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The Secret to Sustainable Protein: How Rubisco Is Revolutionizing the Food Industry

The Secret to Sustainable Protein: How Rubisco Is Revolutionizing the Food Industry

Protein has long been seen as an important part of a healthy diet. But in recent times, people are beginning to realize just how critical it is to health and longevity. 

Nick Walker

Nick Walker

12 October 2023

5min read


The Secret to Sustainable Protein: How Rubisco Is Revolutionizing the Food Industry

Protein has long been seen as an important part of a healthy diet. But in recent times, people are beginning to realize just how critical it is to health and longevity. 

Sustainable protein, typically in the form of plant protein, is on the rise as an efficient, environmentally friendly way to build muscle and live healthier lives. Whey, soy, pea and other types of protein have been around for some time, but a new protein source has perhaps the greatest potential of them all: rubisco protein.

What does rubisco do?

Rubisco protein is in every green leaf - it’s in kale, spinach, sprouts and any other leafy green. It’s responsible for photosynthesis, and is an extremely functional and unique protein source compared to others.

Leaft Foods was started with a purpose to create food systems that provide for humanity in partnership with the environment. The company started with at-home experiments in the kitchen, and has grown incrementally as more and more is discovered about just how to access rubisco protein, and how revolutionary it might be.

The Environmental Benefits of Rubisco Protein

The age-old myth that the best protein comes from meat was busted a long time ago. The popularity of a range of meat-free diets have shown plant-based foods are more than capable of providing all the protein we need.

Not only that, but animal proteins have significant challenges when it comes to their environmental impact. Greenhouse gas emissions, intensive land use, deforestation and animal welfare are among the issues posed by traditional agriculture.

At the same time, plant-based proteins are also not immune to challenges. They can require significant land usage, water usage, have issues with waste and degeneration, and have a carbon footprint of their own. Just because it’s a plant protein, it doesn’t mean it’s inherently sustainable. 

Rubisco protein is quickly being recognised as having a minimal environmental impact compared to other plant proteins.

What does rubisco do?

Rubisco is present in every green leaf, it’s able to be grown and harvested from the most efficient crops that minimize land usage and water usage. At Leaft Foods, we use nitrogen-fixing crops that have a minimal carbon footprint, such as lucerne (also known as alfalfa).

Alfalfa is a wonder crop that’s part of the legume family. This means it fixes its own nitrogen, so does not rely on synthetic fertilizers for growth. Alfalfa is a perennial, meaning the plant survives up to seven years without needing annual cultivation that harms the soil.

The Nutritional Powerhouse: Rubisco Protein

Rubisco protein has been described as the most abundant protein on earth. It’s eaten and used by all vegetarian animals that consume leaves, but the problem for humans is that we haven’t evolved in the same way to be capable of unlocking it.

While it’s trapped in a plant cell, it’s difficult for humans to eat enough green leaves to get enough protein to sustain us. This is where Leaft Foods’ groundbreaking extraction technology comes in, making rubisco more accessible than ever. 

Protein extraction from other common plant proteins can also be difficult. Most plant proteins come from seeds, which are designed to be tough enough to be eaten by birds or foragers and pooped out the back end. This illustrates how difficult extracting protein from plants can be, and how much wastage can be involved by not using the rest of the plant.

Another key difference in rubisco protein is just how powerful it is.

What does rubisco do?

Rubisco protein is packed with micronutrients, vitamins and minerals, and has huge nutritional advantages. It’s high in BCAAs (or branched-chain amino acids), with a similar amino acid profile to beef. 

It’s different from other plant proteins because it's much more digestible. Rubisco has high digestibility, which means humans can get all the goodness out of them. At the same time, we can do that without having it sit in your gut for long periods, creating the bloating feeling people often get with pea protein, for example.

All of this makes rubisco an absolute powerhouse in providing the body with the significant health benefits of protein efficiently and effectively.

Versatility and Culinary Potential of Rubisco Protein

Another big reason there’s so much excitement about the potential for rubisco protein is how versatile it is. It has a huge range of uses, making it much more than just a typical smoothie top-up. 

Rubisco protein is neutral tasting and soluble. It can be added to a raft of other foods and have no discernible effect on its taste or texture. It also has no known allergens, and a smoother texture than other grittier proteins. 

All that, means you can eat rubisco however you like and it essentially doesn’t change anything (apart from the fact you’ll get more protein in your meal).

Rubisco is perfect in:

  • Plant-based meat alternatives
  • Dairy or alternative dairy foods
  • Baking
  • Functional foods

This is one of the reasons rubisco protein is ideal for people wanting to add more protein into their diet. One of the big issues people have with other forms of protein is there are only a few ways you can eat them. Smoothies are great, but having a rigid smoothie routine gets old quickly, no matter how dedicated you are or how many new recipes you try.

But rubisco gives you options. Whether you want to boost your protein intake to grow muscle, reduce your appetite, lose weight, boost your metabolism or any of the many other reasons, you can do it in a way that suits you. 

In the past, one of the best ways to eat a lot of rubisco has been to eat a lot of leafy salad. Not a lot of people do that, and for many people, salad is a side dish. But with rubisco protein from Leaft Foods, you can make it the main course and really maximize the benefits it offers.

Rubisco Protein and Sustainable Farming

As well as being an incredible food source, we can also zoom out and recognise the huge potential rubisco protein offers the global food industry. Food producers of all shapes and sizes are coming under more and more pressure to farm and grow efficiently, sustainably and ethically, and rubisco crops can play a big role in doing this.

Adopting the Leaft system and growing rubisco on as little as 20% of agricultural land could enable farmers to reduce emissions, regenerate soil, improve water health and contribute to food security. 

What does rubisco do?

For livestock farmers, rubisco protein crops can represent an alternative food source - again, one that’s rich in protein and builds out a satisfying diet that efficiently promotes weight gain in animals.

By lowering the overall footprint of a farm, orchard or any other food production operation, rubisco can play a role in enabling sustainable farming that improves farmers’ financial and environmental positions.

Harnessing the Potential of Rubisco Protein

The way rubisco protein has been unlocked in recent years has the potential to transform the food industry. The many different characteristics of rubisco protein offer tailor-made solutions to some of the biggest challenges faced by food producers today.

  • Rubisco protein is abundant, making it readily available and easy to grow.
  • It’s one of the most sustainable protein sources there is, able to be grown in harmony with the environment. This will only become more so as extraction technology develops.
  • Rubisco is a high quality protein that supplements humans’ dietary needs and is highly digestible in many forms.

These multidimensional benefits of rubisco protein are unique in the food and farming worlds. Technology has hacked into one of the world’s best, most available forms of protein, putting us on the cusp of a food revolution in the years to come.

We are doing exciting things. Learn more below.