Seaweed is a primitive sea plant that belongs to the Algae family. Seaweeds are grown in salt water and are usually found in ocean, rivers, lakes, and other water bodies.
There are three main types of seaweed based on their pigments and colouration; green algae (Chlorophyta), brown algae (Phaeophyta), and red algae (Rhodophyta). Within these categories of seaweed, there are dozens of edible seaweed varieties. Some well-known types of edible seaweed include Nori, Kelp, Wakame, and Dulse.
Seaweed is a popular dish in many countries. In Japan, Nori is a commonly consumed red seaweed where it is used to wrap sushi. Kelp and Wakame are types of brown seaweed where are widely used in the Far-East as flavouring agents for stews and soups. In Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, Dulse is used to prepare oatmeal soups, breads, and as a seasoning for meals.
Seaweed Nutrition Facts
Seaweed is one of the most nutrient-rich plants in the world. It is low in calories and is packed with fiber, protein, and various vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, C, E, & K, folate, calcium, iron, manganese, magnesium, and many more.
Seaweed is also a rich source of iodine, which is essential for proper functioning of the thyroid and to protect against radioactive iodine exposure.
Additionally, particular sugars found in seaweed called sulfated polysaccharides have been shown to increase the growth of “good” gut bacteria.
These polysaccharides can also increase the production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFA), which provide support and nourishment to the cells lining your gut.
Health Benefits of Seaweed
1. Cancer prevention
The presence of lignans in seaweed can help to reduce the risk of breast cancer. Lignans inhibit blood cell growth and prevent fast growing tumors from entering the bloodstream.
In addition to lignans, seaweed is a very good source of the B-vitamin folic acid. Studies have shown that diets high in folate-rich foods are associated with a significantly reduced risk for colon cancer.
2. Prevents cardiovascular disease
3. Reduces inflammation
Seaweed contains sulfated polysaccharide called Fucoidan that have been shown to reduce inflammation which can contribute to a host of ailments such as asthma, arthritis, celiac disease, and depression.
4. Aids in weight loss
Seaweeds have no fat content and are low in calories (less than 20 calories per serving). The fiber content in seaweed can also help you feel full faster and thus prevent you from overeating.
5. Regulates blood sugar
Due to its high fiber content, seaweed can also help slow down food digestion, preventing blood sugar spikes after meals.
6. Stress relief
The pantothenic acid and riboflavin found in seaweed helps maintain the health of adrenal glands, making the body capable of managing stress efficiently.
7. Maintains a healthy thyroid function
Seaweeds are a great source of iodine, which the body does not naturally produce. Iodine is essential for the normal regulation of thyroid function. Without significant iodine in the body, the thyroid hormones cannot be synthesized properly, which affect metabolism and physiological functions.
8. Prevents birth defects
Seaweed is high in folic acid, which has been linked to prevention of birth defect like spina bifida.
9. Regulates estrogen
Research suggests that eating seaweed can also help regulate estrogen and estradiol levels — two hormones responsible for proper development of healthy sexual organs.
10. Maintains bone health
Seaweeds contain high amounts of calcium, which is necessary for strengthening bones and reducing the risk of osteoporosis.