“Gram-for-gram microalgae may be the most nutrient dense food on Earth.”
The primitive character of microalgae’s cellular organization gives it a number of advantages over higher plants and animals as a food source. For starters, practically the entire organism can be nutritious, with minimal indigestible structures. By contrast, typically less than half of the dry weight of plants and animals has nutritional value. Primitive blue-green algae are composed almost entirely of nutritionally useful and uniform cells. Furthermore, microalgae exhibit superior photosynthetic efficiency, using light approximately three times more efficiently than higher plants. 2
Microalgae are among the most productive organisms on the planet.
Aphanizomenon flos-aquae, blue-green algae
“Why does Aph. flos-aquae [Aphanizomenon flos-aquae, a blue-green algae]—small and simple as it seems to be—contain more micronutrients than any other known food?…Aph. flos-aquae cells are about 20 to 30 times smaller than the cells within the food we usually eat. Because of this, Aph. flos-aquae contains 20 to 30 times the membrane surface area.” 3 Aph. flos-aquae’s smaller cell size means a larger ratio of cell membrane surface compared to the rest of the cell. In the case of blue-green algae, the cell membrane is where some of the most important nutrients are concentrated. Aph. flos-aquae algae produces more cell membrane material without getting larger by creating a vast system of membrane inpouchings similar to the brain’s infoldings. In other words, if the cell membrane were ironed flat, it would be many times the apparent size of the cell.
One of the most remarkable nutritional aspects of microalgae is its high content of usable protein—ranging from 50% to 70%! This is a far higher percentage than the choicest edible parts of any higher plant or animal. Algal protein has shorter and less complex polypeptide chains—making it easier to digest than plant or animal protein. Red meat has a surprisingly low net protein utilization index of 18%, compared to AFA’s 75%. The net protein utilization index is a measure of how completely amino acids are assimilated by humans. In fact, some microalgae, such as Aph. flos-aquae, contain all ten essential amino acids that humans require from their diets—in a profile similar to that recommended by the National Academy of Sciences.
Not least, “microalgae are considered to be the primary source of unsaturated fatty acids in the food chain.” Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are two relatively rare and valuable fatty acids found in microalgae. The reason that fish oils are so rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) is that amicroalgae are abundant in their food chain. Unlike seafood, microalgal oils are cholesterol free. The nutritional value and therapeutic merits of PUFAs have been widely documented.