Do you ever wonder how restaurants that claim they don’t use artificial colors can get that bright blue color for smoothies? How can something so vibrant not be made with artificial colors? The answer is something you probably would never expect: algae called spirulina. Spirulina is a superfood that has taken off in the health food world for both its natural pretty color and fantastic health benefits.

Technically, spirulina is a bacteria, but it’s loaded with health benefits. Spirulina is a staple for those who eat a plant-based diet, as it’s one of the most nutrient-dense superfoods in the world. It’s a complete protein, coming in with 4 grams of protein per tablespoon. It contains all the essential amino acids that our body needs, so adding spirulina to your diet is great for maximizing your health.

In addition to its high volume of protein, spirulina has a lot of positive benefits for your mind. It contains tryptophan, a precursor to serotonin. That means that spirulina can calm you down or lift you. Serotonin is a forerunner to melatonin, so taking spirulina can also help you fall asleep.

Spirulina has an endless list of health benefits, including improving gut health, boosting metabolism, and lowering cholesterol. You can take spirulina daily in the form of a pill, or you can add it to various foods. Since spirulina is an alga, it does have a bit of a fishy taste, so a little bit goes a long way. The flavor is easily masked when combined with other foods, so spirulina powder is excellent to add to smoothies, chia pudding, even some sauces.