Are You Eating Algae?

New innovations in food technology mean algae could be a fat substitute

Would you believe your fat-free ice cream contains algae? Or your beer? Better believe it — new developments in food technology may put the pond scum right into your food.

Don't fret, though — it's not as gross as you think. In fact, GOOD reports that the scum is being developed as a fat substitute — one that still has flavor, minus the fat. Scientists began testing algae to convert ethanol to fuel, but found that it could also convert sugars into fat. And not just any fat, the kind of healthy fats similar to those found in olive oil. Naturally, food chemists found this to be exciting — and a possible fat substitute.

Now, scientists are working on a product called "Algamine," a powder substance to be used like butter or margarine. Writes Sarah Zhang, you can use it in a chocolate chip cookie recipe and get 40 percent less fat and cholesterol. The best part? Algamine doesn't taste like typical fat-free fare, a big win for chemists and health-conscious diners alike.

The real test will be if it catches on with consumers. But the truth is, we already consume algae in products using carrageenans, like beer, ice cream, and soy milk. Some companies, like Solazyme, are beginning to test different products, like algalin flour, to be used in cookies and cakes. Plus, as Seeking Alpha reports, the flour is natural, vegan, gluten-free, and non-allergenic — a likely catchphrase that could turn consumers into algae lovers.