Algae are a large group of plant organisms that are found growing on the sea bed, on our coastlines, and in fresh water.
There are green, red, brown and even micro-algae: in fact, science has not yet identified every type of algae nor uncovered all the mysteries of this particular plant kingdom. They are, however, the subject of increasing research because of their potential benefits for human health.
The microalgae spirulina is easily recognized by its bright blue-green colour. Its high content of vitamins, minerals, carotenoids and essential fatty acids has earned it the moniker ‘superfood’.
Spirulina is a source of antioxidants and helps regulate blood sugar levels. It may also boost the body’s natural defenses and maintain energy and tone. In addition, its protein content is particularly valuable for vegetarians and vegans. (1)
You can find it in powder form (though its strong taste will not be to everyone’s liking), or in tablet form (for example, in the supplement Spirulina).
Chlorella is a type of green microalgae which also boasts a nutrient-rich composition. With various amino acids, vitamins A, C and B3, iron and polysaccharides, chlorella is a veritable treasure trove of nutrients.
We know that this purifying algae can absorb and eliminate toxins. A number of studies have shown that it may also help support the body’s defenses, boost vitality and maintain healthy gut function (2).
Nutritionally beneficial for the body, chlorella is definitely an important health ally (try, for example, the supplement Chlorella).
The algae Laminaria Japonica is probably better known as kombu. It contains a large amount of mineral salts and trace elements.
Kombu is also rich in polysaccharides called fucans, which some researchers believe have antioxidant properties (3-6). It’s also thought to help purify the body.
Laminaria Japonicapowder form to liven up your everyday cooking.
Bladder wrack, or Ascophyllum, is abundantly harvested from the coastlines of Europe. Green when in water, it darkens on contact with the air. Also rich in fucans, bladder wrack may help support intestinal health, weight loss (alongside dietary interventions) and hydration of the skin.
Ascophyllum also provides a significant amount of iodine, but without increasing salt intake. Iodine is, of course, a key trace element which supports healthy nervous system and thyroid function, and helps maintain good physical and mental energy. (8)
For a supplement with bladder wrack, you could try Fat & Carb Blocker or Natural Iodine, both of which contain different extracts of this algae.
Perhaps the least known of thebrown algae, ecklonia is nonetheless packed with amazing marine polyphenols called phlorotannins.
These compounds are exceptional antioxidants, which help protect cells against oxidative-stress induced damage (9).
It’s because of this powerful action at a cellular level that ecklonia features among the algae available in supplement form (for example, in Ecklonia cava Extract).
Aphanizomenon flos-aqua, or AFA, is reputed to be the most beneficial of all the blue algae. It contains PEA (phenylethylamine), an aromatic compound thought to stimulate neurotransmission and promote positive mood.
AFA also provides vitamins (53% of the recommended daily amount (RDA) for vitamin A, up to 750% of that for vitamin B12...), minerals, amino acids and fatty acids. Remember that vitamin B12 helps to maintain psychological function and reduce fatigue (10).
This algae also contains a significant level of molybdenum (37% of the RDA), a mineral that supports normal metabolism of sulfur-containing amino acids. If you’d like to benefit from AFA’s many properties, then try the excellent supplement AFA Extract.
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