4 Types of Edible Algae With Superfood Potential
The first thing that comes to mind when you think of algae might be pond scum or that greenish stuff that collects on the surface of underused pools. But did you know there are several other types of algae that aren't just edible, but healthy, too?
You may be familiar with eating seaweed already, thanks to delicious menu items like nori-wrapped sushi—but the world of edible algae extends well beyond your favorite spicy tuna roll to include varieties like chlorella, spirulina, and sea moss. These microplants are rich in nutrients and are thought to provide a host of health benefits when consumed.
"Algae is very efficient at synthesizing and making bioactive compounds," says Ralph Esposito, ND, LAc, naturopathic physician, functional medicine practitioner, and acupuncturist specializing in integrative urology, endocrinology, and nutrigenomics (the study of how food/nutrition impacts your genes). In layman's terms, this means that algae can take in sunlight and nutrients from the environment and transform them into nutrients and compounds our bodies can use. "This includes things like omega-3 fatty acids, iron, vitamin K, zinc, magnesium, and, interestingly, it can make methylated (active) forms of B vitamins like B12 and folate," Esposito explains.
What to Look for in an Algae Product
It's not recommended to harvest your own algae for consumption, since many types can be toxic. While most edible algae is found in dietary supplement form (although certain seaweeds can be found in their raw form), Esposito cautions not to take any supplement blindly, and to look for algae products that come from clean waters without any metals, contaminants, or other environmental pollutants.
"Some things to look for are NSF certification and third-party testing," he says. "Remember, a company can get a third party to test their product but it doesn't mean they always pass. NSF certification confirms they are tested and they pass."
Most importantly, always consult your doctor before starting any new supplement, and remember that eating whole, healthy foods and a balanced diet is the best way to fuel your body, rather than relying on supplements.
Healthy Types of Edible Algae—and Their Nutritional Benefits
There are many different types of algae you can eat, each with its own unique set of characteristics and health properties. Here are four varieties to know about, and why they're supposedly so good for you.