It is often said that things that taste nice must be bad for you, and that things that taste disgusting must be good for you. Sometimes though, a disgusting thing that’s meant to be good for you is so disgusting that you don’t care how good for you it is.
This is true of my adventures with a dietary supplement called spirulina. Spirulina is widely hailed a ‘superfood’. Although it can’t make you taller, make your hair grow back, give you x-ray vision, turn you into a love god or enable you to fly, it seems it can do pretty much everything else.
There were two particular benefits of spirulina that interested me:
- it reduces fatigue, giving you more energy;
- it boosts your immune system.
I was in great need of both these things when I went to talk to the occupational health nurse at work last spring.
Two of the effects or symptoms of my lingering depression had been physical and mental lethargy, and a constant stream of tedious minor ailments and illnesses. The nurse suggested a number of things – particularly some supplements to my diet - that might help to get me fit again. Spirulina was one of them.
Eager to eradicate my troublesome symptoms and get on with the business of shaking off my depression, I went out one lunchtime to a health food shop in town and left with various tablets and potions, some of which I’ve stuck with and others that had no discernible effect. And then there was the spirulina. Popping in to a nearby smoothie shop for a fruit fix, I spotted a brown bag, labelled ‘spirulina powder’. The chap in the shop raved about its greatness and offered it to me at a reduced price.
“Mix it in with a smoothie or juice,” he advised. Off I went, clutching my bargain bag of superfood, eager to try it out and reawaken my dormant inner superhero.
Spirulina is a naturally occurring algae, and what I hadn’t expected was that it would revert to its natural slimy state at the merest hint of moisture. Even before it morphed into thick, dark-green slime, the smell emanating from the open bag was a clear warning that this was not going to taste good. But it would be good for me, so I would be brave and do what was necessary to reap the rewards of this miraculous gloop.
I put a spoonful of spirulina powder into my morning smoothie, and watched it turn green. Not a nice, appetising green. Slime green. Pondweed green. Algae green. I stirred it furiously to try and blend in the claggy blobs of goo, but lumps of it stuck to the spoon. Then I took a deep breath, and downed some. So much for my new va-va-voom – this was more like va-va-vomit. It was utterly, utterly rank. Not only did it taste vile, it encased my teeth, and the taste lingered. One perfectly good smoothie ruined.
Day after day, I tried to complete a glass of this rancid concoction, and each time coughed, spluttered and gagged my way through it. Thinking I must be getting the mixture wrong, I tried different juices. Still it stank. Still it tasted putrid. I tried mixing it with water. Even worse. Nothing makes algae feel more at home than water, and the spirulina thrived in my glass, but much less so on my taste buds, which rejected it out of hand.
I persisted for far longer than any right-minded person would do, but my enthusiasm for experimenting with spirulina was in terminal decline. Having tried just about everything else, I gave it one last go – on its own. No mixture. No blending. Just the spirulina powder, on a teaspoon. Well, as bad ideas go, this one was a medal-winner.
On contact with my mouth, the powder seemed to expand and fill my mouth, so I could hardly breathe. The saliva in my mouth transformed it into one part super-claggy slime and one part dynamite. The putrescent slime clung to my teeth, tongue and gums, and the dynamite part built up in my mouth, choking me, until it exploded, leaving me staggering around the kitchen, erupting like some green-cloud-spewing volcano.
It was the final straw.
I did try spirulina tablets, the less offensive cousin of the powder, but the jar demanded that I take six tablets every day. “Not at that price,” I objected, so I took one a day, with no benefits whatsoever, until the jar was empty.
Some time later, I saw the man from the smoothie shop and he asked me how I’d got on with my purchase. I told him it had been unbelievably revolting. He asked if I’d mixed it with juice. I said yes, I’d mixed in one teaspoon of the powder, as he’d suggested…
“A whole teaspoon?” he said. “No mate, you only need half a teaspoon.”
Ah yes, that was what he had said. My memory, along with my energy, had disappeared into the fog of depression, and I’d somehow remembered the wrong quantity. But it was too late by then. I had fallen out with the spirulina and thrown it all in the bin. And there was no way I was going to put that stuff anywhere near my mouth again.