When you think about the word “algae,” what comes to mind? Do you think slimy? Green? Smelly? These are all ways in which we might describe our gooey ocean plant-like friend, however there are so many beneficial uses to this interesting water plant that we may have never imagined!
Here’s the deal…we as humans rely on algae for a whole ton of things, and not just for 2/3rds of the air we breathe. That’s right, algae plays a huge role in oxygen production and photosynthesis, acting as a primary producer at the base of the ocean food chain. However, that’s only the beginning of this organisms worth, as it’s properties and sliminess provide humans with crucial ingredients for various everyday items!
Do you brush your teeth every morning? Well, we sure hope you do! Do you enjoy a giant scoop of ice cream on a hot summer day? Do you use shampoo to wash your hair? If you answered yes to any of the above, than you are consuming algae! The properties that make up that slimy consistency in algae create emulsifying properties in the products we consume on a daily basis. Red algae contains something called carrageenan, and it exists in more ingredient labels than you think! It can be found in everyday items like your Starbucks coffee, chocolate milk, yogurt, coconut milk, or even packaged turkey meat. Alginate is a property found within brown algae, and is used as a rubber or adhesive alternative.
Besides it’s many healing properties used in spa treatments, humans consume algae for other uses every day. The sushi industry, which generates billions of dollars and feeds people globally, requires a specific form of algae to stay afloat. Nori, a red type of algae, is used in wrapping the mass amounts of sushi rolls we consume around the world.
For all these reasons listed above and many, many more, we can easily determine how important algae is in our every day lives. So next time you wrinkle your nose at the smell of some beached algae, remember to thank that slimy stuff for all it does for you, and your chocolate milk!