Sea vegetables, such as seaweed, contain almost all of the nutrients found in the ocean. Many of the minerals in seaweed are also found in human blood. Japanese diets have featured seaweed as a prominent ingredient for centuries, whereas western culture has only recently begun to popularize the sea vegetable.
The best part about sea vegetables is they are excellent sources of folate, iron, calcium, magnesium, riboflavin and pantothenic acid. People often have deficiencies in these vitamins and minerals and take supplements to replenish their bodies when it could be as easy as adding a few seaweed and sea vegetables into their daily diets. Seaweed has also been found to contain lignans which is a plant compound that has cancer-protective properties in it.
Seaweed Nutritional Facts
Ahead of seaweed health benefits, you need to know some seaweed nutritional facts. Below are several kinds of seaweeds.
- Kelp. Kelp is a major source of magnesium, iron, and Vitamin B9, which boost energy levels. High levels of iodine can also be found in kelp and help prevent goiter. Kelp is found in many common products like cosmetics, toothpaste and fertilizer.
- Nori and Laver. Both of these plants are rich in many vitamins such as Vitamin A, B1, B2, C, E and K. They are also full of iron, protein compounds, magnesium, potassium and iodine. Their fat content is also very low. Nori is the seaweed used to wrap sushi while laver is often used for Irish Lava Bread.
- Wakame. Wakame is popular in weight loss supplements due to its high amounts of EPA, or essential fatty acids. Wakame also provides great health benefits to your endocrine system.
- Dulse. This reddish-brown seaweed is found in the waters around Ireland and Iceland. Dulse provides the same vitamins and minerals as the other seaweeds, but its location also makes it a sufficient source of natural sodium. A popular dish involves soaking pieces of dulse in water and eating it with milk.
For people who adhere to a vegetarian diet, seaweeds contain high amounts of essential amino acids. This makes them a very valuable source of vegetable protein.
Seaweed contains high amounts of Vitamin A (beta carotene) and Vitamin C. It also contains many other essential minerals and nutrients like potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium and iodine because they are so concentrated in ocean water. Seaweed is also one of the few vegetables that naturally contains vitamin B-12.
Seaweed Health Benefits
Seaweed and other sea vegetables offer numerous health benefits to anyone who eats them regularly.
- Lower Cancer Risks. The presence of lignans and folic acid in seaweed help to reduce the risk of cancer. Lignans inhibit blood cell growth and prevent fast growing tumors from entering the bloodstream. Healthy levels of lignans and folic acid significantly reduce the risk of colon cancer and breast cancer.
- Keep Thyroid Function Well. Without significant iodine in the body, the thyroid hormones cannot be synthesized properly, which affect metabolism and physiological functions. Seaweed is iodine-rich and can help prevent or correct thyroid deficiencies.
- Prevent Birth Defects. Folic acid is essential to preventing birth defects like spina bifida. Seaweed also helps break down a chemical called homocysteine, which can cause cardiovascular disease, heart attack and stroke.
- Prevent Cardiovascular Disease. Magnesium and folic acid reduce high blood pressure and the risk of heart attack or cardiovascular disease. Both nutrients are found in abundance in different seaweeds - the extremely low rate of heart disease in Japan suggests that a diet rich in sea vegetables may help.
- Reduce Stress. Stress causes the adrenals to produce adrenaline; uncontrolled stress can cause adrenal fatigue, leading to many health problems. One of seaweed health benefits is to reduce stress. Pantothenic acid and riboflavin found in sea vegetables support the adrenal glands, making the body capable of managing stress efficiently.
- Control Weight. Seaweed contains less than 20 calories per serving, is fat free and has high fiber content. The fiber keeps you fuller longer. The high nutrient content in seaweed helps prevent overeating, since the body may be signaling "more nutrition" - easily misinterpreted as "more calories". If the body's nutritional needs are met, the urge to eat will be diminished.
- Substitute Salt. Since it grows in salt water, seaweed is naturally salty and makes a great substitute for table salt when used as an ingredient in a main dish.
- Regulate Blood Sugar. Seaweed helps regulate blood sugar because its high fiber content helps slow down digestion of food (especially simple carbohydrates such as rice), preventing blood sugar spikes.
- Promote Digestion. The soluble fiber in seaweed helps efficient digestion and movement of food particles through the digestive system. This helps prevent constipation and facilitates healthy and effective bowel movements.
- Detox the Body. Seaweed can rid the body of strontium, which is usually only a problem if you have been exposed to radioactive materials. However, it also helps remove the chemicals cadmium and lead, which are found in cigarette smoke, industrial smoke and vehicle exhaust.
- Help Regulate Hormones. Many kinds of cancer can be directly related to hormone levels and hormone synthesis in the body. Seaweed health benefits also include regulating hormones. Eating seaweed regularly will regulate hormones and keep them in check, lowering many cancer risks and even aiding in treatment.
The Easiest Way to Eat Seaweed
- Seaweed Salad. Add ginger, vinegar, sugar, salt, sesame oil and soy sauce to a bowl of dried, soaked wakame. Add a sprinkling of roasted sesame seeds. This salad has a rich source of calcium and thiamine. With roughly .9 mg of iron, 5.6 g of Niacin, 39.1 g of carbohydrates, 100 calories and1.300 mg of sodium, this salad will help to increase your hemoglobin levels, nourish skin, regulate hormones and aid your metabolism.
- Seaweed Crackers (Dried Seaweed). This is great for sprinkling on a seafood dish, or used simply as a snack.
- Sushi Dish. Seaweed can be used as a part of a sushi dish.