Real Life. Real News. Real Voices.
Help us tell more of the stories that matter from voices that too often remain unheard.
Join HuffPost Plus
Taste

Spirulina, The Health Food Supplement That's Basically Pond Scum

Drink up!

Spirulina is responsible for the bright green hue spiking our smoothie bowls, but it’s been around long before the healthy craze that’s taken over our Instagram feeds. Spirulina is said to have been harvested by the Aztecs in Mexico hundreds of years ago and it is an integral part of Central Africans who live off of Lake Chad. But do you know what it actually is?

If its fluorescent green color didn’t give it away, here it is: spirulina is microalgae. It’s basically pond scum. But it’s pond scum that has long been heralded by health food fanatics.

Spirulina processing plant in France.
Spirulina processing plant in France.

While some ancient cultures have incorporated spirulina into their diets, the Western world wasn’t tuned into it until the 1960s when French botanist Jean Leonard rediscovered it. He found that a tribe near Lake Chad was in better health than others and observed that they consumed the algae. He linked to two together and shortly after, the first spirulina processing plant was set up by the French. At one point NASA even used it as a dietary supplement for astronauts in space.

Not enough research has been done on the health benefits of this algae, but the World Health Organization has acknowledged it as a vitamin and protein rich supplement. And the FDA states that it contains high levels of calcium and iron. There are some warnings, however. Spirulina stimulates the immune system, so those with autoimmune diseases should not take it. Before adding a supplement to your diet, it’s best to consult with a doctor.

And whatever you do, don’t head down to your local pond to harvest some yourself.

You can give spirulina a try in your next smoothie bowl. We have some recipes to help you do that.

1
Peanut Butter and Jelly Acai Bowls
Minimalist Baker
Get the Peanut Butter and Jelly Acai Bowls recipe from Minimalist Baker
2
Super Green Smoothie Bowl
Minimalist Baker
Get the Super Green Smoothie Bowl recipe from Minimalist Baker
3
Green Detox Smoothie Bowl
The Awesome Green
Get the Green Detox Smoothie Bowl recipe from The Awesome Green
4
Dark Cherry Smoothie Bowl
Damn Delicious
Get the Dark Cherry Smoothie Bowl recipe from Damn Delicious
5
Superfood Avocado Smoothie Bowl With Cashew Cream
Food Faith Fitness
6
Breakfast Smoothie Bowl
The View from Great Island
Get the Breakfast Smoothie Bowl recipe from The View from Great Island
7
Peanut Butter Acai Bowl
Half Baked Harvest
Get the Peanut Butter Acai Bowl recipe from Half Baked Harvest
8
Go-To Smoothie Bowl
Minimalist Baker
Get the Go-To Smoothie Bowl recipe from Minimalist Baker
9
Berry Banana Smoothie Bowl
Two Peas and their Pod
Get the Berry Banana Smoothie Bowl recipe from Two Peas and Their Pod
10
Carrot Cake Smoothie Bowl
Pinch of Yum
Get the Carrot Cake Smoothie Bowl recipe from Pinch of Yum
11
Raspberry Smoothie Breakfast Bowl
Pinch of Yum
12
Breakfast Quinoa Smoothie Bowl
Food Faith Fitness
Get the Breakfast Quinoa Smoothie Bowl recipe from Food Faith Fitness
13
Green Tea Lime Pie Smoothie Bowl
Oh She Glows
Get the Green Tea Lime Pie Smoothie Bowl recipe from Oh She Glows
14
Acai, Blueberry And Maca Smoothie Bowl
Sprinkle With Love
Get the Acai, Blueberry and Maca Smoothie Bowl recipe from Sprinkle With Love
15
Antioxidant Smoothie Bowl
Blissful Basil
Get the Antioxidant Smoothie Bowl recipe from Blissful Basil
16
Green Monster Smoothie Bowl
The Blonde Chef
Get the Green Monster Smoothie Bowl recipe from The Blonde Chef
17
Spiced Apple and Oatmeal Smoothie Bowl
Kitchen Konfidence
Get the Spiced Apple and Oatmeal Smoothie Bowl recipe from Kitchen Konfidence
18
Matcha Green Smoothie Bowls
Minimalist Baker
Get the Matcha Green Smoothie Bowls recipe from Minimalist Baker
19
Chia Peach Berry Protein Green Smoothie Bowl
Oh Sweet Basil
Get the Chia Peach Berry Protein Green Smoothie Bowl recipe from Oh Sweet Basil