Algae: The Food of The Future?

Listen to the full episode.

Plant Based Diet | Show Notes | Interview With Catharine Arnston, Founder & CEO Of Energybits

It has been touted as the food of the future and the most nutrient dense food on the planet. Algae is a food that’s “a gift to us from mother nature”, says Catharine Arnston, Founder & CEO of Energybits, who is interviewed in this episode.

What is Algae?
The type of algae discussed in the podcast is a food crop grown in fresh water. It is not grown in the ocean. It has a high content of protein, vitamins and minerals and is a multi billion-dollar industry in Asia.

Macroalgae and microalgae are two subcategories of algae. Macroalgae is what you see washed up on shore such as seaweed, dulse and kelp. Microalgae can be found everywhere, in the ocean, rivers and pools but it’s toxic to humans. Of the all the strains of microalgae, two types of microalgae are grown as an agricultural crop: 1) Spirulina (blue-green algae); and 2) Chlorella (green algae).

Difference Between Spirulina and Chlorella
Spirulina is technically bacteria. It has a very high concentration of protein and, according to Catharine Arnston, is known for giving a person energy and focus. Declared by the United Nations as “the best food for the future” and recommended to governments in a 2008 report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, spirulina has the potential to fulfill food security needs.

According to Arnston, spirulina is a complete protein. Spirulina also has B vitamins and essential fatty acids like omega-3 and GLA (gamma linolenic acid) and is high in iron, among many other nutritional benefits. According to Arnston who calls spirulina “efficient nutrition”, spirulina algae can satisfy hunger without carbs so people also use it for intermittent fasting.  

Chlorella is completely different than spirulina. One unique characteristics of chlorella is its high concentration of chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is important at the cellular level for getting nutrients in and toxins out. (For more on this, listen to Alternative Food Network’s Doctors+ podcast episode 10 on The Role of Nutrition in Mitochondrial Dysfunction and Chronic Disease with Dr. Mel Litman.) What kind of toxins? Arnston mentions its use after nuclear disasters, chemotherapy and even to avoid a hangover after drinking too much alcohol.

A second interesting characteristic about chlorella is that its chemical composition is similar to that of hemoglobin. Arnston points out that in WWI, when blood for transfusions ran out, the injured were given liquid chlorophyll.

Chlorella also is a natural source of Vitamin K2 which is important for heart and bone health says Arnston. Dietary sources of vitamin K2 include eggs, meat and various cheeses, foods which are lacking in a vegan diet.

Arnston also mentions that chlorella has been used to promote gut health.

How is Microalgae Processed?
Most microalgae is grown in Asia. It is grown in ponds and takes 1-2 months to grow. Then it’s dried into a powder. Energybits presses the powder into tablets, which tablets are imported into the US and tested by a third party lab.

2018 Farm Bill
The 2018 Farm Bill was signed into law in December 2018. It expanded federal support for algae agriculture, placing algae as one of the priorities for new crop development.

NASA’s Interest in Algae
Two of the reasons for NASA interest in algae are because of its nutritional density and oxygen generation according to Arnston.

Algae and COVID-19
Studies mentioned in the podcast:

  • University of Pittsburg algae nasal spray to prevent infection
  • Israel and Italy algae-based edible vaccine experiment
  • University of Western Ontario antibody test kit using algae

Who Should Not Consume Algae
According to Arnston, she has not heard of any allergies to spirulina. However, if someone is sensitive to vitamin K or beta-carotene, algae would not be appropriate.

Also, since chlorella pulls out toxins, Arnston did not know if chlorella identifies medication as a toxin. Therefore, Arnston recommends taking chlorella two hours before or after taking other medication. Arnston further says she’s “on the fence” about whether chlorella can treat auto-immune conditions despite it being an immune system builder.

Benefits of Algae if You’re Plant-Based
Of particular interest if you’re plant-based is that algae is a great source of omega-3’s, iron and chlorophyll. Arnston adds that today’s vegetables don’t contain the same nutrients as they once did so it’s difficult to get all the nutrients one needs with plants. Algae can be a great and easy source of nutrients.

Chlorella Detox
Since chlorella is a detoxifier, it is possible it could cause some short term distress according Arnston such as headaches, breakouts and stomach discomfort.

Algae for Immune Support
Algae provides great immune support, says Arnston. Algae has so many nutrients including zinc, vitamin A, B3, amino acids and chlorophyll that it makes it “easy to stay healthy”.

Future for Algae
We’re going to see it more and more in drinks and foods such as meat alternatives, soups, sauces and pasta. It’s even being used in food packaging. Unilever recently entered into a partnership with biotech startup Algenuity. They are exploring microalgae’s potential in food innovation. Algae represents an alternative source of protein which is key to feeding a growing population while reducing the impact on the environment.

Additional Resources
Microalgae: A potential alternative supplementation for humans

Building Better Life Support Systems for Future Space Travel

Episode 5 – Algae: The Food of the Future?

Episode 5 – Algae: The Food of the Future

Listen to “Algae: The Food of the Future?” on Spreaker.

It has been touted as the food of the future and the most nutrient dense food on the planet. In this episode, Catharine Arnston, Founder & CEO of Energybits, discusses algae which she describes as a food that’s “a gift to us from mother nature”. Packed with vitamins, minerals and protein, it’s a multi-billion-dollar crop in Asia but not particularly well known as a food outside of Asia.

In this podcast you’ll hear:
1:15 – How Catharine got into the algae business
5:00 – Algae as a food
9:00 – Algae subcategories: Macroalgae and micro-algae
9:30 – 2 types of microalgae: 1) Blue-green 2) Green
10:15 – Difference between spirulina and chlorella
22:00 – How is microalgae grown and processed?
24:45 – Beware of heavy metals in algae
27:25 – NASA’s use of algae on space missions
28:50 – Products made from algae
29:45 – Algae trials related to COVID
30:30 – The science behind algae
31:15 – Are there health warnings?
33:45 – Benefits of algae for a plant-based diet
39:15 – Chlorella as a detoxifier and immunity booster
44:15 – Companies bringing algae to the mass market 

If you want to give algae a try you can visit the ENERGYbits® website at Use discount code AFN for 20% off your order!

If you use the discount code to make a purchase, Alternative Food Network will earn a commission at no cost to you. We do this only for products we like. 

Episode 4 – Plant Based During Coronavirus: Livestream with Fay and Ashley

Episode 4 – Plant Based During Coronavirus: Livestream with Fay and Ashley 

Listen to “Plant Based During Coronavirus: Livestream with Fay and Ashley” on Spreaker.

This is the audio version of a livestream virtual meetup with Fay and Ashely. We chat about their life during COVID-19, what they’re eating and what plant-based items they keep in their pantry.


Inflammatory and Anti-Inflammatory Foods

June 14, 2020

Having produced podcasts for the last couple of years related to food and health, there is consistent mention by our distinguished podcast guests and medical professionals of the connection between inflammation and diet. Based on information from these interviews, here’s a summary of inflammatory and anti-inflammatory foods as mentioned in Episodes 5 and 8 of Alternative Food Network’s Doctors+ podcast series and the Inflammation-Food Connection podcast.

Inflammatory Foods

  • Dairy
  • Alcohol
  • Processed meats, red meat
  • Refined sugar
  • Trans fats, saturated fasts
  • Refined carbohydrates e.g. white rice, white bread, white flour
  • Browned or burnt foods

Anti-inflammatory Foods

  • Monounsaturated fats e.g. olives, olive oil, macadamia nuts
  • Omega 3 fatty acids e.g. wild/unfarmed fish, pumpkin seeds, ground flax seeds, chia seeds, algae products
  • Whole or cracked grains e.g. quinoa, sorghum, millet, amaranth, bulgur
  • Naturally high fiber foods e.g. fruits, vegetables (particularly dark leafy greens)
  • Avocado
  • Legumes e.g. beans, lentils
  • Tofu
  • Tempeh
  • Nuts
  • Dark chocolate
  • Ginger
  • Turmeric + black pepper
  • Green tea
  • Blueberries

Doctors+ podcast series, Episode 8: Food and Mood (Part I)
Doctors+ podcast series, Episode 5: The Gut-Brain Axis
Inflammation-Food Connection Podcast

Episode 3 – The Plant Based Diet: Healthy Fat

Episode 3 – Healthy Fat

Listen to “Healthy Fat” on Spreaker.

In this 20 minute episode, Fay and Ashley are back discussing fat, why our bodies need fat and what plant based foods have healthy fats. You’ll also get great information about cooking with plant-based oils and their smoke points. As a bonus for our audience, Fay and Ashley have provided some great plant-based recipes (below).

In this podcast you’ll hear:
2:45 What are the four types of fats?
3:20 What are saturated fats?
3:50 What are trans fats?
4:30 What are mono-unsaturated fats?
4:45 What are poly-unsaturated fats?
5:30 Coconut cream
7:40 Examples of plant-based foods with good fat
9:00 Avocado
11:30 Why do we need fat?
12:15 How much fat should someone have on a daily basis?
14:00 Cooking with plant-based oils and their smoke points
17:45 Baking and cooking with avocado oil
19:30 Ashley’s cashew cheese sauce
19:45 Fay’s coconut whipping cream

This episode’s show notes are brought to you by Vurbl. Vurbl is launching new technology for audio creators like us. Join the beta at


CASHEW CHEESE SAUCE (courtesy of Ashley Kitchens)
2 cups soaked cashews
¼ cup nutritional yeast
2 tbsp. miso paste
Squeeze of lemon
Water to thin it out

Blend ingredients.
Pour into a bowl. Add dash of cayenne pepper.

WHIPPED GUACAMOLE (courtesy of Fay Knights)
4 medium-large ripe avocados
1 organic lemon or 3 limes juiced
1 tsp organic garlic powder (or 1 crushed garlic clove)
1/2 tsp organic onion powder
1 tsp fine pink Himalayan salt
1/2 tsp organic ground black pepper
punch smoked paprika optional

Add all ingredients to a high speed blender and blend on medium for 20-30 seconds.
Taste test and add more lemon/lime juice, salt, and pepper if desired.
With a rubber spatula, transfer to a serving bowl and enjoy!

COCONUT WHIPPED CREAM (courtesy of Fay Knights)
1 can full fat organic coconut milk
1-3 tbsp powdered organic cane or maple sugar depending on how sweet you like it – if you use maple, the whipped cream may have a more cream like colour instead of white.
1 tsp organic vanilla extract

pinch cinnamon and/or fine pink Himalayan salt

Refrigerate coconut milk can the night before.
Day of: start by putting a medium metal or glass mixing bowl in the freezer while gathering your ingredients and doing step 3.
Remove can of coconut milk from fridge, flip over and open the can from its opposite side. Pour out the water that has separated from the coconut fat. Tip: pour it in a sealable cup and store in the fridge to drink later or add to smoothies.
Remove bowl from the freezer. Scoop out coconut cream that is left in the can (after pouring out water) into the bowl and add organic powdered sugar and vanilla.
Beat on low with an electric mixer until well combined (maximum 1 minute).
Serve with your favourite fruit or dessert right away or cover bowl tightly with wrap and store in the fridge.

Lasts in the fridge for up to 5-7 days Do not over beat. If it’s over beaten the coconut fat will start to liquefy. You can substitute maple syrup, honey, or coconut nectar instead of powdered cane sugar but do not use more than 1-2 tsp because it will become too liquidy and will also separate a bit when stored in the fridge. Use a high fat coconut milk. These generally say “full fat” or “premium fat” on the can. Do not use cans that say “light” – light versions have very little fat content (not enough to make the whipped cream). 

Episode 2 – The Plant-Based Diet: Plant Based Meat Alternatives: Healthy or not?

Episode 2 – Plant Based Meat Alternatives: Healthy or not?

Listen to “Plant Based Meat Alternatives” on Spreaker.

We’re back with Fay and Ashley discussing plant based meat alternatives. We discuss ingredients of plant based burgers and whether the store-bought varieties are a healthy option.

We’re back with Fay and Ashley from episode 1 discussing plant based meat alternatives. We discuss plant based burger ingredients and whether the store-bought varieties are a healthy option.

What you’ll hear:
2:30   Why Ashley and Fay changed their meat-eating habits
5:00    Are plant based meat alternatives healthy?
6:30    What are plant based meat alternatives made of?
9:30    Homemade meatless alternatives
13:00  Store-bought meatless burger ingredients
14:30  Price comparison of beef v. plant based burger
16:45   Thumbs up or down on meatless burgers?

This episode’s show notes are brought to you by Vurbl. Vurbl is launching new technology for audio creators like us. Join the beta at

Mental Health: Coping Strategies For Children & Parents During Covid-19

In this unprecedented time, how can we enable success for our children and ourselves?

During Alternative Food Network’s livestream, child and adolescent psychologists Drs. Jennifer Felsher and Dahlia Fisher provide terrific insights about parenting during the coronavirus crisis.

How to Be Realistically Reassuring for Your Children
Realistically reassuring means being reassuring but truthful with your children and not making promises that you can’t keep. According to Dr. Fisher, when speaking with children about serious matters, “we can never guarantee to our children that everything is going to be fine but we can help our children base their thoughts and feelings on what’s most likely”. With the COVID-19 situation, there is so much uncertainty so it’s difficult to know what is “most likely”. Dr. Fisher recommends reassuring our children that we are doing everything that we can within our control, which includes washing our hands, socially distancing, limiting our exposure to the media and taking care of ourselves. As parents, “we can reassure our kids that they don’t have to run the show” and they have parents who are keeping them as safe as possible during this time.

Dr. Felsher recommends not using the term “the new normal” as in her opinion this is not reassuring for children. If your child asks when they can go back to school or when their sports or other activities will resume, don’t sugarcoat but reassure them that while we are not sure when, they will be able to go back to their activities when the time is right and when the officials let us know when it’s safe.

What does “I’m Bored” Really Mean?
While bored can certainly mean your child is just bored, Dr. Fisher says that sometimes it can mean “I’m lonely” or “I’m feeling isolated” or “I’m depressed”. While everyone is impacted by social isolation, for teenagers, for example, friends are their lifeline; though not everyone can navigate the shift from in-person to online. Not everyone is included in the same way. When kids aren’t in a natural environment of being together, it’s harder for some than others to stay connected.

For younger kids who may not have the words to describe exactly how they’re feeling, according to Dr. Felsher, “I’m bored” might mean they are missing what they are used to doing or they’re feeling stressed.

What should parents do when their kids say they’re bored? Dr. Felsher suggests helping children learn the appropriate language for their feelings. Investigate and ask “What do you mean by bored?” and suggest different feelings if their language isn’t developed enough such as “Does it mean you feel sad? Does it mean you’re feeling tired? Are you feeling scared?”. If it actually means bored, perhaps assist them in structuring themselves and organizing an activity.

Dr. Fisher adds that it’s ok to be bored too. It sometimes opens up the space for creativity. She adds that parents can also find an activity that the whole family can do together whether it’s going outside, playing a board game, doing a puzzle or calling family members. According to Dr. Fisher, it reminds children “I’m here. I might not be your first choice but I’m here”. While it may seem difficult to drop everything during the day and play with your children, according to Dr. Felsher, play is a good break for parents too.

Screen Time
“If you’re working and can’t physically be overseeing your child, especially if they’re younger, you’ve got to practice letting a lot of things go,” says Dr. Fisher. With older kids, help them recognize their patterns of behaviour such as grumpiness that can result from too much screen time in order to set them up for success the following day.

For adolescents who connect socially with their friends on screens, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing according to Dr. Felsher. As a parent, ask your teen what they are doing on the phone and with whom are they speaking. Have an open conversation with your child about what they do online so you as a parent understand better what their online world is all about. However, when it comes to a schedule for usage and whether screens should be taken away for bedtime, Dr. Fisher replies with a “hard yes”. Sleep is so important for physical and mental health.

Best practices for sleep hygiene include:
• Having a time for turning screens off.
• Stop screens at least an hour before going to sleep.
• No screens in bedroom at night and charge outside the bedroom.

When it comes to adolescents being excluded online by their peers, it’s important for parents to validate their child’s feelings. Ask the child if there is someone else they can call. It’s also important as parents to figure out if your child is actually being excluded or is your child retreating. Perhaps they would actually be welcomed by the peer group if they tried to engage.

Self-Care for Parents
Give yourself permission to prioritize family connections over an immaculate home. Get dressed in the morning. Have a routine. Go outside. “It makes the difference psychologically…when you do some basic self care,” says Dr. Felsher. Dr. Felsher also recommends exercising 3-4 times per week. It might be hard to get motivated right now but “it’s critical both for your physical health and also for your mental health.” Many online exercise classes are even being offered for free right now.

It’s also important for parents to manage their own anxiety right now. “Look at yourself and what’s keeping you up at night and find a way to manage yourself,” says Dr. Fisher. During this coronavirus, “it really is that much more important to make those efforts to do things that make you feel good,” says Dr. Felsher.

If you have a partner, work on being on the same page as your partner and take the time to have those conversations with your partner about what you need and what your partner needs. “The more you put your needs out there, the better chance you have of getting them met,” says Dr. Fisher.

Tips for a Healthy Lifestyle
In addition to good quality sleep, exercise and self-care, diet is also an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Esther Garfin of Alternative Food Network agrees and refers to the recent publication of her podcast interview about the connection between diet and mental health. Listen here to the 2-part episode titled Food and Mood which is part of Alternative Food Network’s Doctors+ podcast series.

Additional Resources

To Ghee or Not to Ghee – That is the Question, but What is the Right Answer?

By Anita Mehta

To Ghee or Not to Ghee – That is the Question, but What is the Right Answer?

If your focus is health, wellbeing and embracing a better quality of life, then you have likely already heard of GHEE and its numerous benefits.  Used in Indian cooking for thousands of years, it is simply a clarified form of butter, heated to the point that the milk and water solids have separated and then removed, making it ideal for those lactose intolerant. Ketogenic and paleo diet friendly, it has a rich, nutty and caramelized type of flavoring, requiring no refrigeration.  Ghee made from cow’s milk is the best and readily available in grocery stores.

With its high levels of vitamin A, D, E, K, and CLA, a known anti-carcinogen, ghee delivers powerful benefits. It has been shown to rejuvenate and revitalize the whole body – from boosting immunity, decreasing inflammation, contributing to heart health, improving vision and promoting healthy hair and skin.  If that isn’t enough to convince you – it can even support weight loss as its amino acids help increase lean body mass while reducing the size of fat cells.  Essentially ghee acts as an instant energy source and is not stored as fat.

Ghee can be easily incorporated in your daily routine, either by itself or in cooking. You can take 1 tsp on an empty stomach each morning or blend into your tea, coffee or smoothie.  Using a blender to mix in the ghee creates a smooth, rich consistency, but without the dairy.  Easily used in stir fry’s, soups or pasta- it has a high smoke point, making it a healthier replacement to oils with a lower smoke point.  When an oil is thoroughly heated, it begins to smoke, break down and become oxidized. Research has shown that consuming oil that has been oxidized may create free radicals within the body, increasing the risk for developing cancer.

With so much to offer, it would appear to be a super food, however it is still high in saturated fat and should be used in moderation ideally 1-2 tsp a day, enough to still reap its wonderful rewards.

Turmeric Latte

  • 1 cup milk (dairy, coconut, almond, soy)
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ tsp ghee
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • ½ tsp ground fennel seeds (optional)
  • 1 tsp honey (optional)

Whisk milk, spices, honey, ghee, and water in a small saucepan and bring to a low boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 5 minutes.

Chocolate Fruit Dip 

Over low heat, stir together 1 tsp ghee, 1 tsp coconut oil, ½ tsp raw honey, and a handful of dark-chocolate chips until melted. 


What Is Ghee and What Are Its Benefits?
By Nicole Leatherman, Nutrition Writer and Editor

Anita embraces a variety of interests ranging from mentoring, travel & event planning, cooking, writing and volunteering.  Previously having worked in financial services, she now enjoys the freedom and versatility each day brings.