I walk to the beach every day…and see the slippery, slimy, fly-infested seaweed on the beach and no, my tummy does not rumble! It is not something I even think about eating. But I do regularly sprinkle kelp granules on my food. Let’s look at why we should be eating seaweed (but not straight off the beach!).
Sea vegetable vs seaweed
As I mentioned above, many of us have been put off from eating seaweed because of what we have seen down by the ocean i.e., the slimy green blobby fronds. It just isn’t very appealing in that form. Thus, to raise the image of seaweed into something we might actually want to eat, the consensus is to now to call it a sea vegetable instead of seaweed, as that doesn’t conjure up the image of slime quite as much!
Types of sea vegetables
Sea vegetables are classified by color: red, brown, green, blue-greens, and yellow-greens. The color relates to the specific light spectrum available to the plant for its photosynthesis.
Here are some different types of seaweed:
- Irish moss
Have you tried any of these? If you’ve eaten sushi, you’ve no doubt had some nori as that is the sheet of seaweed they use in sushi. If you’ve had some tinned beans, you may well have had (unknowingly?) some kombu. Kombu is often added to beans during the cooking process as it improves their digestibility (causes less gas!).
Properties of sea vegetables
Sea plants contain ten to twenty time the mineral levels of land plants. They also have an abundance of vitamins and a variety of unique phytonutrients. Each one has its own distinct nutritional profile. But the key nutrient that they a best recognized for is iodine. But we shouldn’t ignore that they can also be a great source of vitamin C, manganese, calcium, and iron.
Because of their high mineral content and as they have the broadest range of minerals of any organism, they are effective in relatively small doses (1-15g/day depending on the type). A little is all we need.
Potential health benefits of seaweed
In addition to being good vitamin and mineral sources, some studies have shown seaweeds to have anti-inflammatory, anticoagulant, antithrombotic, antioxidant, detoxifying and antiviral properties.
Buying sea vegetables
Japan is one of the world’s largest sea vegetable produces and exporters. Many different varieties are now available in our supermarkets.
Look for sea vegetables that are sold in tightly sealed packages. There should be no evidence of moisture. They come in different forms, such as sheets, flakes or powder. As with all vegetables, I encourage you to purchase organically grown foods. This applies to sea vegetables too. Store them in tightly sealed containers at room temperature.
Eating seaweed for the first time
If you haven’t tried seaweed before and are a bit reluctant, I suggest you start simply with some kelp granules. An easy way to use them is to keep them on your work surface in the kitchen and use them as you would salt, to season your food just before eating.
Here are a couple of brands I enjoy:
They don’t have a strong flavor – a light saltiness.
Arsenic and sea vegetables
There has been some concern about the levels of arsenic in some sea vegetables. Hijiki, one form of sea vegetable, which I haven’t seen on sale in the US, was found to have very low levels of inorganic arsenic. It is recommended not to consume hijiki.
Other types of seaweeds tend to have less – only trace amounts. But you are much more likely to get a lower or no arsenic exposure by selecting organic sea vegetables. Some brands list testing levels of arsenic on their containers too.
Give it a try
As I said, we don’t need to eat large quantities – we don’t want excessive iodine, so enjoy in moderation so your body can benefit from this rich source of minerals. If you are dealing with hot summer weather right now, and find yourself sweating more, you are probably sweating out more minerals – so this is the perfect time to add more minerals back into your diet via sea vegetables!
See what you like. I’ll share a seaweed recipe with you on Friday that shows how to use other forms rather than just the sprinkles. If you have a favorite seaweed recipe, do send it on to me.