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If you ever see "duck weed" on the menu, you might think, "yuck." But give this nutritious vegetable a try. Duck weed, also called pond weed — or its more palatable name, water lentils — is the newest plant protein on the block.
Water lentils are a rapidly growing aquatic plant that thrives in open water. Due to their high turnover rate (water lentils can double every 16-32 hours), they can be harvested daily and year-round. Water lentils are also environmentally-friendly in that 100 percent of the plant is harvested for use and the water used to produce water lentils is recycled for further crops.
Nutritionally speaking, water lentils have an amino acid profile superior to other plant-based protein sources and similar to whey protein, a by-product of cheese production. They have a flavor similar to watercress or spinach.
A water lentil protein concentrate available to food and beverage companies has been developed by Parabel, containing 68 percent protein, nearly double that in 1 cup of lentils. Per serving, Lemna flour, or flour made from water lentils, contains 7 grams dietary fiber, with 100 percent daily value (DV) iron, 25 percent DV calcium, 20 percent DV magnesium, and 10 percent DV phosphorus.
You would need to consume 16 times the amount of regular lentils to eat the same quantity of fiber.
For further comparison, that’s equivalent to 3 cups cooked spinach to consume the same amount of iron and 3 cups of regular lentils to consume the same amount of calcium.
Although it's not widely available yet, manufacturers are hoping it can help feed the world's growing population. With the increasing demand for plant-based proteins — along with the new proposed Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggesting meat should be demoted to side dish — there's a good chance that whole water lentils will be coming to a store near you, showing up in a variety of foods.