What Is Mankai and Why Are People So Interested in This Tiny Vegetable?

This tiny vegetable could have a big impact on global hunger – and your health

Photo: Montian Noowong / Getty Images

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With 10 billion people estimated to inhabit the world by 2050, finding sustainable, nutrient-rich, and quick-to-grow food sources is a high priority. To solve that big problem, one company is thinking small, literally, with Mankai – a marine plant with superfood ambitions that’s sometimes called the world’s smallest vegetable.

What Is Mankai?

Mankai is the trade name of a proprietary species of Wolffia globosa, created by Hinoman LTD. The Tel Aviv-based firm patented the species after an eight-year research and development process spent working to discover the domestication and cultivation practices that would allow for scalable agriculture year-round. According to the company, its researchers have optimized the Mankai nutrient profile in a sustainable, hydroponic-farmed environment that allows the plant to double in mass every 72 hours.

Wolffia globose is native to Southwest Asia, and you can still find it in still water locations, such as marshes, lakes, and ponds. And, since Wolffia globosa does not have roots, it’s easy to spot on top of water, resembling something like a green moss. Individual Wolffia globosa measure less than one-sixty-forth of an inch; that’s less than a candy sprinkle! However, don’t let this fool you. While it may be tiny, it’s nutrient punch is quite impressive.

Nutrient Profile

Mankai is considered a complete protein that offers all nine essential amino acids, in addition to 60 documented nutrients, including bioavailable iron, fiber, vitamin B-12, vitamin k, vitamin A, vitamin E, folate, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, and polyphenols. Eighty-five grams of this green superfood has five grams of complete protein, four grams of fiber, and one gram of total fat for just 45 calories. Plus, it packs 580 percent of the daily value for vitamin K, 45 percent of iron, 70 percent of vitamin A, 30 percent of vitamin E, 60 percent of folate, 15 percent of vitamin B-12, and 25 percent of zinc. As more Americans turn towards embracing a plant-forward diet, Mankai offers a simple solution to add more protein to one’s diet alongside a host of other nutrients.

While the patented Mankai plant has a unique nutrition profile that has been extensively researched in 10 different peer-reviewed clinical studies by scientists at Harvard and other esteemed universities, Wolffia globosa found in nature also packs a nutrient punch, too. Research has found that the Wolffia genus, which consists of eleven species, contains protein, amino acids, fatty acids, and fiber. However, depending on the cultivation conditions and genetic background of the species, the macro- and micronutrient compositions vary.

How It’s Grown

In an effort to help make sustainable, plant-based eating more accessible to consumers across the globe, the founders of Mankai cultivated an advanced agri-technology system using a proprietary algorithm to create an adaptive hydroponic system to grow this green goddess. The production of Mankai not only creates no waste but it also uses very little water. Mankai can be harvested year-round from anywhere across the globe.

Why You May Want To Try It

Have you heard of the Green Mediterranean diet? It’s an offshoot of the popular Mediterranean diet but enhanced with daily consumption of Mankai and green tea. A new study released in Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that weight loss after following the Green-Mediterranean Diet led to a greater increase in overnight levels of ghrelin (the hunger hormone). Higher fasting ghrelin levels are associated with cardiometabolic benefits including improved insulin sensitivity and less belly fat.

Although the results of this particular study were found for men, this study shows that fasting ghrelin levels may play an important role in body fat distribution and insulin sensitivity. These differences may be due to the polyphenol and fiber content that is higher in the Green-Mediterranean diet given it contains both Mankai and green tea. While there is certainly the need for more research on this area, a prior study published in 2019 in Diabetes Care also found that Mankai consumption had a favorable effect on blood glucose levels after eating.

Where You Can Find It

While time will tell when you will start seeing Mankai in your local supermarket, you can purchase it online from approved retailers like EatMankai.com or Amazon. It ships frozen in small cubes, making it easy to use in many culinary applications. You may also see it popping up as an ingredient in supplement powders like the popular green superfood blends.

How to Use It

Mankai has a neutral taste and texture, making it extremely versatile in your kitchen. Incorporate it in a sauce, smoothie, pasta dish, guacamole, dip, or soup, imparting not only a beautiful green hue to your recipes but packing a solid nutrient punch as well.


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