Spirulina is an ancient Chadian and Aztec food that also happens to be very nutrient-dense. It consists of blue-green algae that grow in freshwater. While it does provide a rare combination of nutrients, there are alternatives that you can try if you can’t find it locally. Let’s take a look at some of the best spirulina substitutes.
Your best bet: Chlorella
Like spirulina, chlorella is a freshwater microorganism — algae — full of nutrients. Chlorella contains more chlorophyll than any other plant (include spirulina) and is an excellent source of beta carotene. It contains 10 times as much beta carotene as carrots. Chlorella contains many of the same vitamins and minerals as spirulina. You can get B vitamins and iron from chlorella as well as magnesium and potassium. Chlorella contains more riboflavin and vastly more iron than spirulina. Chlorella is also rich in protein and healthy fats like oleic acid.
There are some differences between the two such as the fact that spirulina is a blue-green alga while chlorella is a green alga. Usually, chlorella offers about the same amount of protein as spirulina but some strains can offer more. Chlorella provides more omega 3 fatty acids.
Chlorella tastes a lot like spirulina with a similar green, herbal flavor but chlorella tastes grassier than spirulina. Spirulina has more of a seaweed flavor.
A decent second choice: Moringa
Both moringa and spirulina have been classified by many nutritionists as superfoods. Both are packed with nutrients. They are also rare among plan foods in that they are complete proteins, which makes them important for vegans. Most plant foods are limited in terms of protein content but moringa and spirulina provide the nine essential amino acids the body needs. Moringa does not have as much protein as spirulina, though it still provides a significant amount and compensates with higher levels of vitamins E and K. Moringa provides more iron, calcium and potassium as well.
If you want to get more nutrients in your diet, moringa is an excellent alternative to spirulina.
The flavor profiles of both moringa and spirulina are herbaceous but subtle so you shouldn’t notice too much of a difference in taste.
Moringa can provide you with superior antioxidant protection when compared to spirulina since it contains a greater number of antioxidant compounds.
In a pinch: Wheatgrass
Wheatgrass consists of wheat seedlings, which are usually juiced. Like spirulina and the other spirulina alternatives on this list, wheatgrass contains many nutrients. It is rich in chlorophyll and provides you with high doses of vitamins A and E along with B vitamins like riboflavin and thiamin.
It contains high levels of minerals as well and can provide iron and magnesium in addition to a large amount of fiber. Wheatgrass is considerably richer in fiber than spirulina and the substitutes for it listed above. Just like spirulina, wheatgrass contains antioxidants that can reduce inflammation and your risk of cancer.
Wheatgrass does have more of a noticeable flavor when you compare it to spirulina. It is mildly bitter and grassy but you may be able to hide the bitterness by combining it with sweet fruits or honey.
Barley grass is another superfood with a reputation for its high levels of the same important nutrients that you get from spirulina. In particular, it is known to provide vitamin B1 and calcium. Barley grass is made from the young leaves of the barley plant and is rich in fiber.