Can a micro-organism supply huge nutrition?

Tom Vered, CEO of Greenspirulina (photo credit: MAAYAN SELAH)
Tom Vered, CEO of Greenspirulina
(photo credit: MAAYAN SELAH)
It seems crazy to say Israelis need a food supplement, considering how much beautiful produce there is in every local shuk and supermarket. But many do need to supplement, either from poor health or out of poor food choices. With that in mind, Metro interviewed Tom Vered, CEO of Greenspirulina, about the impressively nutritious micro-alga spirulina.
Vered became aware of spirulina’s benefits five years ago. He was finishing his degree in industrial design with a specialty in ecology and special needs.
“I was exhausted all the time, and doctors couldn’t find the reason for it. Someone convinced me to try fresh spirulina. I wasn’t optimistic, but thought, why not? So one evening, I took a spoonful.” The result? Vered says with a chuckle, “I was awake all night, full of energy. And I wasn’t even tired the next day.”
Vered’s final college project was developing a system for growing fresh spirulina at home. Today, he grows the little green algae in greenhouses, with a team that includes a marine biologist and a food engineer who control growing conditions for optimal quality and safety.
Although today spirulina is considered a trendy “superfood,” people have been eating it for centuries. One of Cortes’s soldiers described Aztecs harvesting the micro-alga from Lake Texcoco and fashioning it into handy cakes.
Records from Chad indicate that locals have been eating it since at least the ninth century, scooping it up from ponds around Lake Chad and pressing it into cakes.
The alga supplies spectacular amounts of nutrients, with a list as long as your arm of vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and micro-nutrients. It’s said to be a complete protein, with all the amino acids found in animal foods. There is controversy concerning the presence of vitamin B12 in spirulina. While some manufacturers claim their product does have it, American and Canadian scientists maintain that vitamin B12 isn’t present in it. The most serious caveat is for PKU patients, who don’t tolerate high-protein foods like spirulina.
Spirulina grows in both salty and sweet water. The difference is in the taste and odor: that from salty water has a strong fishy flavor, while spirulina from sweet water has a neutral taste. The spirulina on Greenspirulina’s farm is grown in sweet water that’s constantly monitored for quality. It’s fed a secret nutritional formula. Vered chose to grow what he considers the best strain of the alga, Green Lady. The product is sold frozen to preserve all of its quality.
This reporter has seen dried spirulina tablets in health-food stores for years.
What’s the difference between fresh-frozen spirulina and the dried stuff? Vered claims that drying the alga drastically reduces its nutritional value.
“Think of the nutrition in dried apple slices, for example, to that of a fresh apple. They’re both apple, but there’s no comparison in terms of nutritional value. It’s the same with spirulina,” he explains. “Fresh is absolutely best.”
A quick Internet search yielded many recipes containing spirulina, even one where it’s baked into bread. But Vered maintains that spirulina shouldn’t be cooked, because heat destroys much of its goodness. Since Greenspirulina’s taste is neutral, it can be blended into shakes or simply stirred into juice and drunk, which is a good way to get kids to take it. You can also whisk it into salad dressings or blend it into dips.
In Jerusalem asked who might especially benefit from a daily high-protein blast. Almost everybody, apparently. It’s quite a list: pregnant women, dieters, people who can’t stomach normal food.
Athletes, especially those who need fast muscle recovery. People with chronic fatigue. Elderly people, who often can’t metabolize nutrients in their food. Picky eaters who refuse to eat a well-rounded diet. People living in a rush who hardly have time to sit down and eat, much less cook. And there are those who’d rather nuke something or get dinner at the corner burger or pizza joint anyway.
“Many of my clients are professionals who work under pressure all day and live on fast food. Accountants, lawyers. I don’t recommend substituting spirulina for real food, but if that’s the way you’re going to live, taking spirulina becomes even more important.”
Is spirulina safe for people with chronic ailments? Vered gave a few examples from his own clientele.
“I have a client with fibromyalgia who takes it,” he recounted.
“Spirulina won’t cure her, but it relieves some symptoms. It’s the same for cancer patients, especially when the nausea of chemotherapy and radiation hits them. Anyone who has a hard time eating should be taking fresh spirulina.”
Another client was a pregnant woman who suffered from severe anemia. She couldn’t tolerate regular iron supplements, and her doctor was worried. “She was skeptical about spirulina,” says Vered, “but blood tests done after she took it for three months showed normal hemoglobin levels.”
An unusual story concerns a woman whose hair was falling out.
“She contacted me and asked if spirulina would help. Her hair was coming out in fistfuls, and she was really desperate, embarrassed to be seen in public. Her doctor didn’t know what to suggest.
She’d tried other nutritional supplements, but none helped. After three months of taking fresh spirulina, her hair stopped falling out, with new growth coming in.”
Vered says that fresh spirulina’s maximal effect occurs up to three months from starting to take it. “You feel better right after taking the first dose, but to get the most out of it, you should take spirulina daily for two to three months. It should be taken in the morning for steady energy all day. One teaspoon a day does it.
Children and the very elderly and frail take ¼ to ½ teaspoon, depending on weight.
“But don’t take it at night, or you might stay awake, like I did the first time I took it,” Vered concludes.
The product needs to stay frozen until used, so the company delivers it to your door, packaged in daily doses. Greenspirulina’s harvesting and packaging techniques keep it fresh for up to eight months in the freezer.
Curious? Look up and browse through the recipes and tips on the site. If you have questions, call Greenspirulina customer service at 058-404-0701.