Gross right? The thought of lapping up some green fuzzy pond scum isn't something that will get anyone salivating and rubbing their hands together in anticipation of taste-bud exploding awesomeness. But guess what. I'm about to tell you to start eating it and I can assure you it won't mean marching down to the banks of your nearest river or pond and shooting back a glass of its murky green water.
When I talk about eating "pond scum" I'm really talking about beautiful blue-green micro algae and its cousins, spirulina and chlorella which you can easily find in most reputable health food stores. Blue-green algae, spirulina and chlorella grow on inland waters throughout the world and is visible as that greenish scum on still lakes and ponds. The ancient Aztecs consumed it as a staple food, dried and spread on tortillas. Africans of the Sahara region also used dried spirulina with grains and vegetables. There are many reasons for the use of these gorgeous blue-green powders over the course of the last millennia. All are an excellent source of complete protein, carotinoids (plant pigments with powerful health benefits), vitamins and minerals. But each one has its own special qualities. Let's take a closer look at the different varieties and how best to use them..
Spirulina is perhaps the most well known of the micro algaes and is said to be the easiest to digest and absorb because its cell walls are composed of mucopolysaccharadies rather than indigestible cellulose. Spirulina is often called a super food but I prefer to call it a mega food (along with the other micro algaes). Here's why:
Spirulina can be found in both capsule and powder forms. I personally prefer to take it in powder form and mix it into my smoothies for better and faster absorption. It has taken me a while but I have finally found a spirulina that has a taste so mild that I can barely detect it in my smoothies. Giddy YoYo's Incan Spirulina is hands down the best I have tried to date (and believe me, I've tried many). What I love about this company is that all of their products are certified organic, gluten free, Kosher, wild-crafted, sustainable and almost all are certified vegan. AND....it's a Canadian company based out of Orangeville, Ontario so how can I not feel good about supporting local?! There are other brands on the market that are also good, but taste is a big factor for me and I love that I can load up on this one and not experience the dreaded gag reflex. Aside from just mixing it into smoothies or other drinks, spirulina can be added to all sorts of foods. Sprinkling some onto the top of special chocolate treats is one of my favourite ways to play with it, but definitely experiment and have fun with different ways of using it!
Chlorella is another wonderful micro algae that isn't quite as easily digested as its cousin spirulina when it its natural form. It has to go through special processing to help break down its tough outer cell wall but it is definitely worth the effort because not only does it have many of the same properties and benefits of spirulina, it comes with some very special powers of its own:
Like spirulina, chlorella comes in both tablet and powder form and tends to have a swampy/fishy taste that takes some getting used to. If using powder form, start with a small amount, say 1/2 tsp or so, and work your way up to larger doses as you become accustomed to the taste. Adding it to smoothies is the best way to take it and not be too shocked by the flavour. But, like spirulina, it can be added to foods so play around and see how it can best work for you.
Wild Blue-Green Algae
Found in Canada under the name E3Live, wild blue-green algae is perhaps the most nutrient dense food on the planet and comes with some remarkable healing properties. It is properly named Aphanizomenon flos-aquae (AFA) and is a phytoplankton which is wild-harvested from Klamath Lake in Oregon, USA. It is loaded with over 65 vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids and amino acids and literally comes from the bottom of our food chain. E3Live is NOT a supplement but rather a whole and complete food that has been consumed for thousands of years. It's like spirulina and chlorella on steroids! I personally used E3Live for a three month period while I was in the midst of my holistic nutrition program and stressed beyond recognition. I noticed an almost immediate improvement in my energy but what really astounded me was the effect this food had on my MOOD. I was under the most immense stress, trying to juggle an inhumane amount of studying and case study writing on top of trying to remain an active member of my household with parenting, spousal and domestic responsibilities. I had this beautiful sense of happiness in the middle of insanity and chaos and I am certain it was as a result of taking an ounce of the beautiful, yet swampy tasting, liquid every morning before breakfast. E3Live:
E3Live comes in a number of different forms, but I think the frozen liquid version is best as it is in its most natural state (once thawed of course). However, it can be found in dried powder form and capsules as well. Now I'm not going to lie, the liquid does taste like you've scooped up some water out of a swamp and swigged it back, but trust me, it's well worth a few seconds of "BLEH!" and eventually you do get used to it. That said, you can certainly blend it into smoothies if you want to disguise the flavour (I just didn't want to risk having any of it get stuck to the sides of my blender jar so I shot it back like the tequila shots I did back in my college days).
If you want to do something truly magical for your overall well-being, adding blue-green algae (aka Pond Scum) to your diet is most certainly the way to do it. The health benefits are worth every second of "ick" factor and, believe me, you DO get used to the taste and the idea that you are literally consuming swamp organisms.
If you would like to explore how working with a holistic nutritionist can help you achieve your best, most vibrant health, please feel free contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 519.404.9919 to schedule your free 15 minute discovery session to discuss how I can help you get there.
Jill Taylor is a Certified Holistic Nutritionist based in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. She is the mom of two pretty awesome teenagers, s very dramatic dog, a hedgehog and a snake (yikes!). Jill assists her clients in achieving true wellness through thoughtful and compassionate dietary and lifestyle coaching. Feel free to visit the "Contact" page to get in touch. Jill would love to hear from you!