This review aimed to compare alternative protein sources in terms of nutritional composition and health benefits with the purpose of disseminating up-to-date knowledge and contribute for diversification of the food marked and consumers decision-making. Plant-based is the most well-established category of alternative proteins, but there is still room for diversification. Less conventional species such as chia seeds are prominent sources of ω-3 (∼60% total lipids), while hempseed and quinoa are notable sources of ω-6 (up to 58% and 61%, respectively). Edible insects and microalgae are alternative foods rich in protein (up to 70%), fibers (∼30%), as well as peptides and polysaccharides with antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-hypertensive, antidiabetic, antidepressant, antitumor, and immunomodulatory activities. Additionally, lipid contents in insect larvae can be as high as 50%, on a dry weight basis, containing fatty acids with anti-inflammatory and antitumor properties. In contrast, edible fungi have low lipid contents (∼2%), but are rich in carbohydrates (up to 79%) and have balanced amino acid profiles. The results suggest that food formulations combining different alternative protein sources can meet dietary requirements. Further studies on flavoring and texturing processes will help to create meat and dairy analogs, thus helping to broaden acceptance and applicability of alternative protein sources.
Keywords: Algae; functional foods; fungi; insects; plants; unconventional proteins.