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Whether or not you’re a vegetarian or vegan, it may be time to set your sights on algae, quinoa, and legumes for healthier, fiber-packed sources of protein. Scientists emphasized the potential of these various proteins at IFT15: Where Science Feeds Innovation at the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) in Chicago on July 12, noting that algae, quinoa, and legumes are the top choices for alternative protein if you’re interested in changing your diet up a bit.

“Are consumers ready for algae as an ingredient?” said Beata Klamczynska, the head of food application development at Solazyme, a biotechnology company, in the press release. “The more they learn, the more excited they get. Just a little education eliminates any doubts. There are thousands of algae strains to choose from for a variety of products.”

Certainly, algae doesn’t sound too appealing: it typically refers to a large group of eukaryotic organisms — ranging from microscopic things to giant kelp and seaweeds. While you’ve probably eaten seaweed at some point, the new protein frontier aims to take algae to the next level and make it a pretty solid source of protein — healthier for you (and hopefully better for the environment) than poultry or red meat.

Take Aurora Algae, for example. It’s a company located in California that “combines cutting edge biotechnology with proprietary cultivation techniques” to create “long-term, sustainable alternatives for the food, pharma, and supplement markets.” Aurora Algae is focused on making omega-3 fatty acids in algae for both food and pharmaceutical markets, and they reportedly do so in a way that’s helpful for the environment — by growing it only with sunlight and carbon dioxide waste from nearby industrial centers.

Algae isn’t just being used for protein. At Solazyme, researchers take microalgae and use it to create “renewable oils and powerhouse ingredients that serve as the foundation for healthier foods; better home, personal care, and industrial products; and more sustainable fuels.”

When it comes to quinoa and legumes — which include black beans, chickpeas, lentils, peas, and edamame (soybeans) — adding these into your daily salad or vegetables will provide you with a strong supply of protein and a supplement of folate, fiber, potassium, iron, and magnesium. Legumes contain no cholesterol and are incredibly low in fat. So while you’re waiting for the latest algae food products to come out, dig into the quinoa and legumes. They’re trendy for a reason.

 

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