I present to you all a list of food with algae. I hope you like it and use it in the future and tell your friends to read it too. Algae are a groundbreaking, sustainable source of food and energy that’s transforming industries around the world. From creating food for family pets, to making biofuels to power trucks and airplanes, algae fuel is truly versatile. And with billions of square feet of algae farms on land and sea opening up every year, it’s never been more important to know about this innovative source of food and energy – including how it can help you eat healthier and live cleaner!
Food With Algaes
Researchers could adjust the colour of the algae, but it’s very complicated: it would require extracting the desired components from the algae and then refining them. The problem here is that this increases the costs, and extracting the colour would also depend on the final product itself. Imogen Foubert, head of the Food & Lipids lab at the Catholic University Leuven (campus Kulak Kortrijk), has done a lot of research into fats in microalgae, and says, “It’s very difficult to strip the fats in green algae of their green colour without also losing certain beneficial qualities. Together with the green pigments, you would also be removing the carotenoids: antioxidants that oxidatively stabilise the fats (giving it a longer shelf life, ed.). For protein applications, decolourising is the easier solution. Because pigments are fat-soluble, they stay behind in the fats when you extract them from the proteins.”
So, what other options are there when preparing algae-infused foods?
1. EAT ALGAE WITH ALREADY-GREEN FOODS
Image by Roos Mestdagh
Foubert explains an easier option:“choosing specific foods in which the green colour doesn’t stand out. We’re already used to green smoothies, soups or sauces. But green sandwiches or meat products… not so much. My research group once made a type of Plop sausage with algae. It turned out to be really green – although a good marketer could probably still sell something like that.
A small amount of one or 2% of algae already has a strong impact on the colour of your food. On the other hand, there are also algae that aren’t green, so maybe red microalgae would do better in meat products.”
2. USE SPIRULINA FOR AN AESTHETIC PLATE
To seaweed chef Donald Deschagt of Le Homard et La Moule in the Belgian coastal town Bredene, however, the typical Spirulina colour is an asset. “I use Spirulina powder for its nice green colour and as a salt substitute. A dash of Spirulina in a meringue makes it stand out next to the red fruit that I serve it with. I also use it in rolls, seaweed sausage, shrimp crackers, macarons and biscuits.” The amounts that Deschagt uses are too small to cause a distinct Spirulina taste or an extremely bright colour. But his dishes prove that a green touch doesn’t pose any problems for those who are open to new experiences.
3. ADDING FLAVOUR WITH ALGAE
The flavour is a story in itself – algae is actually a very diverse group, hence the enormous diversity in flavours. “Some flavours are a bit grassy, others remind of fish or lobster. It’s a matter of choosing the right combinations. I once had cocktail nuts that were actually tastier with algae powder than without”, Foubert recounts.
Alexander Mathys, a researcher on microalgae processing at the ETH Zurich, particularly sees potential in heterotrophic algae (which means they don’t photosynthesize), as they do not have a green colour from lack of photosynthesizing. “In green algae, the flavour poses a bigger challenge than in heterotrophic algae, which we can season with natural flavours or herbs. After all, we seldom consume pure, unseasoned ingredients. So let’s get creative.”
However, Fouberts notes that “those heterotrophic algae do come with a drawback, they don’t contain the carotenoids that are found in green algae, which makes them more susceptible to deterioration by oxygen.”
4. ADDING TEXTURE TO ALGAE
Image by Roos Mestdagh
Algae powder alone will not help to meet our protein needs. Siegfried Vlaeminck, who researches sustainable microbial technologies at the University of Antwerp shares that, “We have to go from supplement to ingredient, which will require creativity and food technology. Most people will not be that quick to start using powders or pellets, so it’s important to give the algae proteins a certain texture. Think for example of ready-to-cook plant-based burgers, mince or chicken nuggets. These proteins are isolated from soy or peas and then texturized. A commonly used method for this is extrusion.”
Extrusion is a technique that uses screws, heat and pressure to transform the algae proteins into a solid mass of meat-like fibres. Mathys and his colleagues experimented with this technique: “In our experiments, extrusion didn’t work quite well with pure algae proteins. But, mixing it with other proteins, like legumes for example, gave the best results in terms of nutritional value, texture and other organoleptic properties (flavour, odour, look, etc.).”
A mix of 60% soy and 30% algae proved to be ideal in their experiment. The specific type of algae used by the team produced a final product containing significantly more vitamin B1, B2 and E compared to another meat substitute made only of soy. “We used a yellow, heterotrophic cultivated microalgae. So our final result was not bright green, which is a really difficult colour to commercialize.”
Foods That Contain Algae
While some foods obviously contain algae, such as dried seaweed snacks, it can be challenging to spot algae on all food labels. Familiarize yourself with the names of algae derivatives and food products that commonly contain them.
Some foods that contain algae include the following. Note that not all foods in these categories are guaranteed to contain algae — you still have to look at ingredient lists to confirm.
1. Some Dairy Products
Dairy products are a common source of carrageenan, a thickening ingredient derived from red seaweed. You might find carrageenan in dairy products like yogurt, whipped cream, chocolate milk, cottage cheese, ice cream and coffee creamers.
2. Non-Dairy Milk Alternatives
Like dairy products, non-dairy alternatives may contain hidden sources of algae. Carrageenan and agar are also used to thicken foods such as almond milk, vegan cheese and non-dairy creamers.
3. Seaweed Supplements
Supplements like spirulina and chlorella powders are potent sources of algae. These supplements can be used to fill nutritional gaps.
“A 2-teaspoon serving of chlorella can pack in 60 percent of our daily needs for vitamin A and 70 percent of our daily needs for iron,” says Mackenzie Burgess, RDN. “Although we shouldn’t rely on chlorella to meet our daily needs for these nutrients, it can be an easy way to help fill in any gaps.”
4. Sea Vegetables
If you’ve had sushi, you’ve had algae. Sushi is made with nori sheets, a common algae product.
“Nori is made from red algae, which is a great source of B vitamins and calcium,” Burgess says. “You can add it to sushi bowls, soup or hummus.”
Nori is also the main ingredient in seaweed snacks. “By definition, seaweed is algae. You can buy ready-to-eat seaweed snacks. They’re very low in calories, contain protein and are bursting with immunity-helping vitamin C,” says Amy Gorin, RDN.
5. Seafood Spices
Some spices intended for seafood may contain algae. Because sea vegetables are a great source of iodine, many vegans eat algae food products like dulse flakes, agar powder and kelp granules. These can add flavor to food or be used for other purposes like thickening.
Kelp granules and dulse flakes are types of seaweed that can be sprinkled onto food to add salty, umami flavors and trace minerals.
Algae that are Used as Human Food.
Chlorella is a unicellular alga which possesses a very high quality of food value. It is high in protein and other essential nutrients; when dried, it is about 45% protein, 20% fat, 20% carbohydrate, 5% fiber, and 10% minerals and vitamins. Recently, chlorella is being tried on mass scale culturing for human consumption.
It is used as diet food, as it provides the highest levels of dietary nucleic acids in all foods. Dietary nucleic acids (e.g., RNA) are now recognized as powerful, natural substances that provide super nutrition, rejuvenate, heal, and help create optimum health. Researchers who’ve studied chlorella extensively say it’s nature’s “Perfect Food” (in fact, NASA studied it as a food for astronauts).
2. Porphyra (A Red Alga)
Porphyra is a cold water seaweed that grows in cold, shallow seawater. It has 30-35% proteins, 40-45% carbohydrates and a very high percentage of vitamins. In East Asia, it is used to produce the sea vegetable products such as “amanori” in Japan. The common preparation is known as “Asakusa nori” (Japanese), Zakai, gim (Korean) and zicai (Chinese). The alga is sold and eaten together with rice.
Most human cultures with access to Porphyra use it as a food or somehow in the diet, making it perhaps the most domesticated of the marine algae. There are considered to be 60 to 70 species of Porphyra worldwide and seven around Britain and Ireland where it has been traditionally used to produce edible sea vegetables on the Irish Sea coast.
3. Dulse (Palmaria palmata)
It is a red alga (Rhodophyta) and also called dulse, red dulse or sea lettuce flakes. It grows on the northern coasts of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Dulse is a good source of minerals, being very high in iron and containing all the trace elements needed in human nutrition. Its vitamin content is also much higher than a vegetable such as spinach. It has high protein content (more than 20%) but lacks the essential amino acid b.
Dulse is a well-known snack food. In Nova Scotia and Maine, dried dulse is often served as a salty cocktail snack in bars. It is eaten raw in Ireland, like chewing tobacco, or is cooked with potatoes, in soups, and fish dishes. In present-day cuisine, dulse can be incorporated into bread, fish dishes, fish and vegetable soups, toasted and eaten as a snack, or fried crisp as a substitute for fried bacon.
4. Laminaria (A Brown Alga)
Laminaria is a kelp that finds its place in the brown algae family. Laminarian species contain about 10% protein, 2% fat, and useful amounts of minerals and vitamins, though generally lower than those found in “nori”. The mineral constituents of Laminaria include iodine, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and iron. The alga is commonly cultivated and grown on stones, cylinders, and ropes.
Laminaria species yields a food product known as “Kombu” or “Konbu”. Kombu is used extensively in Japanese cuisines as one of the three main ingredients needed to make dashi, a soup stock. It is also sold dried or pickled in vinegar.
5. Alaria (A Brown Alga)
Alaria is a genus of brown alga comprising approximately 17 species. Members of the genus are dried and eaten as a food in Western Europe, China, Korea, Japan, and South America. Alaria yields a product known as “Sarumen” in Japan. Alaria esculenta, in particular, is an excellent source of protein and iodine.
6. Nostoc (Blue-green Algae)
Nostoc is a genus of cyanobacteria found in various environments that form colonies composed of filaments in a gelatinous sheath. Containing protein and vitamin C, Nostoc species are cultivated and consumed as a foodstuff, primarily in Asia. Balls of Nostoc (terrestrial species) are collected, boiled and consumed as food by the Chinese and the South Americans.
7. Monostroma (a green Alga)
Monostroma occurs naturally in the bays and gulfs of southern areas of Japan. It is a flat, leafy plant and only one cell thick. It contains 20% protein on average and has a useful vitamin and mineral content. The seaweed is washed well post-harvest. It is then either processed into sheets and dried, or simply dried and then boiled with sugar, soy sauce, and other ingredients to make “nori-jam”.
8. Ulva (a green Alga)
Sea lettuce is a thin, green seaweed, a species of Ulva. It is collected from the wild and sometimes added to Monostroma, Enteromorpha sp. to create a food product called “aonori”, which enhances the taste of warm dishes like rice, soups, and salads. It has a higher protein content than the other two and is rich in iron. Ulva lactuca was formerly used in salad and soups in Scotland.
Enteromorpha is cultivated and found in bays and river mouths around Japan. They are also found in many other parts of the world, including Europe and North America. They contain about 20% protein and are low in fat and sodium and high in iron and calcium. The seaweed can be lightly toasted to improve the flavor and powdered for use as a condiment on soups and foods, or it can be crushed into small pieces and used as a garnish.
How marine algae could help feed the world
Our planet faces a growing food crisis. According to the United Nations, more than 800 million people are regularly undernourished. By 2050, an additional 2 to 3 billion new guests will join the planetary dinner table.
Meeting this challenge involves not only providing sufficient calories for every person, but also assuring a balanced diet that includes the protein and nutrients that are essential to good health. In a newly published study, we explain how marine microalgae could be a sustainable solution for solving global macro-hunger.
Problems with current food production systems
The current Western diet requires vast amounts of land, water and energy, is heavily polluting and is a major contributor to climate change. Providing nutritious food for an ever-growing global population with increasing per capita demand is pushing our current food production system beyond its limits.
Livestock production is replacing forests with cropland and pastures for meat and animal feed. Nitrogen and phosphorous fertilizer used to grow feed grain and other crops is degrading soils and creating biological dead zones in some 400 estuaries around the world.
Fish are an important source of omega-3 fatty acids and essential amino acids that make up our proteins. However, eating fish has some downsides. They can concentrate heavy metals and toxic organic chemicals in their tissues and pass them on to us. Furthermore, most ocean fisheries are overfished or at maximum production.
Aquaculture is producing a growing share of world seafood. But fish farms can have serious environmental impacts, including water pollution, disease transmission to wild fish and habitat destruction. Demand for small ocean fish to feed those raised on farms is depleting wild stocks.
An alternative approach: Cutting out the ‘middle fish’
In our paper, we propose an alternative solution: commercial production of marine microalgae as a staple human food and feed for animals and farmed fish. These tiny organisms are the ultimate source of omega-3 fatty acids and amino acids that humans need in our diets, and which many of us get by eating fish. But fish are merely aquatic intermediaries in the nutrition business. We can feed the world more efficiently by “cutting out the middle fish.”
Microalgae are a nearly untapped resource, and are found in both freshwater and marine aquatic systems. Although they are only few micrometers in size, they produce amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, polymers and carbohydrates.
For example, the omega-3 rich microalgae Nannochloropsis oculata, or simply Nanno, is a promising potential source of high-nutrient food and feed. It is 40 percent protein by dry weight, of which one-third contains essential amino acids, and 6 percent EPA omega-3 essential fatty acid in a highly bioavailable form.
Only a handful of algal species are used commercially now, but hundreds of strains have the potential to become food and feed sources. Microalgae are currently used as a food ingredient, a food supplement and as aquafeed for fish.
Microalgae are commercially cultivated using several methods that have a range of sustainability footprints. The first is an aerobically fermented system, where cultivation is performed in dark, mixing vessels using sugar as the main energy source for the algae. Algae may also be cultivated in open ponds, using either fresh- or saltwater, carbon dioxide and sunlight. Alternatively, they may be grown in brackish water or seawater in closed, transparent tubes called photobioreactors.
Nanno is currently being grown at a commercial scale using brackish water in outdoor ponds with added carbon dioxide in Texas, and in photobioreactors using seawater and carbon dioxide at a geothermal power station in Iceland. Here sunlight is replaced by efficient LED lights powered by inexpensive, zero-polluting renewable electricity from the power plant.
Photobioreactors require the least amount of water and fertile land. These reactors are like LEGO blocks that can be stacked vertically. Since it is a closed system, this approach minimizes loss of water through evaporation.
One sustainability metric for comparing protein production from animals, plants and marine algae is the amount of land and water needed to produce an equal quantity of essential amino acids from each type of food. We calculate that producing one kilogram of beef-sourced essential amino acids requires 148,000 liters of freshwater and 125 square meters of fertile land. In contrast, producing the same amount from Nanno raised in an open pond with brackish water requires only 20 liters of freshwater and 1.6 square meters of nonfertile land.
Counterintuitively, some plant protein requires very large amounts of land and water, even relative to some meat sources. For example, peas require about twice as much freshwater and 6.5 times the footprint of fertile land to produce the same amount of essential amino acids as chicken.
Turning microalgae into food products
How does one eat Nanno? Currently it comes as a soft gel capsule of marine microalgae oil, marketed as an alternative to krill or fish oil as a daily source for omega-3’s. In powdered form, whole algae or algae extract could serve as an ingredient in health bars, sports snacks or pasta. Whole algae, such as Spirulina and Chlorella, are already commercially viable and have entered the market, along with other algae-based products such as algal tea and algal flour.
In its current form Nanno can be used as a protein and fatty acid supplement to improve the nutritional level of undernourished people around the world, and as feed for farmed fish and livestock. Most algae-based products are marketed in the United States as dietary supplements, but we believe the time has arrived to introduce algae-based foods to the dining table.
A number of companies already offer innovative alternative meat products, which have the potential to become large-scale food sources with nutritional content and taste comparable to meat. But products based on potatoes, wheat and soy still consume large amounts of freshwater and arable land, with the same environmental disadvantages of current agriculture.
By our calculation, pea- and soy-based alternative meat products with similar nutritional amino acid value to Nanno could be produced using 6.4 times less freshwater than beef, but would require 2.2 times more fertile land. In contrast, using marine microalgae reduces land usage by over 75-fold, since no fertile land is required, and lowers freshwater usage by a factor of 7,400.
Our paper describes a sustainable system for cultivating microalgae that is economically viable. The next step is persuading food scientists to utilize it as the basis for alternative meat products. Chefs and connoisseurs, gastronomes and gourmands, consumers and critics can all help the planet by taking part in a global transition to algae-burgers.