Deep Blue Sea Smoothie
March 14, 2011

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What’s a food you’ve always meant to try, but never have? The list isn’t long for me: I’ve eaten every vegetable under the sun, loved almost all of them, and there’s nary a dish I haven’t veganized to perfection (or at least to edibility). So what remains? Not much, or so you’d think.

But you’d be wrong. You see, the thing about raw foods is that they open you up to ingredients and dishes that you never knew existed, let alone functioned as the centerpieces of a whole foodie movement. But they’re out there: maca. Goji berries. Golden mulberries. Yacon. Lucuma. Irish moss. Chia. Dulse. Acai. I mean, even wheatgrass is exotic territory for most people. When you start to explore raw foods, you find yourself mesmerized by these exotic and unusual foods, and the health properties they promise.

To be honest with you, I’ve always thought that superfoods = super expensive, and not much else. But I’m also a victim of tremendous curiosity about each and every one of them, and in the course of my raw food adventures I’ve checked many off of my superfoods bucket list. Lucuma? Check (love the sweet, mellow, vanilla taste). Yacon syrup? Check (reminiscent of caramel, at least to me). Maca? Check (ick! tastes like feet, as my friend Kristen would say). Acai? Check (I think it’s the equivalent of an overpriced blueberry). Chia? Check, check, and check out my recipes.

One superfood I’ve always wanted to try is spirulina, mostly because of its beautiful, blue-black-green color. I’ve seen it in smoothies, and I’ll admit, it’s a mesmerizing shade. It’s also known to be incredibly nutrient rich. Some fun facts, collected from the interwebs:

          • Spirulina contains 8 essential amino acids, 10 Non-essential amino acids, Potassium (15,400 mg/Kg), Calcium (1,315 mg/kg), Zinc (39 mg/kg), Magnesium (1,915 mg/kg), Selemium (0.40 ppm), Iron (580 mg/kg), Vitamin B12, Folic Acid (0.5 mg/kg), Niacin ( 118 mg/kg), Riboflavin or B2 (40 mg/kg), Thiamine or B1 (55 mg/kg), and Tocopherol or Vitamin E (190 mg/kg).
          • Several years ago, the National Cancer Institute announced sulfolipids from blue-green algae like spirulina were remarkably active in test tube experiments against the AIDS virus.
          • In 1993-95, research showed natural polysaccharides in spirulina increased T-cell counts, strengthened the immune system and raised disease resistance in chickens, fish and mice. The animal feed industry is embracing spirulina as a new probiotic to replace overused antiobiotic drugs in animal feeds. In 1994, a Russian patent was awarded for spirulina as a medicine for reducing allergic reactions from radiation in the Children of Chernobyl.
          • Its deep green color comes from a rainbow of natural pigments – chlorophyll (green), phycocyanin (blue) and carotenoids (orange).
          • Spirulina is often described as the most complete food source in the world because of its nutrient density and an impressive 60 – 70% protein content. In fact, NASA includes it in the diet of astronauts and plans to grow Spirulina in its space station.
          • Some researchers claim that Spirulina is useful in helping diabetics control their food cravings and decrease their insulin intake.
          • 1 tsp. of Spirulina will meet your RDA of B12, and spirulina contains over twice the amount of B12 found in an equivalent serving of liver.

Cool, no?

Of course, one always has to be discerning and do a fair bit of research before declaring any food “super.” And the ultimate measure of how super a food is for one’s body is really how good one feels after eating it, and over an extended period of time. But food isn’t just about utility, is it? It’s also about taste and texture and the experience of cooking. And part of my fascination with spirulina has always been about its incredible color, which I’m dying to see in snacks and smoothies and puddings. So you can imagine how excited I was when my good friend Courtney—who is compiling a spirulina recipe book—offered to send me a sample if I’d contribute a recipe. A few weeks ago, I got this cute little bottle from Healthfrce Nutritionals:

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I have big plans for this little bottle, I do. But I wanted my first foray into the world of blue-green algae to be a very simple one, so I whipped up a smoothie. I call it my deep blue sea smoothie, not only because of the spirulina, but because of the wonderful blue-black color that comes from mixing blueberries and algae!

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Deep Blue Sea Smoothie (vegan, raw, gluten and soy free)

Serves 1

1 large frozen banana
1 cup frozen blueberries or blackberries
3/4 cup almond milk
1 tsp spirulina
2 tsp chia seeds
1/2 tsp ginger

Blend all ingredients in a good blender till smooth. Serve!

As you can see, the color is very arresting—almost black!:

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As I took my first sip, I didn’t know what to expect. Naturally, the smoothie tasted like any other blueberry smoothie, but the whole experience of trying something new was a lot of fun. Now I’m scheming about other spirulina recipes I might come up with—any requests or challenges for me?

At the beginning of this post, I mentioned my bucket list of unfamiliar ingredients. Since we’re on the topic of bucket lists, did everyone see this month’s VegNews, and it’s amazing vegan bucket list? I plan on doing every one of those 99 things—although I’m not sure how interested I am in a vegan bear claw.

With that, friends, I wish you a quiet and cozy night.

xo

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    51 Comments
  1. Hi Gena. This recipe taste awesome and I love the colour. I have a blog about Spirulina as I just love taking this amazing super food. My mother started taking Spirulina too (she suffers from bronchitis) and it was to both her’s and my amazement that her lungs have now cleared of mucas and she no longer coughs (she is in her 70’s). Neither of us knew that Spirulina would do this. She took it because I kept raving about my health benefits ever since taking it 2 months ago.

    I wondered if you didn’t mind if I could use your recipe on my blog and your smoothie photo and of course I will credit you.

    For your consideration and approval
    Isabella 🙂

  2. I’ve been eating Spirulina for 25+years. My son’s (now 22!) first food after mother’s milk was a spirulina sauce we whipped up. I have a picture of him with green smeared all over his smiling, ecstatic face.
    I happen to really enjoy the flavor; smoothies of all sorts, energy bars/balls of all sorts using nut butters, natural sweeteners etc… I often take a cup of juice to work with spirulina mixed right in. After working construction all day, a 3pm spirulina drink like this hits the spot.
    Sometimes I will mix it right in with my morning gruel: cooked rice, millet or quinoa or granola. Yah, so I am a junkie; one day I should try growing it!

  3. I live in Memphis where there is one teeny-tiny vegan “cafe,” which is really just one guy behind a counter in a little store that also has a Greek restaurant and a Smooth Moves.. But anyways, one of my favorite things to get there is called the Spice-Sea roll and its quinoa with spirulina in a nori roll. Super yummy.

  4. I love blue green algae (I’m using the Ancient Sun Crystal Manna) with fresh squeezed grapefruit juice!

  5. Yay! Loved this post — thanks for the info and the recipe. I used to have a spirulina,, papaya, spinach and lime smoothie before exams — makes me feel so focused, calm, energized. Will have to experiment with blueberries!

    Thanks again!

  6. That looks and sounds fabulous. I am actually in the process of getting some spirulina. I can’t wait to incorporate it into all of our diets. It is up there in importance with fresh wheat grass juice!
    Thank you for the wonderful post!
    Peace and Raw Health,
    Elizabeth

  7. I made almost the exact same smoothie this morning, but only had my mom’s peanut butter on hand for the protein element. So delicious! I love your take on super foods “the ultimate measure of how super a food is for one’s body is really how good one feels after eating it, and over an extended period of time.”

    When I first got into raw foods I blew my grocery budget every time I went to the supermarket. Now I know its only a super food if its actually super to me. What energizes one lucky duck may have no effect on another 😉 I’d love to see spirulina in a cracker recipe or maybe a easy to make (and a lot cheaper than buying) snack bar.

  8. That smoothie is making me all nostalgic for my first green smoothies that was called “Swamp Monster” or something like that and was made green with spirulina. I’ve been having spirulina for years, I can’t remember why I got into it, I think for the B-12 or something (now we know that it’s not a sufficient source).

    I use superfoods to EXPAND my diet. I figure we have such a limited range of fruits and veggies because of the limits of what is cultivated, that an opportunity to eat more choices is good. But I used them sparingly and I am not into gurus that think the cornerstone of your diet should be these packaged powders.

  9. Wow, that is the darkest smoothie I’ve ever seen. It looks like black licorice! But if it tastes normal than a little something super can’t hurt!

  10. Very interesting on spirulina, I’ve only tried it at raw classes and have been cautious of buying it because of price and quality sources. But I’m going to look for that brand at our local health food store, thanks!

  11. great info and beautiful smoothie! I love the title of your smoothie, too. I’m a sucker for packaging, cute titles, etc. and spirulina sounds amazing. I’ve only ever had it in juices I’ve purchased, and couldn’t really taste it (which I guess is the idea).

    First I need a blender, then I will totally experiment with spirulina! 🙂

  12. Spirulina brings me back to my childhood… my mother fed it to me. I use it in some of my recipes now very judiciously, but it’s a great secret ingredient for certain things!.. it’s hard to get the taste of the spirulina/orange juice combo out of my mouth! haha

  13. I don’t consider myself crazy for superfoods or other supplements (I think fresh is always better) but I do love sprinkling maca over ice cream, bananas & adding it to shakes.
    And spirulina? I know it has huge health benefits – in fact I met a man who cultured/ “grew” (bred? lol) his own spirulina & was really crazy about the stuff! Your shake recipe looks great (as usual) so if I ever get my hands on some spirulina I will be sure to try it. I find it a bit fishy tasting (but maybe it was partially due to the brand I used? Hmm..)

  14. Would it totally freak you out if I said I think you’re my vegan hero? After 15 years as a lacto-ovo vegetarian I transitioned to veganism in September, in a large part due to your blog. While I would love to use your counseling services, as a student myself, it’s simply a luxury I can’t afford but I have tried and loved many recipes thanks to you.

  15. I love the smoky kind of taste spirulina gives things. Sometimes it’s too much in a sweet smoothie, but usually I like it. And it does make for a lovely dark green smoothie! I’m still not sure if the B12 in it is the kind we actually absorb, though.

  16. I love spirulina and have been using it for years. One great way to get more of it in to your diet, apart from your delectable smoothie (I must try this and scare my work colleagues even more than usual!) is to make a gomaisho seasoning. I typically use 1 cup of sesame seeds and 3 heaped tablespoons of Spirulina, add a bit of sea salt and stick it in my food processor until the sesame seeds have broken down and the mix is sticking slightly to the sides of the food processor. This can then be kept in a glass jar and sprinkled over everything from salads/ steamed veg, to whatever you like. I love eating it sprinkled over raw veg sticks accompanied by a dash of hemp oil and Bragg’s. Yummmmmm.. A great way of getting your calcium and B12 in a palatable way..

  17. Beautiful smoothie! Great timing. Just last week I put out a question on my Facebook … “how can I use Spirulina?” I bought some, tried it in a green juice and was traumatized. The smell and taste was awful. For me, I need to hide it. This smoothie looks like a great way to get the benefits of Spirulina without being overwhelmed by it. Thanks!

  18. Spirulina sounds amazing! I love the nutritional profile. I think I’ve had it indirectly in protein powder, but never on its own. Now I’m curious, too. I love exploring new foods, especially foods deemed “superfoods.” 🙂 I’m going to pick up a bottle of this pretty blue wonder next time I’m at the health market.

  19. I adore spirulina, and I have to admit, part of the allure is probably that enchanting hue!
    Looks like a tasty recipe – similar to my breakfast smoothie. Tends to pair well with banana and even cacao and carob.
    I totally had an epiphany when you said maca tasted like feet… yes! yes it does! Blech.

  20. i challenge you to a dressing ! This smoothie looks killer. How do you feel after it though ? I would love to hear about your body’s response to the super food. Im on a maca kick right now and testing how i feel after different foods.

  21. I’m definitely a spirulina fan, as well as a Health Force fan. I just got similar cute little sample bottles of theirs- however mine are of Earth and Fruits.

    I’ve heard controversial things about the content of B12 in spirulina, so I’ll admit that I’m a bit confused on this issue. I wonder if it has to do with the source?

    I’d love to see you create a spirulina salad dressing recipe! I figure if there’s anyone who can create a fantastic dressing, it’s YOU!

  22. spirulina is the one thing I have been using for years – the ONE thing that I was ahead of the curve on 🙂

    I love HealthForce and their products… this is a good one!

    and I am glad I’m not the only one with a distaste for maca… I use it VERY sparingly and when I have bolder flavors to mask it!

  23. This looks so yummy and good for you. I think I will be making something like this in the morning. Love how you talk about the price point. A lot of people use that as a reason not to try healthy super foods. We spend thousands on our cars…why not a little on our health.

  24. I love the name of the smoothie! Sounds so fun. I’ve never had spirulina by itself but now I really want to try it. It sounds incredibly nutritious, and how awesome that it has vegan B12 in it!

  25. I love spirulina in my smoothies, I dont taste it but i love what i know its doing hahaha 🙂 I use Pure Hawaiian

  26. I just got into spirulina, too! Funny us bloggers are always on the same page with new foodie finds:) I’ve been mostly experimenting with adding it to my green smoothies, with banana, milk, chia seeds, avocado, coconut, spinach, etc., but I’ve also added it to my oats! Yes, I’m weird like that. It was really good, especially with banana and a big dollop of peanut butter!

    I can’t wait to see what else you come up with, as I need ideas! Maybe use it in grain porridges, or your chia seed pudding!

  27. Thanks for always taking the time to link such cool articles, i.e. the coconut oil one, the VegNews bucket list..thanks, Gena!

    Spirulina. I recently did a post on chlorella and many people wrote telling me that spirulina and chlorella have similar tastes. For years, the only way I ate my algae was just via pill form. Never did I know there was powder…that tasted pretty darn good. Glad you’re exploring the superfoods.

    I actually really love maca! I know some people HATE it. The one “super food” or shall I say trendy blog world food I dont like is dulse flakes. But I know you dig them. Too salty for me. I am a sweets girl, all the way 🙂

  28. Yum! This looks great. Spirulina is the best! I should have bought some before I moved from Toronto to Melbourne..all superfoods are pretty reasonable in Australia, expect for spirulina -_- shucks.

    Try adding a tsp to your energy bars or balls! A friend of mine made chocolate zucchini bars with spirulina and they were scrumptious!

    PS I now have that “baby beluga in the deep blue see” song stuck in my head 😛

  29. Oh, I’m so glad you say that about maca! I’ve had several raw chocolates flavoured with maca and haven’t been impressed at all. Lucuma shall have to go on the list for the next time I have disposable incomce (sigh). And I have seen spirulina at my local health food store….

    • OMG, I just discovered that I *love* lucuma. My fav current recipe is frozen bananas, almond butter, lucuma, vanilla powder, and cardamom. Blend it up with a little almond milk and it is a delish raw banana ice cream/smoothie dessert. Yum, yum!

  30. How lovely! Trying new things — even if they don’t taste so exotic — is always an adventure. I’m curious if spirulina is (traditionally) used in any dishes, or if it is a freshly “discovered” food, and just a supplement for smoothies (and the like), or what one might add it to for nutrition/coloring/spice. It sounds like it doesn’t have much flavor; I suppose that’s what I’m curious about — how to use this little algae 🙂

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