Written By: Brittani Kolasinski (BHSc Nut, Adv Dip Nut Med)
Ahh that feeling you get when you let that sweet chocolatey goodness just melt in your mouth, feelings of euphoria, the endorphins released and the happiness in your heart (and in your belly) – you could also say these are somewhat like the contentment you feel when captivated by a good book, focused on a project or the ‘runners high’ when you get back from a challenging workout, but to associate these all with the blue green vegetables of the sea? .. that’s probably not such a common feat.
The most well-known member of this blue-green algae family would be spirulina, and thankfully its becoming more popular as time goes on (with good reason!). It contains all our essential amino acids, making this guy a complete source of protein for vegans and vegetarians, has a wide range of B vitamins, contains vitamin E, and the essential minerals potassium, calcium, chromium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, selenium, sodium, & zinc.
The deep blue-green pigments of spirulina are all thanks to the phytonutrients within; chlorophyll, phycocyanin, zeaxanthin, beta-carotene, lutein & many more. These guys are responsible for the potent antioxidant levels, fighting free radical damage on a cellular level within the body. Spirulina also contains different enzymes & trace elements.
Spirulina has shown benefit for strengthening the immune system, displaying anti-cancer properties and its use for conditions such as diabetes mellitus type 2 through its blood-lipid lowering and anti-inflammatory potential.
So how do you associate the algae’s with the chocolates of the world? It all comes down to a little substance known as ‘PEA’ (phenylethylamine). A chemical that can be made within the body by the brain or adrenals from two of our amino acids – tyrosine and phenylalanine. The action of PEA increases neurotransmitters in the brain that help us focus or pay attention – those times that you’re just so engaged that you lose all track of time – that’s attributed to PEA. Studies have shown that high levels of PEA are found in happy people’s brains, due to PEA’s action of preventing dopamine from being deactivated, therefore, raising its levels. High levels of dopamine are associated with an optimistic attitude and increased concentration.
PEA is often referred to as the ‘love chemical’, and its responsible for the endorphin rush post exercise, when you are so captivated by a good book or movie or even when indulging in a chocolatey treat.
Some great ways to incorporate more algae into the diet can be through adding spirulina into green smoothies, home made salsa, salad dressings or just mixed into water with lemon juice. Always start with a small dose when having things for the first time – even if it is a naturally occurring substance, we are all different and can all respond differently to foods.
Enjoy the sea vegetables & all the happiness they bring x