- Seaweed refers to over 10,000 types of algae and marine plants that are found in the ocean and are a primary food source for sea creatures.
- Different types of seaweed have different nutritional content, with nori, wakame, kelp, kombu, and spirulina being the most common types used in cooking and supplements.
- Seaweed is a nutritious addition to the diet, being low in fat, rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids.
- Consuming seaweed supports thyroid function and has several other health benefits, including supporting neural function, boosting energy and concentration, and providing essential nutrients to the body.
The first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word "seaweed" is usually sushi or miso soup. Yes, seaweed is among the most often used ingredients in Asian cooking, and not just because it is tasty. Due to its high vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant content, this product is a great addition to your diet. And perhaps seaweed is the cause of Asia's high life expectancy rate? Let's explore this together!
What is Seaweed?
Seaweed (also known as sea veggies) refers to the over 10,000 types of algae and marine plants that thrive in the ocean. Seaweed is the primary food source for sea creatures, and it typically grows in salty waters. It comes in a variety of colors, from brown to black and from green to red. Several varieties of seaweed, many of which are very nutritious and beneficial to the human body, are frequently utilized in traditional Asian dishes in China, Japan, and Korea.
Types of Seaweed
Nori (also known as purple laver) is a crimson seaweed that becomes green when dried. Similar to how paper is made, nori is roasted and then pressed into sheets for use in dry products. Although nori is typically used as a wrap for sushi and onigiri, it can also be used as a seasoning for food in the form of powder.
Wakame is a dark-green seaweed that is commonly used in miso soup. It is also a popular ingredient for salads and is a source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Kelp is a large brown seaweed that grows in salt water. Kelp can be consumed in every way possible, whether dry, cooked or in the form of a powdered supplement. It offers numerous health benefits.
Kombu is a typical kelp species used in East Asian cuisine. As Hokkaido, an island in Japan, is the country's main producer of this seaweed, kombu is a key component of the traditional Japanese soup dashi. You can also use kombu as a base to make fermented tea, known as kombucha.
Spirulina is an algae that can be grown in freshwater areas like lakes and rivers. This blue-green seaweed is extremely high in protein, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. In addition, it includes beta-carotene, manganese, zinc, iron, and numerous other beneficial nutrients. The two most popular forms of spirulina available for consumption are tablets and powder. Additionally, it is sometimes utilized in protein and energy beverages. If you're curious about the taste, spirulina has a strange fishy smell and flavor that makes it unpleasant to use as a supplement. However, we have a great solution for you if you believe that spirulina may be good for your health, but its fishy smell repels you:
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Seaweed Health Benefits
The vitamins and minerals found in seaweed vary from species to species, and all types of seaweed are quite nutritious without being excessively high in calories. For instance, two tablespoons of wakame only have 4.5 calories, 0.3 grams of protein, and 0.9 grams of carbohydrates, as well as magnesium, calcium, and iron. Spirulina contains 20 calories per tablespoon, 4 grams of protein, 0.5 grams of fat, 20% of the daily value (DV) of riboflavin, 14% of thiamin, and 11% of iron. Omega-3 fatty acids and amino acids are also present in spirulina. Other types of seaweed are typically low in fat, rich in antioxidants, and excellent for your health.
It's crucial to realize that the nutritional content of seaweed varies based on the region, the time of year it's harvested, and how it's prepared. To add more nutrients to your diet, we suggest using seaweed as a seasoning several times a week.
Supports Thyroid Function
The thyroid is a gland that secretes hormones that control your body's energy levels, growth, reproductive health, and cell repair. Tyrosine, an amino acid, and iodine are both necessary for the thyroid to function normally and control all of those processes. The thyroid's ability to function is hampered in the absence of those components, which can cause symptoms such as weight gain or loss, tiredness, reproductive issues, etc. Both of those nutrients are found in high concentrations in seaweed because it has a unique ability to absorb iodine from the ocean. The amount of iodine and tyrosine in seaweed varies based on the type of seaweed, storage method, and preparation method, although kelp is one of the best sources of these nutrients. However, a variety of factors can alter the iodine content of seaweed, making it an unreliable source. Furthermore, if you have ever experienced thyroid issues, we strongly suggest you consult a doctor before taking any supplements because too much iodine may result in hyperthyroidism.
Antioxidants are compounds that shield the body from the free radical damage that causes cancer, heart disease, and cellular damage. Aside from vitamins A, C, and E, seaweed also contains flavonoids and carotenoids. According to current research, the carotenoid fucoxanthin appears to have 13 times the antioxidant power of vitamin E and is significantly more effective than vitamin A at shielding cell membranes.
Reduces Heart Disease Risk
The top cause of death worldwide is heart disease. Heart problems are becoming more and more prevalent among young people, and the main causes include an improper diet, excessive stress, and insufficient sleep. Since everything begins with food, it is a good idea to incorporate seaweed into your diet, as its high potassium content may help lower blood pressure. Additionally, seaweed contains a type of carbohydrate called fucan which stops blood clotting. Additionally, seaweed is a good cholesterol filter, lowering its levels by up to 18%. All of those factors contribute to overall heart health and the prevention of heart stroke.
Promotes Weight Loss
Seaweed has a lot of fiber, a substance that doesn’t have any calories but one that slows down stomach emptying, delaying the stomach's ability to transmit hunger to the brain. Seaweed also has a high protein content, making it one of the best foods for delivering the most nutrients in the fewest number of calories. And finally, certain kinds of seaweed include fucoxanthin, a substance that helps with body fat loss.
Supports Gut Health
As we've already mentioned, seaweed is a fantastic source of fiber, which is also good for your gut. Most seaweed fiber is made up of polysaccharides, which we cannot digest. Our gut, on the other hand, is capable of doing so, and fiber functions as a prebiotic, a source of food for bacteria in our gut.
Encourages Immune Response
Seaweed is also useful to the functioning of your immune system. According to several studies, various substances in seaweed support the immune system, which may decrease the length of colds and reduce the risk of subsequent infection.
Reduces the Risk of Diabetes
We've already highlighted fucoxanthin, a component of seaweed that acts as a powerful antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties. Furthermore, it controls insulin levels and enhances blood sugar regulation. Thus, it greatly lowers the danger of type 2 diabetes. These findings came from a Japanese study that showed that participants in the experiment had significantly lowered blood sugar levels after consuming seaweed for eight weeks.
Protects Against Asthma
As you may well know, seaweed is popular due to its ability to reduce inflammation. Asthma is one of those inflammatory conditions where seaweed may come in handy. Despite the lack of evidence, some doctors still recommend eating seaweed throughout pregnancy and early childhood to avoid asthma development.
Lowers the Risk of Osteoporosis
While free radical oxidation may contribute to the development of cancer and heart disease, it can also result in osteoporosis (bone density loss). Oxidative stress, which is what causes the disease, kills the osteoblasts, which are the cells that build bone. Antioxidants found in seaweed prevent this from happening. Seaweed is also an excellent source of calcium and vitamin K, two nutrients necessary for maintaining strong, healthy bones.
Possible Side Effects of Seaweed
We've already touched on it briefly, but eating too much seaweed can expose you to potentially harmful levels of iodine. The signs of an iodine overload are the same as those of an iodine deficiency. Therefore, it is wise to see a doctor if you experience any symptoms like weight fluctuations or swelling in the neck area. Don't worry too much, though; even if you ate too much seaweed, your thyroid function will return to normal after you stop including it in your diet. Additionally, you can regulate the amount of iodine in seaweed. For example, kelp loses up to 99% of its iodine when it is boiled for 15 minutes.
Heavy Metal Load
Seaweed effectively absorbs and stores minerals, and it also effectively absorbs harmful heavy metals. Depending on the region where seaweed is produced, it may contain heavy metals such as cadmium, mercury, aluminum, and lead. Recent research that examined various kinds of seaweed from Asia and Europe showed that the content of heavy metals is much too low to pose any health problems. Despite the low risk, we nonetheless advise you to buy only organic seaweed from reputable suppliers and limit your consumption because heavy metals can build up in your body over time.
Being one of the most popular ingredients in Asian cuisine, seaweed is also good for your health. It contains a huge variety of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants and is the best dietary source of iodine. However, it's crucial to realize that excessive consumption of seaweed is also unhealthy. We would like to reiterate that you should speak with a doctor before putting seaweed in your diet if you are sensitive to iodine or have ever had problems with your thyroid.
Is seaweed good for the skin?
Seaweed is excellent for your skin since it has anti-inflammatory properties and is packed with antioxidants. It has hydrating qualities and forms a shield on the skin to protect it from toxins and damage. Consider adding seaweed to your diet or using cosmetic products that contain it.
Are dried seaweed snacks healthy?
Compared to the crackers and chips we are all used to, seaweed snacks are far healthier. You can provide your body with a boost of vitamins, as well as iodine, calcium, iron, and magnesium, by eating seaweed snacks.
Which seaweed is healthiest?
Different types of seaweed have different benefits. Red seaweed, for instance, is high in iodine, whereas spirulina gives you a good energy boost. Overall, all varieties of seaweed offer a wealth of nutritional advantages and are beneficial to your health.