Spirulina is a unicellular, aquatic blue-green algae. They belong to a group known as cyanobacteria and thrive in warm, alkaline water. They floursh and are able to survive an extreme range of temperatures because of their ability to utilize the sun's energy and the water's minerals to grow.
Spirulina is named for its swirling, microscopic strands. Spirulina means helix in Latin.
Spirulina lacks a cell wall, so its nutrients are easy to extract and assimilate.
Spirulina depends on the energy of the sun and the minerals in the water, to grow.
As a one celled plant, it grows very fast and produces an enormous amount of oxygen in the process. Oxygen that sea animals need.
For humans, spirulina contains a library of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and enzymes. These phytonutrients are needed most when exercise is performed..
Spirulina contains high levels of important antioxidants including chlorophyll, alpha and beta-carotene and is unique in synthesizing the cancer-preventing molecule, phycocyanin.
Spirulina provides a good supply of amino acids as well as vitamin B12, iron, chromium and selenium.
Spirulina also promotes good digestion and is considered a prebiotic food.
Spirulina provides growth factors to support and promote the growth of friendly intestinal bacteria.
In addition, spirulina helps restore the acid-base balance in the digestive system by neutralizing the acidity caused by meats, simple sugars, soft drinks and refined foods.
Spirulina is an antitode for 21st century foods.
Chlorella is a unicellular, green algae that is protected by a strong cell wall.
In order to obtain the algae's library of phytonutrients, this wall must be broken.
Some strains of chlorella are marketed for their soft cell walls and the increased bioavailability this provides.
Chlorella is found in fresh water and contains a high concentration of chlorophyll, nucleic acids, amino acids, enzymes, antioxidants and zinc, a mineral often deficient in females and athletes.
Chlorella contains much more chlorophyll than spirulina but because it’s cell wall is made of cellulose, much of the chlorophyll remains unabsorbed and is excreted along with cellulose.
Chlorella’s health benefits include improved immunity, detoxification and anti-cancer activity.
Chlorella is also believed to enhance white blood cell function and speed wound healing.
Sea weeds are classified as plants.
Unlike plants on land, algae lack roots, stems, and leaves.
Algae have been used for thousands of years as food and medicine. As is the case with other botanicals, the effects of plants is cumulative and develops over time.
The Athlete’s Solution recommends edible algae as a either a food that is part of meals or as a supplement to the diet.
Seaweeds or sea vegetables can be green, brown or red.
Green algae (Chlorophyta) live close to the shore.
Brown algae (Phaeophyta) are found somewhat deeper, while red algae (Rhodophyta) live in deep salt water.
Scientists theorize that green algae are the ancestors of modern land vegetables.
Like all plants, seaweeds were an obvious choice for local cultures to feed on and use their phytonutrients for healing.
Cultures that live near the sea depend on its fruits.
The Japanese have always depended on the sea, not only for fish but also for seaweed. The Japanese harvested these red plants and use them as food. Their use of raw wild fish and seaweed created one of the healthiest diets in the world.
The major reason is the library of compounds embedded in the skin of the fish (omega-3s) and the phytonutrients that combine carbon with sunlight to synthesize the carbohydrates of seaweed. This universe of compounds includes phycoerythrin, and phycocyanin, the pigments that gives red algae its color. It also allows them to live in deeper and colder waters.
Seaweed contains iodine and has been used as a source for drugs, including anticoagulants, antibiotics and anti-hypertensive agents.
Sea vegetables are derived from all three types of algae. Some of these algae are believed to contain anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antimicrobial, antifungal, and anticancer compounds.
When algae are dried, pressed into sheets and roasted, it is called Nori. Nori is a paper thin sheet of red edible algae.
According to the Japanese, a sheet of nori a day keeps the doctor away. And so, nori is used to wrap sushi or rice balls, added to noodle soups and tossed into salads in the form of flakes.
Nori’s value lies in its high protein content (up to 35% of nori’s dry weight) and its high vitamin C content, which is more than one and a half times that of an orange.
Sea lettuces are green edible algae that are eaten raw in salads and cooked in soups. While these foods were once limited to cultures bound to the sea (Great Britain, Ireland, Japan and Korea, they have earned a reputation in health circles as superfoods.
Kelp are large brown seaweeds or sea vegetables.
Kelp grows in underwater forests or kelp forests. The clear and shallow water requires a rich supply of nutrient.
Brown algae contain a carotenoid called fucoxanthin. Fucoxanthin is a carotenoid found in the chloroplasts of brown algae. This provides brown algae with their typical brown to olive-green color. These brown algae are more often classified as protista rather than plants.
Edible kelp or brown algae includes Kombu from the Laminaria japonica and Wakame from Undaria pinnatifida.
Kombu is a Japanese food made from brown algae. Wakame is another Japanese food made from brown algae. Wakame is added to miso soup and salads.
Kombu and Wakame are among the healthiest foods on the planet.
Kanten or agar is derived from Gelidium red algae. Nori on the other hand, is made from Porphyra red algae.
Agar-agar, the Malaysian name for seaweed, is a gelatinous substance commonly called agar (kanten to the Japanese). This polymer is used in many Japanese foods and desserts. Former biology students will remember agar-agar as the material in Petri dishes that tested microbial growth.
In earlier times. Red seaweed, after harvesting was transported to the mountains, where the water in the plant would freeze and separate from the polymer, agarose.
Now these sea plants are freeze dried, dehydrated and packaged into colorless sheets or bars of agar.
Agar is a gelatinous material that consists of long chain polymers of alternating galactose and hydrogalactose sugars. Agarose is the name for this very soluble fiber.
Agarose is an oligosacharide, a chain of sugars linked by bonds between galactose and hydrogalactose subunits. Alternating sugars allow two chains to form a helix so tightly wrapped that water becomes trapped inside its helix.
The amount of water the helix holds and the degree of cross linkage, determines the rigidity of this difficult to digest carbohydrate.
The agarose polymer is needed by the plant to prevent the plant’s cells from collapsing in salt water.
Structurally, agarose is a component of the algae's cell walls. Heating breaks down the crosslinks between chains.
Heating converts the agar polymer into a liquid. Upon cooling, the crosslinks are reformed and an agar gel forms.
Agar is available in bars, flakes, and powders. Its use in a normal Japanese diet provides fiber and represses hunger. This last effect is responsible for its being promoted as a dietary aid.
Agar is high in fiber, which prevents cholesterol from being absorbed in the colon. Agarose is also believed to cause cancer cells to self-destruct, a process known as apoptosis.