Ingredients in the News:

Spirulina: The Trending Bacteria

Healthy diets don’t change over time—but some food and ingredient trends are continually changing. As health professionals, your clients expect you to have all the answers when it comes to the latest food trends. To keep you in the know, we are offering updates on "ingredients in the news." This issue’s featured ingredient: Spirulina.

People are learning more about bacteria, whether in foods (probiotics) or ourselves (microbiome). But did you know this popular supplement is made of bacteria? Spirulina, also called blue-green algae, is made of cyanobacteria that are grown in alkaline conditions.

Spirulina’s popularity is due to its perceived health benefits (and it doesn’t hurt that it turns smoothies an Instagram-friendly blue).

A Nutrient-Dense, Traditional Food

Spirulina, collected from lakes and dried in the sun, is a traditional food in the Republic of Chad and has a deserved reputation for being nutrient-dense. A tablespoon of spirulina powder provides 4 grams of protein and is a good source of iron, copper, and some B vitamins.* Though many claims are made about the medicinal effects of spirulina, the scientific evidence for these are limited.

Not everyone is a fan of this simple source of nutrition. One sticking point for consumers is spirulina’s fishy smell and taste. However, when used in small amounts, spirulina provides pleasant, naturally derived food coloring, as seen in the featured image of “Mermaid Toast.”


Sustainable Protein

If there were an application that masked or made use of spirulina’s distinct flavor, spirulina could be a sustainably advantaged protein. Gram for gram, spirulina uses less water and land than traditional agricultural ingredients.

*USDA National Nutrient Database, Seaweed, spirulina, dried.

Disclaimer: Conagra Nutrition does not provide medical advice. Information is intended for educational purposes only. For specific nutrition guidance, please consult your regular healthcare provider or a registered dietitian.

Pictured at the top of this page are vegan “Mermaid toasts” topped with a plant-based spread that’s been mixed with spirulina for color.