Benefits of Seaweed
Seaweed has been a staple in the diets of people living along the coasts of the world for thousands of years, especially in Asian countries. However, eating sea vegetables and appreciating their health benefits is relatively new to many in the U.S. The new appreciation may be due in part to the rise in popularity of sushi and other dishes served in sushi restaurants such as seaweed salad.
Whatever the cause of the rise in popularity of seaweed, there is no denying its benefits. For example, a 2010 study showed that it might help reduce the rate of fat absorption and contribute to weight loss.
Seaweed a Marina Algae
Sea vegetables are marine algae that grow around the world along the shores of oceans and seas usually attaching themselves to rocks and other hard surfaces. Most consumable seaweed comes from China, Japan, and Korea.
It’s important to note that the term “algae” is also used for other organisms that grow in fresh water, under ice, on land, and in brackish water. The difference is that all seaweeds are algae, however, not all algae are seaweed.
Seaweed is classified by color into three types (green, brown, and red) with thousands of species within those colors. The most popular sea vegetables are nori, wakame, kelp, and kombu which is also known as konbu, dashima, or daidai.
Seaweed Health Benefits
Sea vegetables are one of the most nutrient-rich plants in the world because they absorb minerals, salts, and other nutrients from the ocean in concentrated amounts. Here’s a list of the most popular types of marine algae and their benefits.
Nori is the deep purple seaweed used in sushi rolls and is the most commonly eaten marine algae. While its color is deep purple; nori belongs to the red algae family. Nori has a high content of vitamin A, C, and the B-complex vitamins. It also contains protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and minerals like iodine, iron, manganese, and phosphorous. A lab study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that nori lowered LDL cholesterol levels. The same publication reported that nori was linked to low rates of breast cancer.
Kelp is a brown alga and grows to depths of about 75 feet of water and can reach heights of 260 feet. It is rich in iodine and contains vitamin K, folate, magnesium, calcium, and some iron. It also contains fucoidan which has been researched for its cancer-fighting and anti-inflammatory properties.
Kombu, a brown alga, is a staple in Japanese homes. Kombu breaks down starches in food because of its amino acid content. Kombu also has digestive enzymes that help with gas and indigestion. Like other sea vegetables, kombu has anti-inflammatory and cancer-preventing benefits. It is also known to regulate cholesterol levels.
The International Journal of Biological Macromolecules published a Chinese laboratory-based study that showed kombu might have anti-tumor properties that could be helpful with liver cancer. Kombu like other brown algae contains fucoidan which studies show may help improve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Kombu is rich in iron and contains protein, iodine, vitamin A, C, some B vitamins, copper, potassium, zinc, and other nutrients.
While seaweed has many wonderful nutrients and benefits, eating too many of them can be a problem for some with certain medical conditions like thyroid disease. Because sea vegetables have a high concentration of iodine, a mineral the thyroid is dependent on, getting too much of it can interfere with thyroid medications. Check with your doctor to see how much seaweed is safe for you to consume.
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