As a health writer, I’ve tried my fair share of fitness and nutrition trends. Aerial yoga? Yep. Ancient healing herbs. Uh-ha. But when word of the latest super food landed in my inbox I was taken aback- algae.
Yes, algae. I’m not talking about the slimy, green kind though. Companies such as Queensland-based business Divinita have brought the health benefits of brown algae to Australian shores in the form of a small, odourless and tasteless pill.
Algae supplements are trending globally. Celebrities such as Victoria Beckham, Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow are all said to be fans, thanks to its nutrient dense profile. Britney Spears reportedly eats algae raw (urgh). So, what is this odd health trend and should you try it?
“People can turn up their nose at first, but ocean foods and greens like spirulina and chlorella are becoming much more accessible,” says Adam Danielli, General Manager of Divinita – one of the first companies to introduce organic brown algae supplements to the Australian market.
Brown algae is extremely high in iodine, an element said to be crucial in maintaining a healthy weight that helps regulate the thyroid gland. A recent study found that many Australians are deficient in iodine, which is found naturally in wild fish, seaweed and iodized salt. What’s more, brown algae is also high in nutrients such as calcium, potassium, magnesium and iron. A study by Queensland University’s School of Agriculture and Food Science suggests this superfood is a nutrient cocktail.
“Extensive research shows that brown algae seaweed is more rich in antioxidants than acai berry and contain more vitamin A than tomatoes and pumpkin,” says Peer Schenk, professor at the University of Queensland.
While its benefit list reads longer than a queue at Press Juices, accredited practicing dietician Katherine Baqleh isn’t convinced this fad has staying-power. “I don’t believe in extracting nutrients and taking them in capsule form. Whole foods are best, especially because they contain a whole range of other nutritents,” she points out. “Fish, for example, is high in iodine, but eating real fish provides you with healthy fats, poteins and Vitamin D.”
She also stresses that iodine deficiency should first be diagnosed by a health professional. “Iodine is not a magic bullet for weight loss, unless you have a genuinely diagnosed issue,” she says.
Professor Peer Schenk notes that aside from iodine, brown algae is also high in protein. He says it even contains more than eggs. “This is particularly important because it allows the body to slowly digest the contents, which may help with the feeling of satiety and allow for better absorption,” he says.
So will this irksome-sounding supplement make it to superfood status? That remains to be seen. Anything that promises to combat those 3pm cravings and keep weight in check has our attention.
Images via Swiish