7 Reasons Why Seaweed Is a Superfood
Seaweed is a superfood that is often overlooked. It's packed with nutrients and minerals, and provides a host of health benefits.
Here are 7 reasons why seaweed is a superfood that should be a part of your diet:
- Seaweed is high in fiber, which can help reduce cholesterol levels and promote regularity.
- Seaweed is low in calories and fat, making it a great choice for those who are trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.
- Seaweed is loaded with vitamins and minerals, including iodine, vitamin C, magnesium, potassium, and zinc.
- Seaweed has anti-inflammatory properties that can help relieve pain and inflammation in the body.
- Brown seaweeds, also known as kelp, contain fucoidan, a compound that has anti-viral properties.
- On average, seaweed contains 85% less sodium than salt, which makes some dried seaweeds a viable salt substitute.
- Seaweed like sugar kelp can be used as a cooking agent to tenderize beans and cruciferous vegetables. Sugar kelp breaks down the raffinose sugars in these foods that can cause digestive upset.
The virtues of sea vegetables may not be as well-known in the United States as they are in Asia, but seaweed has been a part of the American diet for more than 150 years. In fact, seaweed was once very popular in early New England as an ingredient to thicken stews and soups, but it fell out of favor with the advent of modern agriculture. However, seaweed is making a comeback as consumers are starting to realize its many health benefits!
Seaweeds are classified into three types: red algae (which includes dulse and nori), green algae (sea lettuce or ulva) and brown algae (kelp). These sea vegetables can be found growing along rocky shores where they cling to rocks at low tide. They can also be farmed off the coast without any use of fertilizers, pesticides, or fresh water. They come in various shapes and sizes; some look like strands while others are broad leaves.
Here are a few popular types of seaweed:
- Dulse is a red seaweed that has a sweet, earthy taste and is often used as a condiment in Asia. It can be eaten fresh or dried and is high in protein, potassium, and B vitamins.
- Sea lettuce is a green seaweed that grows in cold water and has a mild, slightly salty flavor. It is rich in minerals like magnesium, calcium, potassium, and zinc.
- Kelp is the most common type of brown seaweed and can be found worldwide. Kelp is high in iodine – an essential mineral for thyroid health – as well as vitamin C, magnesium, potassium, and zinc.
How Seaweed Supports Your Thyroid Function
All seaweeds are a good source of iodine, which can help support your thyroid function. If you have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism or Hashimoto's disease, seaweed is an excellent food to add to your diet. (To be safe, you should consult a physician before adding seaweed to your diet for this reason. If you have an overactive thyroid or a diagnosis of hyperthyroidism, be sure to ask your doctor's advice before consuming seaweed products.)
How to Eat Seaweed
Seaweed can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. You can sprinkle seaweed seasonings on your food or add a seaweed salt substitute as an ingredient in your soups, broth, and even baked goods. Cooked whole-leaf seaweeds can be used as salad greens or stir-fry vegetables. And of course, you can continue to enjoy sushi rolls or even partake in the occasional crispy seaweed snack.
Though using sugar kelp to tenderize beans and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, kale, and cabbage does not include eating the kelp, making it part of the cooking process can allow you to enjoy protein-rich beans and nutritious dark greens more often.
Can You Eat Seaweed Raw?
You can eat some seaweeds raw, but heating seaweed helps break down the cell walls and make the seaweed easier to digest. Nori and wakame, which are high in fiber, are more easily digestible once cooked. In addition, some seaweeds like dulse and sugar kelp are high in iodine, and cooking can help reduce the amount of iodine.
Though iodine is an essential nutrient, consuming extremely high levels of iodine on a regular basis can cause adverse side effects for your thyroid. For these reasons, seaweed is best cooked before you eat it.
What Are Some of the Best Types of Seaweed for You?
Nori seaweed is a great choice that has minimal flavor so it does not overpower your food. It also adds a nice chewy texture to rolls or sushi bowls. Dulse seaweed is another good option as it contains nearly half your daily recommended value of iodine in just one teaspoon (0.25g). Sugar kelp (also known as Royal Kombu) can add savoriness to broth, soup, and sauces as well as tenderizing beans and cruciferous vegetables. Kelp can provide an umami flavor to dishes and is used as an ingredient in a Japanese staple, Dashi soup.
Benefits of Seaweed for Our Planet and Economy
One of the other benefits of integrating seaweed into your diet is that it's good for the planet and for our economy. Fishermen can sustainably farm seaweed year-round, which can offer more financial and environmental stability than fishing, especially since overfishing has devastated different parts of the fishing industry and can disrupt the ocean ecosystem. Seaweed naturally absorbs carbon dioxide (even more than land forests do), helping to trap the gases that are making our oceans warm.
Seaweed is a nutrient-rich superfood that provides a host of health benefits. Add it to your diet today and enjoy the many benefits it has to offer!