The FAO (Food and Agriculture organization) consider that our planet will support 9 billion people in 2050, leading us to the biggest food crisis of all times1. In this context, it is essential to innovate and find new food sources. It should preferably be independent of arable land currently used for the production of vegetables, fruits and pastures. It should also produce the least amount of greenhouse gases, and be obviously very nutritious.
Seaweeds meet all these criteria. They are nutritious, their taste qualities have already been exploited in Asia, they grow in large quantities, are easily cultivated, produce few greenhouse gases (compared to cattle for example) and do not monopolize fertile lands2.
Their nutritional value comes from their wealth in minerals (iodine, iron, calcium, magnesium, copper and manganese), trace elements and vitamins (A, B2, B5, B9, C, E, K) but their digestibility and our capacity to assimilate them varies from species of algae. They are also rich in fibers, low in fat and contain proteins and essential amino acids. They are increasingly used as vegetables and are produced under organic conditions in the majority of cases. Depending on the species, they may also contain antioxidants, antiviral, antibacterial and anticancer agents, anticoagulants and anti-inflammatory and immune stimulation properties that are very desirable characteristics in the nutraceutical and in the natural health food fields3.
According to FAO, 145 species of algae are edible and most sold are produced by seaweed farming rather than wild collection because they are of higher quality with the greater control over the variables influencing their growth. For example, the erosion by ice is less problematic in farming because the location is well chosen, as well as water quality and harvest ease. The optimal age of harvested algae and absence of herbivores is also easier to control, influencing their freshness. Seaweed farming can be performed on ropes or nets anchored in sea, or in external saltwater ponds2,3. These algae can be sold fresh, dried or processed to facilitate their transport, and, a point to be neglected, they are not very expensive to produce.
Now that you are aware of the nutritional benefices of algae, it will remain to incorporate them gradually in your diet. This is the difficult step that prevents many Westerners to eat algae, mainly due to their appearance, but also because recipes made from seaweeds does not abound, although in Asia they are the basis of many dishes. The study and valorisation center of algae in Bretagne work to develop recipes based on food design, which are beautiful, tasty, innovative and practical to eat4.
Will you eat a fish and algae stew soon?
- FAO 2009. 2050: 2.3 milliards de bouches de plus à nourrir. http://www.fao.org/news/story/fr/item/35656/icode/
- FAO 2014. The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture. http://www.fao.org/3/d1eaa9a1-5a71-4e42-86c0-f2111f07de16/i3720e.pdf. ISSN 1020-5469.
- Lionard, M., Tamigneaux, E., Gendron-Lemieux, I., Berger, K. 2014. Présentation du rapport de recherche sur la biomasse algale. Rapport 14-03, MERINOV.
- Marfain, H., Bolzec, L. 2011. L’apport du design alimentaire dans la conception d’un nouveau produit aux algues. CEVA : Centre d’Étude et de Valorisation des Algues.
- CEVA 2015. ceva.fr/