There are so many health benefits to consuming seaweed! Here’s just some of them:
Brown Seaweed Health Benefits
Brown seaweed includes Arame, Bladderwrack, Kelp, Kombu, Wakame, Hijiki, and more.
The best known health benefit of brown seaweed might be its high iodine content. Your body needs iodine to create thyroid hormone, without which you’ll develop hypothyroidism. Iodine is also important for a healthy pregnancy.
The symptoms of hypothyroidism include fatigue, cold sensitivity, constipation, dry skin, and unexplained weight gain, among others.
Most people get enough iodine in their diet through iodine enriched table salt, however iodine deficiency is becoming more common in the US, in part because more people are avoiding salty foods.
Brown seaweed contains fucoidan, which has shown promise in eradicating or slowing the spread of colorectal and breast cancers through apoptosis, in which the cancer cell self-destructs. Researchers believe that the low incidence of breast cancer in Japanese women may be due to their consumption of seaweed.
Brown seaweed also contains fucoxanthin which in addition to giving the plant its brown pigment, may promote weight loss. At least one study has shown that when combined with pomegranate seed oil, fucoxanthin resulted in weight loss and reduced liver fat in obese women. Because it’s difficult to eat enough seaweed to replicate the doses used in the study, you’re better off with a supplement in this case.
Red Seaweed Health Benefits:
Red seaweed includes Dulse, Nori, Irish Moss, Ogonori, Carola, and more.
Red seaweeds are generally high in protein, as well as a great source of calcium and other minerals, making them an excellent food for vegetarians and vegans.
And like brown seaweeds, they’re high in Omega-3 and Omega-6, polyunsaturated fatty acids that can prevent inflammation.
Dulse is rich in minerals, including calcium, magnesium, and iron, all of which contribute to bone mineral density. And it’s packed so full of potassium that you get a whopping 34 times the amount found in an equivalent serving of banana!
It’s also fat free, low in carbohydrates, and high in dietary fiber, making it filling but healthy (and some say it tastes similar to bacon when cooked!)
Another popular red seaweed, Nori are the thin sheets used to make sushi rolls. Nori offers many of the same health benefits as dulse, as well as some additional intriguing features.
Nori is one of the few vegetables that has cobalamin, a type of vitamin B12, in a form that can be absorbed by humans. Because B12 is difficult to find outside of animal products, this is great news for vegans!
While many seaweeds are prized for their high iodine content, some individuals may need to limit their iodine intake. If this is you, you’re in luck; nori has the lowest iodine content of all seaweed products, making it safer for those with hyperthyroidism and other conditions.
Green Seaweed Health Benefits:
Green seaweed includes Chlorella, Gutweed, Sea grapes or green caviar, and Sea lettuce.
Green varieties are some of the less commonly found seaweeds, but shouldn’t be overlooked! They’re rich in vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants, which are shown to reduce inflammation.
Chlorella in particular is one to consider:
Chlorella is a great source of protein, iron, magnesium, and amino acids, and can also act as a detoxifying supplement. Its tiny size and unique properties make it able to bind to heavy metals and unwanted chemicals in the body, and studies have shown that taking Chlorella regularly may help avoid heavy metal build up in the body.
Chlorella has also been shown to boost the immune system, reduce blood pressure, and lower blood glucose levels in diabetics.
There are many way to add seaweed to your diet. If you’re sure you don’t like the taste, consider seaweed supplements–but don’t discount how tasty seaweed can be until you’ve tried multiple preparations!
Make a simple Miso Soup
Add it to salads, like the classic Seaweed Salad, or Bon Appetit’s Wakame Cucumber Salad
Craft some sushi rolls – they’re easier than you think and very versatile
Season your food with Seaweed Flakes — you may be surprised at how many dishes benefit from the umami flavor of seaweed
Munch on crispy Nori snacks
Most seaweeds are safe and healthy to add to your diet, but use common sense and take some precautions:
Don’t Overdo It
Too much of anything is unhealthy, and the same goes for seaweed, particularly in regards to its high iodine content. Consuming very large amounts of iodine rich seaweed has the potential to cause thyroid problems, so approach seaweed like any other food and eat it in moderation.
Buy From Safe Sources
Generally the risk of heavy metal and radiation contamination is quite low for seaweed.
However, it’s best to purchase from a company that regularly tests their seaweed for safety. You can also purchase from a company like Maine Coast, who harvest locally, rather than importing from Japan or China.
Avoid This Seaweed
While the vast majority of edible seaweeds are safe and healthy, Hijiki is frequently found to contain arsenic levels exceeding safe limits. It’s less commonly used than others, and you’d probably have to search to find it outside of an Asian market, so avoiding Hijiki shouldn’t be difficult.
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