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These Are the 4 Alternative Proteins of the Future

author image Hillary Eaton
Hillary Eaton is a writer and editor living in Los Angeles whose work has appeared in VICE, Refinery29, LA Weekly and Complex. She loves writing about food, entertainment, travel and style.
These Are the 4 Alternative Proteins of the Future
The future of protein lies in insects and pond scum. Photo Credit Adobe/kwanchaichaiudom

Getting your daily amount of protein from a source other than meat has never been easier. Alternative protein sources like soy and pea protein are becoming the norm — Forbes reports that pea protein is on track to become a $32 billion industry — but there are some more unusual protein sources on the horizon.

From algae to cricket powder, lesser-known proteins are at the head of a brave new world of modern nutrition. Read on: The future of protein is (almost) here.

1. Algae Protein

Protein made from green pond scum? Sure, it may not sound that appetizing, but this burgeoning protein source not only provides you with omega-3 fatty acids and a protein structure that keeps food from drying out, its production is also eco-friendly.

Food trade site Food Navigator USA spoke with algae producers and found that, because algae is grown in saltwater and thrives in hot temperatures, arid land that would typically be unusable for regular agriculture can be used to produce algae — like in the middle of the desert.

Algae production uses less than 1 percent of the water needed to grow similar proteins (soy, for instance), which is especially important considering many of the growing areas for these crops, such as those in California, have been experiencing drought.

2. Sachi Inchi

Also referred to as an “Incan peanut,” sachi inchi is probably the most exotic-sounding protein of them all. It also might be one of the most complete plant proteins on the market. Nutra Ingredients reports that sachi inchi is 50 to 60 percent protein; the rest is comprised of healthy omega-3 and omega-6 fats and dietary fiber.

The only downside? It’s kind of expensive. The supply is limited and most of it is imported from places like Peru.

3. Duckweed

Known as the “water lentil” in France, duckweed is a flowering aquatic plant that floats on ponds. It is also being harvested for human consumption and boasts an impressive 45 percent protein makeup in its raw state. (For comparison, soybeans are only 35 percent protein.)

As a protein source, duckweed is most commonly ground into a flour called LENTEIN, a green powder you can use in cooking that contains 65 percent protein and fiber. Like algae, this protein can be produced almost anywhere, as it only needs to sit in a tank to grow. Even more impressive? The plant doubles in size every 16 to 32 hours, so it can be harvested every single day.

4. Cricket Flour and Other Insect Products

Considering that many people freak out if they find so much as a fly in their soup, the idea of a choosing to eat bugs as a source of protein seems pretty crazy to most Americans. But back in 2013 the U.N. urged people to consider eating bugs to increase food security in a world with an ever-increasing population, and insect proteins have been on the rise ever since.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations points out that insects are already in the diets of more than 2 billion people worldwide, so eating bugs isn’t actually anything new. And with the insect-protein market increasing (from cricket flour to bug protein bars), you may be choosing to eat bugs a lot sooner than you ever imagined.

What Do YOU Think?

Do you consume alternative protein sources? Which ones do you enjoy? Would you eat algae? Would you ever consume insect protein? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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