Algae – you may have seen or heard of it. Do you know what it is? Actually, algae are a varied group of aquatic organisms with the capacity to photosynthesize. There are various types of algae that people are familiar with, like phytoplankton and kelp seawood, algal bloom in lakes and pond scum. There is a wide variety of algae that is not only beneficial to us, but is also critical for our own existence. In fact, these algae contain various essential nutrients beneficial to our health. If you want to know more about algae, keep reading!
Algae: What Are They?
The terminology algae can actually cover many different organisms that are capable of producing oxygen through the process of photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is the process by which plants gather light energy from the sun in order to produce carbohydrates. While these algae are not really closely related to each other, various features unite them while simultaneously differentiating them from other major groups of photosynthesizing organisms, like terrestrial plants.
Algae were one of the first forms of life here on this planet and have been consumed as both a medicine and a food for many centuries over. Our consumption of spirulina, or the blue-green algae, can actually be traced back to the Aztecs in the 14th century. Edible varieties of algae like chlorella and spirulina are most commonly used in medicines and supplements.
As a matter of fact, the health benefits of algae are very pronounced due to their high levels of antioxidants, proteins, vitamins and minerals. These are what make algae a superfood. Moreover, there are certain varieties of algae that have overlapping and distinguishing health benefits.
For instance, brown algae has been in used to aid in weight loss, heart conditions, stress, arthritis, cancer and many other serious illnesses. On the other hand, the blue green varieties of algae are also high in essential nutrients and act as strong energy boosters, helping with weight loss, anxiety, stress, depression, hay fever and more.
Moreover, studies suggest that blue green algae possesses anti-bacterial, anti-diabetic, anti-allergic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-tumour and antiviral properties. These are all beneficial for the health!
Nutritional Value of Algae
Algae comes in all different shapes, sizes, colors and growth forms. They may be single or multi-celled and live in freshwater or saltwarer.
One of the components of algae which boosts human health is chlorophyll. Just like terrestrial plants, algae use chlorophyll to reuse the sunlight and undergo photosynthesis. The chlorophyll in algae is considered the single most important chelator in the whole of nature. This is because it provides energy to plants, which in turn, also provide us the energy we need. The best sources of chlorophyll are green vegetables and algae.
The nutritional value of algae may vary from one product to another. Nonetheless, the following is a general idea of the usual nutrient profile of algae:
- Phytochemicals such as fucoxanthin, chlorophyll and other plant pigments
- Active enzymes
- Omega 3 fatty acids such as ALA, GLA, DHA and EPA
- Minerals and trace minerals like zinc, sodium, phosphorus, potassium, manganese, magnesium, iron, copper and more
- A lot of vitamin B complex elements such as thiamine, riboflavin, pyridoxine, cobalamin, pantothenic acid, folic acid, niacin, biotin and choline
- Vitamins C, A, K and E
- Amino acids and proteins
Algae may also differ greatly in their own cellular makeup. A lot are just made of one cell, while the biggest varieties have millions of cells.
Health Benefits of Algae
Here are some of the most astounding health benefits of algae:
- Helps lower cholesterol. The fucosterol in algae is beneficial in naturally lowering cholesterol levels in the body. Algae is naturally rich in phytosterols, which help reduce the blood cholesterol level.
- Helps reduce pain and inflammation. Generally, algae possesses anti-inflammatory properties like chlorophyll and omega 3 fatty acids. These are what makes it essential in reducing inflammation and pain.
- Aids in heart health. Blue green algae is beneficial in protecting against cardiovascular conditions and non-alcoholic fatty liver conditions, two commons threats for people in developed countries.
- May help fight cancer. A lot of types of algae have been shown in both lab and animal research to be beneficial in slowing the growth of cancer cells. This is one of the best health benefits of algae.
- Aids in weight loss. The fucoxanthin content of algae is beneficial in promoting fat burn through an increase in thermogenin.