(Health Secrets Newsletter) At the base of the food chain are tiny bits of matter called plankton (which is Greek for wandering thing). There are two primary types of plankton: Phytoplankton (tiny plants) and Zooplankton (tiny animals). Plankton comprises the foundation of the entire ecosystem, and many of the most essential health products are actually types of plankton. This article will explore the most beneficial types of plankton.
Phytoplankton are plankton from plant sources and include cyanobacteria, diatoms, and dinoflagellates. The word algae is similar to phytoplankton though there is a distinction: while all phytoplankton are algae, not all algae are phytoplankton. Marine phytoplankton have higher access to minerals compared to their freshwater version and are available in supplement form. The most common pure supplement forms of phytoplankton are different types of microalgae:
* Chlorella – Chlorella vulgaris (Chlorellaceae) – A single-celled green algae, Chlorella are found in fresh water, soil and tree bark. Chlorella contains 45% protein, 20% fat, 20% carbohydrate, 5% fiber and 10% vitamins and minerals. Chlorella multiplies through photosynthesis and requires only CO2, water, sunlight and trace minerals. Chlorella helps to reduce dioxin levels in breast milk, making it an excellent choice for nursing mothers. Chlorella has been shown to help reduce fat cells. Because it has a strong cell wall that prevents it from being adequately broken down and absorbed by the human digestive system in its natural state, Chlorella requires special processing to crack the cell walls open. Chlorella has antibacterial properties, and contains growth factors and a high level of chlorophyll.
* Kelp – Macrocystis pynryfera (Phaeophyceae) – Kelp are marine macroalgae (large seaweed), belonging to the brown algae family. Kelp grows in underwater forests in clear, shallow oceans and requires water below about 20 Â°C. Kelp offers a protection to some sea creatures, or food for others. Kelp contains most every mineral and trace element necessary for human health, including high concentrations of iodine. Kelp contains sterols which are known to reduce cholesterol. Kelp is used as a salt substitute and makes a great popcorn seasoning. Kelp has anti-tumor properties.
* Spirulina – Arthrospira Platensis (Cyanobacteria) – Spirulina are single-celled blue green algae that grow in warm freshwater ponds and lakes. Spirulina contain chlorophyll along with most essential vitamins and minerals. Spirulina from pure sources helps remove heavy metals from the body, boosts the immune system, normalizes cardiovascular function, improves digestion and reduces allergies. A distant relative of kelp, spirulina favors alkaline water. Spirulina does not have a cellulose cell wall so it does not require processing as chlorella does. Spirulina has antioxidant properties. Both spirulina and chlorella are rich in astaxanthin which is considered to be one of the most potent antioxidants on earth.
Zooplankton are plankton from animal sources and include chaetognatha, cladocera, cnidarians, copepods, ctenophores, euphausids, krillnanoplanktonic flagellates, protists, rotifers, tunicates and veliger larvae. Below are details on the most common zooplankton available in supplement form:
* Krill – Meganyctiphanes Norvegica (Euphausiacea) – Krill are like tiny shrimp that are found all over the world. Krill are zooplankton in the early stages of life until they grow to a certain size (they eventually reach up to over 1 inch long). In cold waters, krill often feed on phytoplankton including diatoms. In warmer water they prefer to eat other zooplankton. Krill is a great source of omega 3 as well as astaxanthin, the carotenoid that provides shellfish their red color. Astaxanthin is what makes wild salmon red (meanwhile farm-raised salmon is fed pink paint pellets). Krill is also the primary whale food. Krill has neuro-protective properties.
* Krill Oil – Provided it comes from pure (or eco-harvested) sources, krill oil ranks among the highest quality fish oil supplements available. However, Whole Foods recently announced it would halt the sale because of fears that krill oil is not sustainable. Some companies such as Aker BioMarine have obtained certification from the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) as a testament of their environmental sustainability. Krill Oil has anti-inflammatory properties.
Thoughts about Preplankton?
How did plankton get here? In particular, how did the first (plant and animal) single-celled organisms form? This turns out to be one of the fundamental questions of all time, for there exist no known prebacteria on earth! The difference in complexity between hydrocarbons (carbon-based molecular chains that form naturally and are well understood) and bacteria (which are alive) is akin to the difference between a hammer and a jumbo jet. Bacteria are found everywhere on earth where there is water, even at the most extreme temperatures. Did they evolve here or did they rain down from space? If the latter is the case, where did they originate?