When you say the word “seaweed,” most people think about sushi or other exotic dishes. The nutritional value of seaweed is something that is vastly ignored and overlooked in everyday cooking. This is one superfood you’re probably not eating much of but you should be!
“Seaweed is the common name for countless species of marine plants and algae that grow in the ocean as well as in rivers, lakes, and other water bodies. Not only are the fixed and free-floating “weeds” of the sea utterly essential to innumerable marine creatures, both as food and as habitat, they also provide many benefits to land-dwellers.”
~ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA)
The ancient Romans, Japanese, and Egyptians noted the benefits of seaweed in the treatment of disease and injury thousands of years ago. The excellent health of the Japanese elderly is due to the seaweed in their diet according to substantial research.
Seaweed is readily available year-round in most areas of the world, is reasonably priced, and is considered a sustainable food since we don’t farm the ocean.
The 7 Best Benefits of Seaweed
- Seaweed is packed with iodine. You won’t find many other natural sources. We don’t get nearly enough of this nutrient and your thyroid depends on it to keep your hormones in balance.
- Your heart loves seaweed. A lot. Some of the longest lived (and heart healthy) populations on the planet get a large portion of their vegetable intake from seaweed and their tickers are in great shape in eldest age.
- The lignans (converted to phytoestrogens) in seaweed may help block chemical toxins that mimic human estrogen that have been linked to a higher risk of breast cancer.
- Researchers found that seaweed protects the lining of your gut and improves your overall beneficial gut bacteria.
- The algae is a great source of fiber, which helps with digestion, makes you feel full, and aids in the absorption of other nutrients.
- It is a powerfully nutrient-dense, low glycemic index food. With 20 amino acids, more than 60 trace elements, and 13 essential vitamins (including calcium, vitamins A, C, and K), that is lots of nutritional bang for your calorie buck. Seaweed is a great choice for diabetics and those working to control their weight.
- Naturally detoxes the body from heavy metals and environmental pollution. Current studies are focused on possible benefits to smokers, using seaweed to detox from tobacco chemicals. I learned recently that seaweed has the most similar chemical composition to human blood. It makes sense that it would work well as a blood purifier.
Even minor deficiency in iodine can result in extreme fatigue, poor immune function, mood swings or other behavioral issues, and obesity as your thyroid struggles to cope. The nutritional value of seaweed that includes being naturally anti-inflammatory is a bonus for each of these conditions whether they’re caused by too little iodine or not.
Seaweed is a great food to eat post-illness (in soup, salad, or shakes) to help get your body back on track and replace the nutrients you lose when you’re sick.
The most common varieties of seaweed include…
- Kelp is the brown algae you see at the beach.
- Nori is the classy stuff your sushi is wrapped in.
- Wakame is green and found most often in dehydrated form.
- Dulse is red seaweed that tastes like bacon (yes bacon) when you fry it.
- Arame is black seaweed that resembles noodles.
So seaweed is good for you…now what? You’re not a sushi chef! What are you supposed to do with this stuff?
In my own daily eating regimen, I use dehydrated wakame seaweed, which I rehydrate in warm water. Once it’s hydrated for 10 minutes, drain the water and then rinse with hot water, and then rinse immediately with cold water. Pat dry.
You can use it as the base of a delicious salad of avocado, sesame seeds, red onion, and pistachios. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, lemon, salt & pepper and you’re done.
I also add it to soups and mixed greens salads in this form because it adds a slightly smoky flavor with more nutritional value than parsley or chives.
Click the video below to watch how dulse seaweed has been grown by researchers at Oregon State University and even tastes like bacon when cooked! Like bacon! It’s one of the most underutilized productive protein sources in the world. I’m in love.
Like most foods I incorporate into my diet, it’s all about practicing and experimenting until you find the combinations that you love and (most importantly) that you will actually eat.
Knowing the incredible nutritional value of seaweed and other superfoods but not eating them defeats the purpose so make recipes your own.