You may not think very highly of seaweed at the moment. At its best, it is responsible for holding your California Roll together; at its worst, it gets caught between your feet at the beach. What you may not know, though, is that for centuries Eastern countries have been consuming seaweed and using sea vegetables (as they are also known) as an important staple in their diets. While we’re only just starting to explore sea vegetables and realizing their variety, flavor and exceptional health benefits, we’re ready to make up for lost time!
Most of us are familiar with seaweed in its dried form, as it is used for sushi, but that is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of types of sea vegetables and ways that this amazing marine algae can be used.
Nutritional Benefits of Seaweed
Sea vegetables are the richest source of minerals in the vegetable world. They are also a great source of vitamins A, B1, C, E and K, magnesium, iron, sodium, calcium and iodine. Although they are low in fat and calories, they contain concentrated protein and healthy carbohydrates as well as glyconutrients (the carbs found in plants that are the key to effective cellular communication and proper cell function). One of their more interesting benefits is that they can also aid in balancing the body’s pH through its alkalinizing effect.
Health Benefits Of Seaweed
Healthy thyroid function – Low thyroid function is often related to a lack of iodine. Kelp is the richest source of iodine, which can help to support proper thyroid function.
Protection against cancer – Sea vegetables contain large amounts of lignans, plant compounds that protect against cancer.
Calcium – One teaspoon of kelp mixed in a glass of water contains 1000 times more calcium than a glass of milk.
Protects against birth defects and cardiovascular disease – Ocean vegetables contain folic acid, which is important for the prevention of birth defects, lowering blood pressure and decreasing the risk of heart disease.
Anti-inflammatory – The high magnesium levels present in seaweed act as a natural relaxant and anti-inflammatory agent.
Common Types of Seaweed
Arame – This sea vegetable comes in a lacy, wiry form and is sweet and mild in taste. It is particularly delicious mixed in salads and sautéed vegetable dishes.
Dulse – This variant often comes as a soft, chewy dried whole leaf or as flakes for seasoning. It can also be used in soups, chowders, sandwiches and salads, or added to dough.
Kelp – This popular health supplement is light brown in color and usually available as flakes or in powder form. Use it to replace salt in your favorite recipes for a health kick and added flavor.
Nori – You know nori as the seaweed used in sushi. It also comes in dark purple or green colored sheets that can be added to other dishes as well.
Wakame – These long hard strips can be softened with water. Try adding wakame to your favorite soup or as a compliment to boiled rice.
As with all foods, it is important to try to get the best quality you can afford. Many of our seas are polluted and sea vegetables soak up those toxins and contaminants. For the best health benefits, source high-quality and organic products.