Protein is crucial for building and maintaining muscle mass, regulating hormones and enzymes in the body, and even producing immune cells to keep you healthy.
In today's marketplace, there are many types of protein in the form of snacks, meals, shakes, and bars. From whey to pea protein, they each have advantages and disadvantages, so how do you choose?
One newcomer to the protein scene is algae. Read on to learn some surprising benefits; you may find yourself seeking out this impressive protein source.
What Is Algae?
Algae is an aquatic plant that lacks the typical structure of a plant without roots, stems, and leaves. Algae can grow in both salt and freshwater on its own. There are likely hundreds of thousands of different species of algae on the planet, possibly even more.
The most common types of algae are divided into categories, including
- Red algae
- Brown algae
- Green algae
- Blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria
Algae can also be found in several forms that are common foods. For example, seaweed snacks are a type of algae, and types of red and brown algae are often used in soups for their nutritional value. Blue-green algae, like Spirulina, are commonly found on shelves in health food stores. Nannochloropsis algae also has a strong reputation as a nutrient-rich strain of algae and microalgae.
What Are the Benefits of Algae Protein?
Among the several types of algae, they all have one thing in common — they are impressive sources of protein. In addition to their protein content, many types of algae feature several other nutrients as well. You can expect several surprising benefits when you obtain your protein through algae.
1. High Protein Content
Although it may not be at the top of your list when looking for a protein-dense food, you will probably be surprised to find that algae is often comparable to other sources of protein, like soybeans and eggs. This surprising source of protein may even surpass others.
For example, Nannochloropsis algae can be made up of anywhere from 25% to 55% total protein. Meanwhile, Chlorella is usually about 51-58% protein, and Spirulina has 670% more protein than protein-rich tofu. Clearly, algae is not just a simple source of protein, but in fact, it may be one of the best.
2. Large Amino Acid Profile
In total, there are 20 amino acids that the body can use to synthesize proteins for either building muscle, creating energy, or repairing cells.
Of these 20, the body can make 11 of them on its own, but there are nine amino acids that the body cannot make and must obtain through food. Foods containing all nine of these amino acids are called complete proteins and include beef, poultry, eggs, dairy, soy, and quinoa.
While plant sources of complete proteins are rare, algae is a powerhouse in this category. Nannochloropsis, Spirulina, and Chlorella all deliver complete amino acid profiles, qualifying them to claim the same quality as eggs and beef. Even forms of algae that are not complete proteins still boast an admirable amino acid profile.
3. Great for Plant-Based Lifestyles
Not everyone recognizes the great benefits that algae offers as part of a plant-based diet. In the past, it was easy to overlook algae all together and focus on plant foods that are traditionally farmed, like peas and soy. However, algae is completely vegan and thus an excellent source of plant-based protein.
If you are on a plant-based diet and are mindful about obtaining your protein through sources like soy, legumes, grains, and various vegetables, you can easily add algae to your list of potential sources. As highlighted earlier, Spirulina is so protein dense it has over six times more protein than tofu, which is often touted as the best plant-based protein source.
4. Rich in Antioxidants
One of the great benefits of algae protein is the nutrients that accompany it. Of these nutrients, the high antioxidant content is one of the most notable nutritional benefits. Algae contains carotenoids, which boast impressive antioxidant properties.
Antioxidants play an important role in the body by working to support cells against damage from free radicals. These molecules damage your cells through a process called oxidative stress which can result in early aging. Few forms of protein come with such an impressive accompaniment of antioxidants, easily setting algae apart from other protein sources. In fact, whey protein is the only protein source that comes close to providing such a high protein density and antioxidant level.
Sugary, high-carb, fatty, and processed foods can all contribute to oxidative stress. As a result, you may want to be mindful about obtaining your protein from foods high in fat or sugar. Algae can provide a valuable source of protein that also pushes back against early cell aging.
5. Features a Strong Combination of Omega-3s
Among the nutrients that accompany protein in algae, one of the most significant is omega-3. Omega-3s are polyunsaturated fatty acids that provide energy and make up a significant building block of cell membranes throughout the body. The two most beneficial types of omega-3 fatty acids are docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).
Algae is the only plant-based source of DHA and EPA omega-3s. These two omega-3s provide significant benefits on their own, from supporting your heart health to promoting healthy joints. These nutrients are particularly important because the body can only produce them in small amounts on its own.
However, these omega-3s provide even more benefits when combined with protein. Omega-3 fatty acids help you make the most of your protein intake by promoting muscle protein synthesis and minimizing muscle protein breakdown. By influencing these two processes, omega-3s can help support muscle growth and maximize your body’s protein usage.
6. It May Be the Future
Despite algae currently living under the radar as an excellent addition to our diets, it may just be the future of food production. This unique plant is protein-dense enough to be able to provide sufficient amounts of protein in small volumes. If we don't change the ways we eat and farm, in 35 years we will need three planet Earths to sustain our habits. As the population increases and the demand for food follows, algae may be the source of nutrition to rise to the occasion.
Not only is algae high in protein, but it is also remarkably sustainable to produce. For example, iwi life is able to produce Nannochloropsis algae with just CO2, sunlight, and salty water, with some added nutrients. This means that this excellent protein source can be grown without using precious freshwater or soil.
As a result, the operation is easily scalable and can be expanded upon to meet high demand. Don’t be surprised if algae is not just renowned as a great source of protein, but a primary one in a matter of a few decades.
How Can I Get More Algae?
Unlike many other foods, algae is not exactly easy to find on just any grocery store shelf. Fortunately, algae supplements are increasing in popularity, making it easier to incorporate this powerful plant-like nutrient source into your daily diet.
Forms of blue-green algae, like Spirulina, can often be found in powdered supplements and even in drinks. To increase your intake of blue-green algae, you can include these powders in some of your daily foods, including smoothies, protein shakes, and juices.
Leading the charge in nutrient-rich algae supplements is iwi life’s algae-based omega-3 supplement. iwi life makes it easy to add algae to your routine. iwi life supplements contain the power of our specially grown Nannochloropsis algae in a convenient softgel. With these once-a-day Omega-3 softgels, you can gain your entire daily recommended intake of omega-3 fatty acids, healthy proteins, and a range of other nutrients.
Experience the Powers of Algae for Yourself
With a high protein content and a combination of other powerful nutrients, algae makes for a great addition to your daily diet. Try iwi life’s omega-3 supplement for yourself and see the powers of algae in your day-to-day routine.
To learn more about all the potential benefits of algae, explore our entire family of algae-based supplements. Whether you are hoping to support your joints, eyes, or even your growing baby, there is an option for you. Shop our complete collection today.