growth of skin, hair and nails and is good for the joints and aids in joint recovery. It can help tighten loose skin, like mine does, the kind you get after having five babies. And it can improve digestion because it's good for the gut. Some people say it helped cellulite. It is a great source of dietary collagen. It's a decent source of protein and is made up of the amino acids glycine and proline, which many people don't get enough of in today's diet. So if you want to try it, you can go to wellnessmama.com/go/gelatin and get 10% discount from this link.

And if you've never used gelatin before, there are some great ways to use it. I use it in homemade marshmallows, in smoothies, teas, to make gelatin. I even use it as a hair treatment to thicken hair, to make homemade chewable baby vitamins, in shampoo to thicken hair, and then on my face as a mask to reduce wrinkles. And there are so many great uses for it. So if you've never tried it, I definitely recommend going to wellnessmama.com/go/gelatin and checking it out.

And as always, thanks for listening and have a healthy week.

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