Spirulina: A Mexica Superfood

Original people all over the world have harvested and enjoyed algae and sea weed for centuries. Spirulina, making a strong comeback at health food stores in the United States, is one such ingredient. It was once harvested off rocks at Texcoco lake by the Mexica, who called it tecuitlatl or cocolin – Nahuatl for “rock excrement” and “water viscosity,” respectively. It was then prepared into patties, which were sun dried before consumption.

Spirulina contains enormous amounts of beta-carotene, chlorophyll, calcium, iron, protein, and the fatty acid GLA (gamma linolenic acid), among other nutrients. And, due to its cellular structure, its nutrients are very easily digested by the body. For example, some reports estimate the protein digestibility of spiriulina at 85% (compared with about 20% for beef).

Because it is so gentle on the digestive system while delivering a nutritional banquet, it is an especially helpful food for people whose digestive systems (including liver and kidneys) are overburdened by excessive animal products, refined foods, and prescription medication. Spirulina also builds resilient connective tissue and protects the cardiovascular system. Its blue pigment, phycocyanin, has been shown to inhibit the formation of cancer colonies.

The Mexica enjoyed spirulina as part of their daily diet. Today, we can find spirulina powder at most health food stores.Spirulina Powder

Since becoming pregnant, I’ve stepped up my spirulina consumption – adding it to a smoothie several times per week. In the recipe below, I also use chia seeds – another staple of the Mexica diet – which are extremely high in protein, calcium, magnesium, omega 3 fatty acids, and antioxidants. The berries and orange juice provide plenty of vitamin C, which facilitates the absorption of iron.

Mixed Berry Mexica Smoothie

Ingredients (serves 2):

  • 1 cup frozen mixed berries
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • ½ cup ice
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1 teaspoon spirulina

Blend all ingredients for one to two minutes until smooth. Serve immediately. Enjoy!

Please note: I rarely use measuring cups when creating in the kitchen, so the above measurements are estimates. If the smoothie is too thick for your taste, add a bit of water, one tablespoon at a time until it reaches the desired consistency. If the smoothie is too runny, add more frozen berries.

Do you have a favorite recipe that includes spirulina? If so, I hope you’ll share it with me and other readers by posting a comment below.

Sources: Cardona, G. (2007). Delicias Vegetarianas de México, Editorial Pax México; Garcia Rivas, H. (1991). Cocina Prehispanica Mexicana, Editorial Panorama; Pitchford, P. (1993). Healing with Whole Foods, North Atlantic Books.

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