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Is Algae Good for You? Here Are Some of Its Health Benefits

May 22, 2019

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Algae has been used in Asian dishes for thousands of years. 

From Chinese to Japanese, to Indonesian dishes, algae has been a great addition. Algae has been used to wrap sushi, added to soups and sauteéd. 

It has been recently discovered as a nutritional supplement in Western cultures. It is a way we can add extra flavor, and nutrients, to our diets

With so many kinds of algae, how do we know which ones are best to add to our diets?

A Simple Guide to Algae

There are many types of algae that are edible, but there are some that are harmful to humans. From red marine algae to rare macroalgae, algae is classified into 7 major types. Each type having its own unique color, size, and function. 

The 7 major types are listed below:

  • Euglenophyta (Euglenoids)
  • Pyrrophyta (Fire algae)
  • Rhodophyta (Red algae)
  • Phaeophyta (Brown algae)
  • Chrysophyta (Golden-brown algae and Diatoms)
  • Xanthophyta (Yellow-green algae)
  • Chlorophyta (Green algae)

Euglenophyta (Euglenoids)

Euglenophytes are also known as euglena or euglenoids. Euglena are fresh and saltwater protists. Protists are microscopic and act as decomposers in ecosystems. 

Euglena are unique in the fact they contain chloroplasts as well as the ability to feed on carbon-rich material. This means they are capable of photosynthesis, as well as take in organic material.

Pyrrophyta (Fire algae)

Commonly found in oceans, fire algae are unicellular algae. This type of algae can make the ocean appear red, known as red tide. 

Fire algae are harmful to humans. They produce a neurotoxin that can disrupt proper muscle function.

Rhodophyta (Red algae)

Red algae are most commonly found in tropical locations. There are surprisingly over 6,000 species of red algae.

Red algae gets its color from different pigments including carotenes and chlorophyll. They prefer to grow on something solid, like a coral reef or other algae. 

Phaeophyta (Brown algae)

Brown algae consist of different kelp and seaweed and are among the largest of the algae species. 

Brown algae are typically rooted to something stationary such as a rock or dock. Many species of brown algae have air bladders, which help the algae to float towards the surface of the water. This allows for the most sunlight. 

Chrysophyta (Golden-brown algae and Diatoms)

There are about 100,000 species of golden-brown algae, making it the most common unicellular algae. Chrysophyta is found in both salt and fresh water. 

Golden-brown algae are also known as nanoplankton and are only 50 micrometers in diameter.

Xanthophyta (Yellow-green algae)

Yellow-green algae are typically found in freshwater areas. It can live in salt water, as well as wet soil environments.

This type of algae has chloroplasts that lack pigment, which accounts for its lighter color. 

Chlorophyta (Green algae)

Green algae are mostly found in freshwater, although some species can be found in saltwater. Green algae to have chloroplasts, which means they take part in photosynthesis. 

Some of the most common green algae are horsehair algae, sea lettuce, and dead man's fingers. 

Is algae good for you, and if so, which ones?

Is Algae Good for You?

Algae has been proven to provide vitamins and antioxidants. It's even been shown to help with heart health!

There are many different kinds of algae, each with unique benefits. We are going to look at three of the most popular!

1. Chlorella

Chlorella is a green freshwater algae. Chlorella has a cell wall that is too hard for humans to digest. We can, however, take chlorella as a supplement. 

This algae supplement is available in tablet, capsule, extract and powder form. Some call chlorella a "super food" because of the amount of nutritional benefit. 

Some of the nutri tional benefits are listed below!

Nutritional Benefits

  • Chlorella contains vitamin B12, as well as small amounts of potassium, zinc, calcium, copper, folic acid and magnesium.
  • Chlorella is 50-60% protein, which means it also contains 9 essential amino acids.
  • Chlorella contains omega-3's.

Chlorella has also been known to act as a great way to detox, as it binds to heavy metals. It supports eye and heart health, as well as digestion.  

2. Spirulina 

Spirulina is found in both fresh and saltwater and is often referred to as blue-green algae. It has become one of the most popular supplements. 

Known for its proven benefits, spirulina is thought to be the most nutritious food on the planet!

The nutritional benefits listed below are in one single tablespoon! One tablespoon provides a large amount of recommended daily amounts for essential vitamins and minerals. 

Nutritional Benefits 

  • Vitamin B1 (thiamine): 11% of the RDA
  • Protein: 4 grams
  • Copper: 21% of the RDA
  • Vitamin B2 (riboflavin): 15% of the RDA
  • Iron: 11% of the RDA
  • Vitamin B3 (niacin): 4% of the RDA

Spirulina has been proven to help with weight loss, fight cancer, and increase muscle strength. 

When deciding which supplement to go with, always choose one that is non-GMO, and organic. Recent studies have those that some manufacturers mix their supplement with fillers, which could include harmful metals like arsenic. 

3. Red Marine Algae

Red marine algae is also known as a sea vegetable. It is typically found in the ocean. There are more than 4,000 different kinds of red algae. The two most beneficial are Gigartina and Dumontiacea.

Red marine algae is known to help support a healthy immune system, as well as healthy skin

It is known, and loved, for its antioxidant effect on the body. 

How to Add Algae to My Diet 

Changing up a diet can be difficult! With algae, it isn't so. There are many ways to incorporate algae into what you already eat!

Use a powder form to add to your pancakes or morning shake. Try adding it to your salads, hummus, or miso soup too!

Don't forget that powder form isn't the only way to add algae to our diets. It is available in capsule and pill form too! Now you know the answer to the question, "Is algae good for you?"

Looking for additional ways to be healthy? Check out our blog today!