health benefits of spirulina

When I was 17, during my summer break between my junior and senior years of high school,  I worked at a restaurant with some interesting characters, let me tell you.

I worked with this lady; we’ll call her for anonymities sake, Cindy.  Cindy was in her early 50’s and didn’t have a single wrinkle on her face or gray hair on her head, despite her vocation, she seemed biologically unphased by life.

Now Cindy wasn’t a marathon runner or even a ‘clean eater’ — though that term wasn’t quite as relevant as is today — and she was a longtime cigarette smoker.

One day I just asked her, “Cindy, how is it that you smoke and eat fried fish and have no wrinkles, gray hairs, and look like you’re still in your thirties?”  She said, “I dunno, I guess it’s because I drink chlorella and spirulina.  Every day.”

I didn’t know what the hell she was talking about, honestly, to me, it sounded like witchcraft.  But she explained to me that she was talking about drinking blue-green algae.  As you can imagine, at age 17, I thought she was bullshitting me.  Completely.  I’d believe she ate sea scuz every day and then I’d be caught drinking pond water the next day hoping I too had found the fountain of youth.

I chalked Cindy’s admission to me up to the fact that she probably had great genes (which is important, don’t get me wrong) and not because she was drinking magic Darwinian juice cocktails.

Fast-forward to years later when I decided to study nutritional therapy, and wouldn’t you know what I started reading multiple studies on?  Spirulina.

The magic stuff first mentioned to me by my ex-co-worker, Cindy, was, in fact, one of the most super foods substances I had ever read about.

What is spirulina?

Spirulina is a blue-green algae freshwater plant.

But don’t be turned off just yet! Researchers from around the globe have been studying and measuring the benefits of regular spirulina consumption.   And spirulina has been proven to be beneficial for easing a multitude of health issues and continuing research brings light to its amazing benefits with each passing year.

Spirulina can be purchased in multiple forms and be added to everything from smoothies to baked goods, making getting your daily fix super easy!

What is in spirulina?

Though it can vary from product to product, a serving of approximately 30 grams of spirulina contains:

  • 22 essential amino acids
  • Vitamins, including B-complex, vitamin E
  • Beta-carotene
  • Manganese
  • Zinc
  • Copper
  • Iron
  • Selenium
  • Essential fatty acids

health benefits of spirulina

What health benefits does spirulina offer?

Cholesterol:  A recent study, conducted in Greece, gave a group of 52 adults with newly diagnosed dyslipidemia (high cholesterol/high triglycerides/low HDL) one gram of spirulina for three months.  Blood work taken at the beginning and end of the study and what they discovered was, participants, total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol significantly decreased.  By how much?

  • Triglycerides dropped by 16.3%
  • Total cholesterol by 8.9%
  • LDL cholesterol by 10.1%
  • Total cholesterol to HDL ratio by 11.5%

Upon concluding this study, researchers discovered that spirulina supplementation could have a positive effect on lowering lipids, mainly triglycerides.

Reducing blood pressure:  One study, conducted in Mexico, evaluated a group of 16 men and 20 women — who had no diagnosed history of cardiovascular disease or diabetes — over a period of six weeks.  During the six weeks, participants were told not to modify their lifestyle or diet.  Participants were given three .5 gram tablets of spirulina every eight hours over this six week period.  What they discovered at the end of the study is spirulina does, in fact, have lipid-lowering effects particularly on low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) and Triacylglycerol (adipose tissue used for energy storage) as well as positive effects on lowering overall blood pressure.  The ultimate determination being?  Spirulina could is a useful supplement for dyslipidemic and hypertensive patients.

Allergies/Chronic Sinus Issues:  Do you suffer from seasonal allergies or chronic sinus problems?  My husband and I do, and it is unbelievable when we added up the cost of purchasing Sudafed, Loratadine, and Benadryl Plus for months on end.  Not to mention, pharmaceutical solutions are not the best things to be taking long-term.  One study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food in 2005 found that patients dealing with allergic rhinitis saw marked improvements in their sinus function after taking Spirulina.  The study separated patients into three groups.  The first group received a placebo, the second group received 1000 mg of spirulina, and the third group received 2000 mg of Spirulina.  Their findings?  The patients in the placebo group showed no signs of improvement.  The group given 1000 mg saw a slight improvement, while the group given the 2000 mg showed significant improvement with their allergic rhinitis symptoms.  Results were documented by measuring immune system signals in the bloodstream of the patients, including interferon and cytokines levels at the beginning and end of the study.

Boosts weight loss:  A study conducted at the University of Medical Sciences in Poland used a double-blind study on a group of 40 patients with hypertension but no evidence of another cardiovascular disease.  Patients split into two groups; one group received 2.0 grams of Hawaiian spirulina, while the second group was given a placebo to take over the course of three months.  Their BMI, systolic and diastolic blood pressure and stiffness index (SI) were measured before and after the study concluded.  Their findings?  After three months, the group that received spirulina showed reductions in BMI, overall weight, systolic blood pressure, and stiffness index vs. the placebo group whose tested parameters showed no changes.

Spirulina is a super food.  I add it to my breakfast smoothie each morning and add it to anything from pasta sauce to baked goods.  The brand I like to use is Naturya Organic Spirulina Powder — it’s affordable, organic, and ticks all of the boxes for my husband and me to consume.  My husband has a gluten intolerance issue, so I always have to check every label so carefully.  Here are the nutrition and ingredient facts for this product, but there are many other great brands to choose from on the market.  Just be sure to buy spirulina that is free from contamination.

health benefits of spirulina

Source: www.hollandandbarret.com

What is contamination free spirulina?

Spirulina comes from the ocean, therefore depending on how it is processed by the manufacturer, it could potentially contain harmful substances which could lead to unnecessary health issues.  There is not much data out there concerning spirulina use for pregnant and breastfeeding women and children.

Alway check with your health care provider before taking this or any supplement to be on the safe side!

Have you added spirulina to your daily diet yet?

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carrot and ginger soup recipe

I love carrots.  I love carrots with tzatziki.  I love spiralized carrot noodles.  I love carrot cake.  I love carrot juice.  I love the color orange.

You get it.

Carrots are good for you and are one of the easiest foods to prepare for a quick snack or to add to your favorite dishes.

In addition to loving carrots, I also happen to love soup.  The more colorful the soup, the better I find.

Oddly enough, despite my obsession with carrots, I had never made a carrot based soup.  I would add chopped carrots to many of my soup bases, but I never thought to make the carrot one of the stars of my soup show.

Until the other day, that is.  I had an abundance of carrots and wanted to make soup.  My go-to soup is usually butternut squash or broccoli, but I didn’t have either of those items on hand.  Just lots.  Of.  Carrots.

And a bit of fresh ginger for digestion.

As a result, creamy carrot and ginger soup happened.

 

Flour and dairy free, this soup can be with chicken or vegetable stock (for vegetarians).

Carrots get a bad rap sometimes from low-carb and keto communities, but they are, in fact, excellent for you.

 

Carrot and ginger as a combination is both high in vitamins A (Beta-Carotene), C, and K but also high in fiber, vitamin B6, and potassium and loaded with potent anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidants.

With just over 100 calories per cup, this soup is perfect for a light lunch or starter before the main course.

I only added a bit of salt and pepper to season my carrot and ginger soup, but you could get inspired and experiment with different spices to create your version of this very basic recipe!

carrot and ginger soup recipe

What’s your go-to soup recipe?  Do you love carrots as much as I do?

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what is the set point weight range

I want to talk about the “set point”  weight range theory and what this means for you, my diet obsessed friend.

In my experience, when I finally decided — despite my profession — that I was going to start listening to my body and not my inner voices, things began to change for my body composition.

I’m a small person.  I’m 5 foot 1 to be exact (though many have tried to challenge this – the measuring tape holds the truth!).

For me, many years of my body dissatisfaction came from things about my body that despite how thin I disciplined myself to get, never changed.

As a result, I spent most of my life trying to fit a mold that was physically impossible for my body.

I could get myself down to a lower weight, but try as I might, if I didn’t engage in restrictive eating – regardless of my fitness level – my weight would continue to creep back up to this particular number.

Always.

What I didn’t understand back then (besides literally everything about my need to control food and health) was that my body longed to be where it would return.  Like clockwork.

If you know anything about going against a tide, it’s that you will go down without a fight.  And, eventually, if you don’t turn your ass around, you will be defeated.

Your weight is like this too.

The “set point” weight range

What is the set-point theory?

According to research conducted by MIT Medical:

The set-point theory originally developed in 1982 by Bennett and Gurin to explain why repeated dieting is unsuccessful in producing long-term change in body weight or shape. Going on a weight-loss diet is an attempt to overpower the set point, and the set point is a seemingly tireless opponent to the dieter.

The takeaway from this theory is that our bodies cannot differentiate between dieting and starvation when it comes to defending our fat stores.

When we attempt to control our weight through restrictive dieting, our bodies will want to continue to stay within a “set-point” weight range.

If you don’t believe this to be true, just look at the controversy surrounding past participants from TV’s The Biggest Loser.  The majority of the participanthave not only failed to maintain their weight loss but, in many cases, they weigh even more now.

When we allow ourselves to eat intuitively, our weight tends to stay within its “set point” weight range naturally.

Knowing our body’s range helps us understand what our bodies truly need.

I finally learned that after years of attempting to control my weight  — and after obtaining professional certifications to help others manage theirs —  most of us are fighting against the weight range our bodies want to be.

The truth is this:  When we struggle we tend to engage in the restrictive and controlling behaviors that ultimately set us up for failure.  

What about people who think this theory is BS?

People will argue until the end of time that being a larger size is detrimental to overall health.  While there are correlations between weight and certain chronic conditions, there is no solid proof of causation.  

In fact, studies have shown, people considered “obese” by the medical community have the same mortality rate as people within a “normal” weight range when they eat fruits and vegetables, don’t smoke, perform regular physical activity, and have moderate alcohol consumption.

Conversations about body acceptance are crucial to people’s relationship with food.

Mental health, not thinness,  is a critical component for optimal physical health.

And let’s be clear, being thin does not equate optimal mental or physical health.

Trust me; I have worked with many thin fitness professionals who have more health issues than the heaviest client I have had.

The bottom line is (and common sense, as well as credible studies, have shown) we cannot shame and hate ourselves into loving our bodies.

I know you are afraid of giving up “control.”

But, you don’t have much control anyway.  Sorry, but you have been brainwashed into thinking you do.

And diets don’t work.  

Deep down, you know this.  

Want to know what does work?

Learning to accept your body and having genuine respect for all that it does for you.

That’s what I’m here to help you do.

If you would like to know more about the “set point weight range” you can listen to this fantastic TED Talk by Sandra Aamodt here.

Want to work with me?  Feel free to email me — I would love to hear from you!

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five healthy living habits you can start today

As a wellness solutions coach, I often hear people express discouragement when they decide to start a wellness journey.  I call this “stuck in the big picture frame of mind.”  And when people are stuck here,  the first things they should do is take a step back and think about actions they wish to change toward their overall success.  So, today I’ve compiled a list of 5 healthy living habits you can start today.  Ease in, start with these tips and be on your way to healthy habits in no time.

  1. Drink more water.  Hydration plays such an important part in our overall health.  The average person drinks far less than the daily recommended amount.  Dehydration is a serious issue, and it has many side effects including headaches, insomnia, constipation, and poor concentration.  I try to drink two liters of water per day.  If you’re not sure how much water your body requires, you can use this calculation:
    [Weight (lbs) x 0.5 = ounces required per day*]  ex.  A 150lb individual would need 75 ounces of water or just over 2 liters.  *Add 12 ounces for every 30 minutes of physical activity you perform (ACSM).
  2. Add vegetables and fruit to every single meal and make them part of one of your daily snacks.  Have you tried a Pink Lady Apple?  FYI, they are amazing with nut butter!
  3. Laugh out loud.  Sometimes we all take life a little too damn seriously, right?  Did you know, when you laugh, you stimulate your heart, lungs, and muscles?  It also helps regulate your body’s response to environmental and outside stressors.  My go-to video when I just need to laugh my ass off has been the same for years.  You can watch it here.  Also, you’re welcome.
  4. Add chia and flax seeds to your diet. I recommend using both (ground) chia and flax seeds as part of your lifestyle.  Why? Because they both contain omega-3 fatty acids in the form of alpha-linolenic acids (ALAs) which aid in reduced inflammation, reduced sugar cravings, functional digestion, and deliver essential micronutrients your body needs.
  5. Start resistance training and lifting weights.  I think now more than ever people are starting to understand the importance and benefits of weight-bearing exercise -, especially women!  Resistance training helps increase your strength and flexibility, which will contribute to protecting your joints from injury.  Weight-bearing exercise helps to strengthen bones and aids in the prevention of degenerative diseases such as osteoporosis.  Super important stuff.

For those of you feeling even more adventurous, here are a few more tips you can fit into your daily routine:

Are you interested in learning more about how nutritional therapy can improve your life?  I have helped individuals find complementary solutions for a range of conditions with great results!

 

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Nutrition and Illness | Genetics| Nutritional Therapy

Hey, friends!  I apologize for this post being a little bit later than I had planned.  I was set on taking my final exam for my nutritional therapy certification last week, and I’m happy to say that I’m officially a nutritional therapist!

Getting my NT certification was just the first step in a long line of education I plan to receive regarding nutrition and health.  While a nutritional therapist is not a registered dietitian or nutritionist, they can work with individuals struggling with health conditions to help alleviate and prevent ailments through dietary recommendations.

But, that is another blog post in itself.

Nutritional Therapy

In part one of my series, I discussed my father’s experience with nutritional information during the diagnosis and treatment of his advanced stage cancer.  I mentioned that, in all of his extended visits to the hospital, in addition to visits with his oncologist (and even oncology nutritionist) he was given only one session and little other guidance on the power of nutrition.  I also discussed where I feel some shortcomings are when it comes to standard cancer treatment; mainly the lack of nutritional guidance to complement traditional medical care.

Nutritional therapy is a complementary medicine — meaning it is used alongside conventional treatments offered through health care professionals.  I am not writing this post today to tell you to fire your primary care doctor and start eating barrels full of vegetables, and you’ll be able to live until you’re 100.  I am writing this post to talk about the basics of how our bodies work and how we can change our health (for better or for worse) through the foods we do (and do not) put in our bodies.

Part Two:  Nutrition and Our Genes

We’re all born with a genetic makeup that’s uniquely ours.  For example, all the cells in your body have the same DNA code.  However, that same DNA, in different conditions, results in various types of cells.  In comes epigenetics, or changes in the regulation of the expression of gene activity without alteration of the genetic structure.

Epigenomes are chemical compounds of which are not part of the DNA sequence, but are on or attached to DNA.  Epigenomic modifications remain as cells divide and in some cases can be inherited through the generations (for instance, during pregnancy).

In layman’s terms, although our DNA cannot be changed, there are forces outside of our genetic makeup — such as our environment, stress on the body, and the foods we eat — which contribute to the silencing and activation of our genes.

In fact, environmental signals can also affect the genomic imprinting process itself. Genomic imprinting is genes which are expressed in a parent-of-origin-specific manner. For instance, if an allele ( a variant form of a gene) inherited from the father is imprinted, it is thereby silenced, and only the allele from the mother is expressed.

That’s a bit more in-depth and believe me; I’m no. However, one of the most accessible (and studied) factors on epigenetics can be found through the study of nutrition.

When we eat food, the compounds of that food are manipulated, modified, and molded into resources our bodies can use. Through metabolic processes.  And within these modified metabolic processes, one, in particular, is responsible for making methyl groups, which are the epigenetic tags that silence genes by being attached to our DNA.

However, it’s not just our diets that affect our genes.  Chemicals that are released into our bodies, during times of psychological stress, interact with our epigenome, which are believed to promote aging and disease.  Whereas, chemicals released into our bodies during exercise can reduce psychological stress and therefore help to reduce aging and disease.

In short, it’s not necessarily that we “are what we eat” but more that we “become what we eat”.

Think about a nutrient such as folic acid — which is recommended to women who are planning on becoming or are pregnant — a key component in the methyl-making process, and diets high in methyl-promoting nutrients can rapidly alter gene expression.

The connection between nutrition and genetic expression is still deeply explored and studied.  However, many nutrients have been proven to influence and improve our epigenome for the better.   Vital nutrients such as folic acid, Vitamin B12, and choline all play important roles in our formative and ongoing health.

In short, it’s not necessarily that we “are what we eat” but more that we “become what we eat.”

None of us are going to wake up with a tail tomorrow, but our DNA (the very stuff that makes us who we are) is being impacted (for better or worse) with each bite we take.

Take control of what you can.

It may seem like life is just a big game of roulette.  My father was a reasonably healthy man; he didn’t eat lots of meat, he was an avid hiker, non-smoker, and didn’t drink.  How often do you hear a conversation about a person who lived until they were nearly 100 and ate cheese, drank gin, and smoked all day long?  I know I hear stories like that all the time. However, I also can name a bunch of people aged 60 and under who took decent care of their bodies and still died relatively young.

It’s no wonder why so many people think, “well, if I’m going to die anyway, I’m just going to eat what I want/smoke/drink/etc.”  And you may be right to think you should enjoy yourself to that extent, but just because you live a long life doesn’t necessarily mean it will be one free of disease or discomfort.  Nutrition is one of the ways we can have some control over our health.  I guess that’s why when nutrition isn’t at the forefront of fighting (and more importantly, preventing) ill; it gets to me.  We can have chemicals and pills galore at our doctor’s disposal when we’re sick, but the truth is, perhaps the “cure” for it not happening in the first place has always been at our fingertips.

Revisiting the example in part one with my father’s oncologist — her disregard when it came to my dad’s diet — knowing now what I didn’t know back then, actually made me think about nutrition education in general.  I believe there are simply not enough emphasis on nutrition at any stage of health care.  I can count on one hand myself how many times I’ve been asked about my diet during a visit to my doctor, and thankfully, I’ve been a relatively healthy person my whole life.  However, I’ve only ever had one doctor recommend a dietary approach to a chronic condition I had, but it was only after traditional chemical medications wouldn’t help me.  I don’t know for certain, but I’m sure many of you can relate to this scenario personally.

N

I want to stress again; I am not saying that traditional treatments and medications are not necessary when it comes to serious illness.  I am suggesting that even in the face of chronic illness there should be guidance given to pursue a natural and nutritional alternative based route in addition to traditional therapies.  Maybe nutritional advice will never come from a general practitioner or cardiologist, but the fact that nutritional specialists and therapists are out there should provide some peace of mind to those who would like to take control of their dietary health.  It is for that very reason is why I have pursued a nutritional therapy certification.  And this is why I will continue to learn and educate people about the vital importance and role of nutrition in their overall health profile.

If you have any interest in meeting with me (virtually, unless you’re in the Glasgow area) and going over your nutritional profile, please feel free to contact me directly (my email is in the “about me” section in the menu on the right sidebar).

**I am a recent graduate of the Health Sciences Academy with a natural therapist certification in Nutritional Therapy.  The educational information I have included in this post is directly from the curriculum I received and recommended resources from their Nutritional Therapist certification program.

Can you think of a time when a nutritional therapist could have been of benefit to you?

 

 

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