Move over soybeans, there’s a new plant protein in town! It’s… duckweed?!?
Yes. You read that right. Duckweed - that stuff you find in the pond. It may not be the superfood you imagined yourself munching, however, once you find out what it has to offer, you may just change your mind…
Duckweed, formally known as Lemnoideae, is a small green plant that grows in bodies of water like ponds. And, it turns out, not only is it edible, but it may just be one of the most promising new superfood possibilities, because of its incredibly dense nutritional value!
Now, we may not recommend scoffing this one straight from the pond (please don’t), however, This potent plant has been finding its way into all kinds of products, from shakes to frozen cubes. Naturally, the PlantX Medical Advisory Board is buzzing with excitement about the potential of this new development. So, here’s everything you need to know about Duckweed, including its health benefits, nutrition facts, and exactly why it is a superfood.
What Is Duckweed?
Duckweed, sometimes called “water lentils”, is a type of aquatic plant that grows on the surface of slow-moving bodies of water like ponds, swamps, and other wetlands.
There are a number of different kinds of duckweed, but they are generally recognizable for having small round green leaves, none of which grow much larger than a centimeter wide. They most often appear as an oval-shaped green leaf, with an appearance similar to a cloverleaf or a green lentil.
Duckweed is a big element of the diets of many kinds of ducks (hence the name), fish, and other wetland animals. But, it turns out duckweed isn’t just good for animals! Researchers have found that the nutritional value of duckweed means it may just be an amazing contribution to our diets, and, it may be time for us humans to et in on the action too.
Benefits of Eating Duckweed
So what exactly are the health benefits of eating duckweed? Well, they seem to be endless… A 2017 study found that these tiny plants contain levels of vitamins, minerals, and even protein that are higher than almost any other vegetable!
Let’s start with some nutritional facts.
In terms of protein, some species of duckweed have been found to have protein make up 40% of their dry weight, about as much as a medium-sized chicken egg. This protein content has led to hundreds of years of consumption in some areas of Southeast Asia, where it grows naturally.
This protein power also comes with a ton of other nutrients:
- All essential and conditional amino acids
- Dietary fiber
- Vitamins A, B complex and B12
- Iron and zinc
These are all found in volumes greater than in most other vegetables, so duckweed is really punching above its weight class.
Notice that Duckweed actually contains a very high level of the nutrients that can sometimes be missing from a plant-based diet, including vitamin B12 and iron - which may make duckweed the ideal superfood to supplement a vegan diet!
Doctor Eva Weinlander of the Stanford University School of Medicine and a member of PlantX's medical board had this to say about the nutritional potential of duckweed:
"Duckweed is full of healthy polyphenols, not far behind apples and spinach. Polyphenols are potent anti-inflammatories, protecting us against chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, infections, aging, asthma etc. Mix it with cold water, or your favorite smoothie, and you will also get a healthy serving of protein, lots of prebiotic fiber to feel full and feed the good gut bacteria, necessary vitamins, and a small amount of the good-for-you fat." - Dr. Eva Weinlander, PlantX Medical Board
So, we can trust the professionals - duckweed is super nutritious and super beneficial - that’s why it's the newest super food!
How is Duckweed grown?
So, now we know how good duckweed is for us, but how easy is it to grow?
As you might expect, it grows like a weed! Duckweed can be grown nearly anywhere and doubles in mass every 72 hours - basically, it grows fast. Superfast.
Want some more good news? Per gram of protein, it uses only a fraction of the water needed to grow other common plant protein sources. This means it is super sustainable to grow, and, also very practical. Pretty neat, right?
So, if you are looking for a superfood that is good for the planet (as well as your health) duckweed may just be the unexpected answer to your prayers.
What Does Duckweed Taste Like?
But - we know what you are thinking. A plant that grows in the pond? Won’t that taste a bit gross?
Don’t worry! Although duckweed may not taste like cream cakes, it actually has a neutral flavor not dissimilar to leafy greens. This means it goes perfectly in smoothies, snacks, baked goods, and nearly anything else you can add it to.
So, it seems that duckweed may just have it all! Packed with nutritious value and health benefits, this easy-to-grow superfood may be the perfect addition to your daily meals. Did we see this coming? Nope. But, this edible pond plant has proven itself to be an all-rounder, so, why not give it a try?