I have heard about the benefits of spirulina for a while now, but never had the guts to try it out. Recently, a company that makes spirulina-enriched cookies offered to send some my way. The cookies haven’t arrived yet, but in the meantime, I figured I’d post a Q&A with Brittany Riggs, COO of Everyoung Natural Foods,which makes the cookies.
She and I discussed some of my question about the nutrient-dense plant. Her answers are below.
Q: I’ve heard of spirulina, but am not sure what it is. What is it?
A: Spirulina is blue-green algae, which are one of the oldest life forms on the planet and one of the most nutrient-dense. We like to call it a perfect food rather than a super food.
Q: Is it important to consume only organic spirulina? It isn’t on the dirty dozen list.
A: We feel that it is important to source our spirulina from the US in a controlled environment. Because it is grown organically, we don’t have to worry about the purity of it. We want to provide cookies that not only taste great, but are also sustainable and healthy.
Q: Why is it so good for you?
A: Spirulina can range between 55 to 70 percent protein and our spirulina is at 70 percent protein, which is three times more than beef! People consume fish because they think it’s healthy, but fish get their nutrients from algae! We have a direct effect on our bodies and on the planet when we put food in our mouths, so we feel that it’s best to go straight to the source to get the most nutrients possible with out harming anyone in the process. Spirulina has a long list of vitamins, minerals, as well as B-12, which is found in meat.
4. You said it has anti-inflammatory properties and contains phocyanin. Can you tell me more about phocyanin? Is it found in other foods?
A: Phycocyanin is one of many pigments that can be extracted from natural blue-green algae or other seaweed. There are peer reviewed papers showing that it can aid cancer patients by its impact on cancer cells without effecting the healthy cells. By including it in the diet, it provides a moderate level of protection for the healthy consumer. By extracting it from spirulina, it can be concentrated to provide dose levels that may even aid a cancer patient with increased survivability and quality of life.
Q: Does it contain DHA?
A: DHA is extracted from microalgae and concentrated for more immediate neurological benefits in maintaining brain health. (It is extracted from a eukaryote, a green algae with the scientific name of H. pluvialis.) Spirulina has small amounts in the form of medium-chain triglycerides.
Q: What does it taste like?
A: Our taste buds are not equipped for spirulina in our part of the world, so in other words, by itself it tastes (and smells) pretty gross. But, what does our cookie taste like? A soft oatmeal raisin cookie with the added bonus of pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds for some crunch. We’re pretty proud that we accomplished that.
Q: Is it good for kids and adults?
A: Definitely! The idea of consuming spirulina in a cookie came from (the company’s founder) Jerry’s patent of an algae blend called Diet Enhance that you can sprinkle in recipes to make them healthier. We saw that spirulina was primarily found in raw bars and shakes that don’t necessarily attract the attention of the average consumer, so we really wanted to come up with a product that everyone could enjoy to experience spirulina’s amazing benefits. Spirulina can be cooked without losing nutrients, so why put it in a raw bar? We hope that our cookie fills a gap in the diet of kids and adults that might be lacking in phytonutrients, because everyone loves cookies!
Q: I saw the cookies are vegan. Are they gluten-free, too?
A: They are NOT gluten free. We believe that there is a whole other world out there that isn’t being catered too. Those are the people that are wheat intolerant; I’m one of them. It’s either traditional or gluten-free choices, and I do not care for gluten-free most of the time. There are some misconceptions with spelt as the FDA has a new mandate that it be labeled as wheat. However, spelt is only a distant cousin of wheat, and there is a huge difference in the way our bodies process wheat gluten and spelt gluten. For those that aren’t familiar with spelt, it is an ancient grain and processed and stored entirely different than wheat. Another bonus is that spelt has more protein!