If you’ve had sushi of any kind, you’ve likely sampled seaweed. It’s a staple in many Asian dishes, particularly Japanese. While many may not regularly add it to their grocery lists, there are some great reasons you may want to start.
Our oceans cover over 71 percent of the earth’s surface. Seaweed and other microscopic algae living in those oceans deliver about 70 percent of the world’s oxygen. What’s even cooler is that seaweed is among the fastest growing organisms on the planet, and it doesn’t even need fertilizer or soil to grow, making it one of the most sustainable life forms on the planet.
While it plays a huge part in the health of the planet, we can’t forget that seaweed provides tons of benefits for humans as well. According to the Journal of Applied Psychology, seaweed contains helpful nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin B, vitamin A, iron, iodine, and more.
There are also many kinds of seaweed. You may have heard about nori and kelp, but there’s also wakame, kombu, dulse, and blue-green algae, such as spirulina and chlorella.
We’ve got the breakdown on the many benefits of these sea vegetables, where to find them and all the ways to eat it.
WHERE YOU FIND IT
Seaweed is most used in Asian cuisine (hello, sushi!), but is gaining mainstream popularity. Theres’s seaweed snack packs, beauty products, and even tea! You can find it in the specialty aisle in your grocery store or your favorite health food store.
HOW TO EAT IT
Even though seaweed is mostly consumed when eating sushi, it’s actually quite versatile. You can sprinkle it on buddha bowls, add it to soups, salads, and smoothies, and even take it as a supplement. Substitute a corn or flour tortilla with a dried large nori sheet and make a delicious wrap in a matter of minutes. Dulse flakes, spirulina, and kelp noodles make great substitutes for salt.
You can even drink it in tea form. I am a health coach for Teatis Tea, which incorporates seaweed into their blends. I really love their matcha and turmeric in the afternoon!
LOADED WITH MINERALS
The mineral content of seaweed is ten times greater than that found in plants grown in soil. In addition, marine algae contains a wide range of vitamins and minerals. The primary mineral components are iodine, calcium phosphorus, magnesium, iron, sodium, potassium, and chlorine.
Just like vitamins, minerals help your body in many ways. They assist in building strong bones and help keep your muscles, heart, and brain working properly. Plus, marine algae contains a wide range of important trace elements such as zinc, copper, manganese, selenium, and vitamins A, B, C, and E.
RICH IN IODINE
Seaweed is rich in iodine, which is hugely beneficial for thyroid health. Kombu has the highest iodine content, followed by wakame and nor. But be cautious—too little iodine can cause thyroid problems, but so can too much. In the U.S, adults are advised to get a minimum amount of 150 micrograms of iodine daily; only 5 grams of nori is over 57 percent of your daily requirements.
Consuming algae provides the body with plenty of gut-healthy prebiotic fiber. Additionally, particular sugars found in seaweed (called polysaccharides) have been shown to increase the growth of “good” bacteria. Andrew Weil M.D recommends cooking beans with kombu; it makes them easier to digest and less gas-producing.
Mineral-rich seaweed has a remarkable ability to help skin retain moisture and lessen signs of aging. Research has shown seaweed collagen is a great source of hyaluronic acid, which plays a critical role in skin health.
Consider adding this nutrient-dense sea vegetable to your diet and/or your beauty regimen to take advantage of its many benefits.
(photo credit: Shutterstock)