Blue smoothies and blue smoothie bowls have taken the natural health world by storm and have the internet buzzing (scroll down for video proof). The reason is clear: Not only are these blue spirulina concoctions fun to look at and delicious to sip and spoon up, exciting new research that suggests that adding blue spirulina to your daily diet can make it much easier to lose weight—especially around your middle.
Count Travis Stork, M.D., author of The Lose Your Belly Diet as a big fan of pairing spirulina of all kinds with the Mediterranean diet, which gets top marks from doctors and scientists for being a healthy way to lose weight and boost overall well-being. A startling new study suggests that pairing blue spirulina with the Mediterranean diet practically guarantees weight loss success.
What is blue spirulina?
Spirulina is an edible blue-green algae that thrives in fresh water, marshes, sea water, even hot springs—any body of water that’s not too acidic and gets plenty of sunlight. Blue spirulina is an extract of the blue pigment in spirulina called phycocyanin. So it’s the blue parts of the blue-green spirulina plant extracted out and concentrated.
Spirulina is one of the world’s single richest sources of special compounds called polyphenols. According to Dr. Stork, every plant on Earth contains at least some polyphenols. Mediterranean favorites like spinach, onions, tomatoes, beans, walnuts, and olive oil just happen to be extremely rich sources of these micronutrients, which according to Dr. Stork, “are like a medicine that comes from your grocery cart instead of your medicine cabinet.”
Why choose blue spirulina over green? Most research on the benefits of spirulina have been done on the whole plant, or the green version, so you’ll reap rewards no matter which variety you opt for. However, a 2016 analysis found that the blue extract may have extra immune-boosting, disease-fighting and inflammation-soothing properties.
What are the benefits of blue spirulina?
Both green and blue spirulina is rich in polyphenols, and research suggests these compounds can help stop and reverse age-related damage in our cells. If we pump enough polyphenols into our system over time, research shows we may be able to think more clearly, move more freely and fight off disease more easily. “Everything should start to function better,” Dr. Stork explains. Because of spirulina’s extremely high polyphenol content, it’s basically a superfood among superfoods. Dr. Stork adds spirulina in his own Mediterranean-style regimen. “I try to get a little spirulina every day.”
How can blue spirulina boost the Mediterranean Diet?
Among all the people in the world who eat a Mediterranean diet, scientists have found that those with the highest intake of polyphenols like those found in blue spirulina tend to be the healthiest and longest-living. Prime example: natives of the Greek isle of Ikaria — one of the five healthiest places on Earth, per the famous “Blue Zones” study — eat local plants with up to 10 times more polyphenols than most produce. “Even their wine is higher in polyphenols,” adds Dr. Stork. It’s a big reason Ikarians, on average, defy heart disease, seldom get diabetes, and have almost no dementia. It also may help keep them effortlessly lean.
That last bit inspired scientists to see what would happen if they had folks add extra polyphenols to a Mediterranean diet. And they decided the best way to do that was to create a high-polyphenol smoothie made with a plant like spirulina. (For the study, smoothies were made with duckweed, a plant that’s not widely available but has a nutrition profile very similar to spirulina.) They had test subjects sip this special smoothie daily as they ate Mediterranean-style menus made with foods from a typical grocery store. The result: Smoothie drinkers lost weight significantly faster than folks on a strict diet with no smoothie.
How does blue spirulina help with weight loss?
Not only did Mediterranean dieters getting bonus doses of spirulina nutrients slim down faster, additional research links spirulina with weight loss. Dr. Stork also loves how simple and practical it is to add spirulina to smoothies. “For something to work, it has to be easy, and that’s what I love about polyphenol-rich smoothies — they’re a small step that can build momentum for big changes,” says Dr. Stork.
As for how polyphenols in spirulina stimulate weight loss, there are lots of ways. Perhaps most important, they seem to spur our body to burn blood sugar faster. There’s also evidence they may block enzymes that let us turn food into blood sugar in the first place. It’s an effect that ultimately can help slash both sugar and the fat-storage hormone insulin. And as excess insulin comes down, we are able to burn more fat, “especially from our middle,” says the doc.
Separate research hints that polyphenols may trigger a surge in gut bacteria linked to weight control. And polyphenols may even cut off blood vessels running to fatty tissue, causing some fat cells to literally starve and die. Bottom line: The tiny nutrients set us up for faster results than many strict diets, “and they also improve overall well-being,” says Dr. Stork. “It’s the best way to lose weight.”
What does blue spirulina taste like?
Both blue spirulina and green spirulina have a bitter taste and hints of sea or lake water, with blue spirulina being the milder option. (One powder to try: KOS Organic Spirulina Superfood; buy from Amazon.com, $21.59) To balance out its flavor, pair the powder with tropical fruit and fat—ingredients like mango, pineapple, avocado, coconut oil, nuts and seeds make spirulina more delicious and add bonus polyphenols. “If you don’t like the taste, you can also consider spirulina tablets or simply focus on other polyphenol-rich smoothie ingredients,” says Dr. Stork, who suggests cocoa, flax, spices, coffee and/or green tea. (One tablet to try: Now Foods Organic Super Green Spirulina Tablets; buy from Amazon.com, $12,27)
Blue spirulina smoothies make it easy to get the benefits
To see how well your body responds to a high polyphenol intake, try a version of spirulina smoothies Dr. Stork recommends: Blitz 1 cup nut milk, 1 banana, 1 ⁄4 cup protein powder, 2 tablespoons cocoa, 1 tablespoon nut butter, a dash of instant coffee and a serving of spirulina.
Want more inspiration and ideas? TikTokers are going crazy for blue spirulina, which lends exciting and vivid color to ordinary smoothies and smoothie bowls. It makes healthy drinks fun and gorgeous, and its infusion of polyphenols is potent. Smoothies made with trendy blue spirulina “are loaded with polyphenols,” confirms Dr. Stork.
Here’s one “super blue” version from creator Justin M Schuble that you enjoy with a spoon:
This one from Kendall Kopp looks like a cloud-dappled Mediterranean blue sky:
And if you want to get really fancy, you can mix both blue and green spirulina like they do in this KOS “Planet Earth” drink:
Bonus meal ideas help speed slimming
Polyphenols from options like spirulina, cocoa, greens, berries, herbs, and seeds will increase health and fight flab no matter how you eat ’em. Want to boost results? Whip up a spirulina smoothie for one meal a day; at other sittings, go for lots of non-starchy produce, plus a serving each of protein, starch, and good fat. Polyphenol-rich beans, whole grains, nuts, and olive oil are smart picks. Also key to Mediterranean-style success: “Limit sugar and processed food,” advises Dr. Stork. We’ve got three easy polyphenol-rich meals that can help make the Mediterranean diet more powerful.
- SUPER-NUTRIENT OATS Mix 1/3 cup old-fashioned oats, 2/3 cup unsweetened plant-based milk with spices and healthy sweetener to taste; cover and chill overnight. Enjoy with berries and nuts
- POWER LUNCH Enjoy a big Greek-style salad with olive oil vinaigrette; add chickpeas or hummus plus whole-grain crackers.
- SIMPLE SALMON DINNER Prepare salmon or chicken with herbs and lemon; serve with olive oil–roasted veggies and brown rice.
This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.
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