Water lentil, a superfood to be discovered


Abundant protein, easily assimilated iron, vitamin B12. These are some of the properties-characteristic of the meats-also available in Wolffia globosa, or ‘water lentil.’ A small plant native to Asia, a candidate to be counted among the superfoods of the new millennium. Thanks to scientific research and industrial productions developed based on local traditions (in Thailand, especially).

The Israeli Mankai

Mankai is a non-GMO variety of the water lentil, developed by Israeli startup Hinoman. Cultivated in a closed, freshwater environment, it has been the subject of experimentation by several groups of researchers. With encouraging results, albeit based on small numbers. From the perspective of developing sustainable-that is, nutritious and environmentally friendly-foods with few resources to feed the global population.

Indeed, the new water lentil variant offers the full plafond of essential amino acids, dietary fiber, polyphenols, minerals (iron and zinc above all) and vitamins (B12 above all). With appreciable levels of bio-availability verified in an initial randomized clinical trial. (1)

Useful for the obese and anemic

The smallest flowering plant on the planet-as Wolffia globosa is described for its stem just 0.2 mm in diameter-also seems useful in meeting the protein needs of the obese. Administered for three months to 20 51-year-old males with metabolic syndrome as an alternative to a yogurt shake, the plant demonstrated a beneficial effect on postprandial glycemic levels. (2)

Finally, the iron intake of Wolffia globosa Mankai was analyzed in a study of 294 obese males on a low-meat diet and 50 guinea pigs (female rats) with induced anemia. In both cases, the superfood hit the mark. In humans, it did not impair iron homeostasis (keeping it stable); in animals, it resulted in the reversal of anemia due to high bioavailability of the mineral. (3)

Protein source in animal feed

In farm animals, Wolffia globosa has been studied for the longest time. Research qualifies it as a possible alternative to soy, in the feeding of farm animals.

Fed to chickens, laying hens, quail and other livestock in the right proportion, it was found to be an even superior protein source to the legume in question. The extraordinary demand for which in the global market has reached a socio-environmentally critical level in recent years. (4)


(1) Alon Kaplana, Hila Zelichaa, Gal Tsabana, Anat Yaskolka Meira, Ehud Rinotta, Julia Kovsana, Lena Novacka, Joachim Thieryb, Uta Ceglarekb, Ralph Burkhardtb, Anja Willenbergb, Amir Tiroshc, Ioav Cabantchike, Meir J. Stampferd, Iris Shaia. Protein bioavailability of Wolffia globosa duckweed, a novel aquatic plant – A randomized controlled trial. Clinical Nutrition. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clnu.2018.12.009

(2) Zelicha H, Kaplan A, Yaskolka Meir A, Tsaban G, Rinott E, Shelef I, Tirosh A, Brikner D, Pupkin E, Qi L, Thiery J, Stumvoll M, Kloting N, von Bergen M, Ceglarek U, Blüher M, Stampfer MJ, Shai I. The Effect of Wolffia globosa Mankai, a Green Aquatic Plant, on Postprandial Glycemic Response: A Randomized Crossover Controlled Trial. Diabetes Care 2019 Jul; 42(7): 1162-1169. https://doi.org/10.2337/dc18-2319

(3) Anat Yaskolka Meir, Gal Tsaban, Hila Zelicha, Ehud Rinott, Alon Kaplan, Ilan Youngster, Assaf Rudich, Ilan Shelef, Amir Tirosh, Dov Brikner. A Green-Mediterranean Diet, Supplemented with Mankai Duckweed, Preserves Iron-Homeostasis in Humans and Is Efficient in Reversal of Anemia in Rats. The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 149, Issue 6, June 2019, Pages 1004-1011, https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/nxy321

(4) On the use of ‘water lentil’ in animal feed, see the studies

– A. Chantiratikul, P. Pooponpan, S. Santhaweesuk, P. Chantiratikul, A. Sangdee, U. Maneechote, C. Bunchasak, and O. Chinrasri, 2010. Effect of Wolffia Meal [Wolffia globosa (L). Wimm.] As a Dietary Protein Replacement on Performance and Carcass Characteristics in Broilers. International Journal of Poultry Science, 9: 664-668. DOI: 10.3923 / ijps.2010.664.668

– A. Chantiratikul, O. Chinrasri, P. Chantiratikul, A. Sangdee, U. Maneechote and C. Bunchasak. Effect of Replacement of Protein from Soybean Meal with Protein from Wolffia Meal [Wolffia globosa (L). Wimm.] on Performance and Egg Production in Laying Hens. International Journal of Poultry Science. DOI: 10.3923/ijps.2010.283.287

– A. Chantiratikul, P. Chantiratikul, A. Sangdee, U. Maneechote, C. Bunchasak and O. Chinrasri. Performance and Carcass Characteristics of Japanese Quails Fed Diets Containing Wolffia Meal [Wolffia globosa (L). Wimm.] as a Protein Replacement for Soybean Meal. International Journal of Poultry Science (2010). DOI: 10.3923/ijps.2010.562.566

Marta Strinati

Professional journalist since January 1995, he has worked for newspapers (Il Messaggero, Paese Sera, La Stampa) and periodicals (NumeroUno, Il Salvagente). She is the author of journalistic surveys on food, she has published the book "Reading labels to know what we eat".