Get the health benefits of seaweed when you include this nutritious food in your next meal. Learn why seaweed is awesome here!
In this article:
- What Are Seaweeds?
- The Good
- Chock Full o’Goodness
- The Bad…
- What About Weight Loss?
- What About Spirulina or Chlorella?
- The Weedy…
- How Do You Like Your Kelp in the Morning?
Is Seaweed Good for You?
What Are Seaweeds?
Seaweeds are ocean plants containing high amounts of various nutrients, including some we may not be getting enough of, such as iodine. This can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your unique needs.
Your thyroid function and the species of seaweed also factor into the effectivity of this superfood for your overall health.
Let’s dive into the good, the bad and the…weedy… of seaweed.
Seaweeds are really high in many of the vitamins and minerals we need for optimum function. Of those minerals, a significant one is iodine, a vital component in thyroid health.
Iodine values in seaweed vary among species and where it’s grown. It ranges anywhere from around 16 micrograms per gram in nori, all the way up to 8165 mcg/g for Icelandic fingered tangle! So variety really does matter.
This is great if you’re one of the savvy folks who has given up iodized table salt in favor of natural salt alternatives like sea salt or pink Himalayan salt.
It has a significantly higher iodine content than other vegetables. The daily intake guideline for iodine for adults is 150 to 1100 mcg per day. So depending on the type of seaweed you’re eating, you may not be hitting this target or you could be surpassing it!
What is pink Himalayan salt? Known as the cleanest and most beneficial salt on Earth, it contains 98% sodium chloride with trace minerals making up the remaining 2%. It’s a healthier alternative to chemically processed table salt.
Chock Full o’Goodness
Seaweed really is a superfood. It’s significantly higher in calcium, folate, iron, vitamin B complex, vitamin E, and zinc than broccoli, one of the superheroes of the land-veggie kingdom.
It also contains many other minerals that folks are often deficient in, such as chromium, magnesium, selenium, manganese, bromine, and boron.
Considering you can consume very little to get great value from it, it does make it an appealing supplement to your diet.
Here are some of the other purported benefits of eating seaweed on a regular basis:
- Provides healing benefits for diabetes, cancer, radiation poisoning, and obesity
- Prevents dental cavities
- Protects against influenza B virus
- Beneficial for cardiovascular and digestive health
- Helps keep skin and hair healthy
- Helps maintain electrolyte balance in the body
- Natural diuretic that can help reduce bloating from edema (swelling from excess water in certain tissues of the body)
- Enhances libido and may help improve sperm health in men
- Improves energy levels
- And many more!
Since there are many varieties of seaweed supplements and pills on the market, you may decide that it is easiest to include it in your diet that way. However, supplementation in capsule form is not always the best way to go– unless you are very unwell, in which case, it’s always best to work with a qualified and skilled practitioner.
Although capsules are more regulated and you can tell how much of each nutrient is present, it doesn’t always play out that way in your body.
You may have gut dysfunction which means you are not absorbing the benefits of the seaweed, or they may contain types of seaweed not good for you personally. They may even be unbalanced in nutrients for your needs and lead to other problems down the line.
Whole foods in their natural state are more bioavailable, meaning they contain all the added co-factors your body needs to use them properly, in a format your body understands. It’s also easier for your body to eliminate excess when foods are in their natural form.
Extracts and isolates of seaweed are not in their whole state and may either work very inefficiently or have undesirable effects.
RELATED: Getting Kids To Eat Veggies
What About Weight Loss?
It’s been shown that alginates (an extract) from kelp may help block fat absorption into the body by up to 75% (sounds great, right?). But, the way it does this is quite unhealthy.
Our bodies produce lipase, a fat-digesting enzyme, to help us break down and absorb healthy fats into the body. Fats also signal our gallbladder to release bile, which, if it chronically does not, can lead to gallstones later in life.
Some other types of seaweeds are shown to be beneficial for the digestive system and improve the production of enzymes and fat metabolism. So once again, it’s really important to know which type of seaweed will suit your nutritional needs.
Laminaria digitata, another form of kelp from the French coast, can suppress the appetite. While that may be helpful for those prone to overeating, it’s not going to trick you into eating a salad when you would normally eat a burger and fries.
It can, possibly, help to aid weight-loss as part of a much broader healthy eating and lifestyle adjustment. Remember, seaweed may be of benefit to you, but it will never be a cure-all.
What About Spirulina or Chlorella?
A word of caution is to check whether what you’re buying is actually a seaweed or algae. Spirulina and chlorella are both highly-acclaimed supplements (and don’t we all know someone who swears by them?), but they are actually algae.
Chorella is the cousin of spirulina. They both help in strengthening the body’s cardiovascular system.
People with autoimmune diseases need to be very cautious with algae as they stimulate the immune system, which isn’t a good thing in their case.
Another caveat goes back to the iodine levels in these plants. For many people the extra iodine is beneficial, but for those with thyroid dysfunction or under chronic stress which places a strain on the thyroid, it’s not always such a good thing.
A final consideration is the potential interactions between seaweeds and pharmaceutical drugs.
Certain seaweed varieties can interfere with medications such as blood-thinning drugs and those for hyperthyroid conditions. If you have any form of a chronic health condition, especially related to cardiovascular or thyroid health, please seek sound advice from a healthcare professional before adding seaweeds to your diet.
So, should you eat seaweed? Well, clearly it’s not a yes or no answer. Take into account these last few points before you go adding heaps to your shopping basket.
- Consider your genetic background. Those hailing from communities where seaweed has been a staple part of their lifestyles for many generations, like the Japanese, have constitutions adapted to a diet high in these plants.
If your genetic lineage is from central Africa, it’s not likely that your body will handle seaweeds on a daily basis. But then, the only way to be sure is to try it out, starting with small amounts and build from there. If you start to notice negative effects, reduce your consumption.
- Consider what health benefits you are looking for in these plants and then carefully select the right types based on their nutritional profile (the info is freely available online) and health benefits. Listen to your gut and only choose ones that you feel are right for you, not just because they sound like a panacea and you’re in a hurry to feel better. Then follow the guidelines in the above point: start small and work up slowly, working with one type at a time.
- Do you like the taste? This one may seem a little irrelevant, but if you are trying to force yourself to eat something you don’t like because you think you should, the stress may totally outweigh the advantage you gain.
Stress causes a negative hormonal cascade in your body that depletes you of many vital hormones and nutrients. However, if you think you can learn to like it and it’s fun for you to try new ways of cooking and eating it, go for it!
How Do You Like Your Kelp in the Morning?
Here are a few ways you can try to incorporate seaweed into your diet, from baby steps to big lunges!
- Sprinkling kelp granules onto salads, egg dishes, homemade fries, or any other savory foods
- Eating nori seaweed-wrapped sushi or sushi rolls
- Adding seaweed kombu (edible kelp) to soups and simmering bone-broths
- Adding powdered forms to juices and smoothies (be aware, they can be quite salty!)
- Get them in ready-to-eat snack form (just be sure to check the ingredients and avoid any that are cooked in vegetable or seed oils, like canola or sunflower, which are high in trans-fats)
- Try them in noodle form with your main meal
- Try them as a veggie side dish or as a main part of your lunchtime salad
Should seaweed salad and seaweed snacks become a part of your diet? They should be, considering all the benefits of seaweeds to your health and overall wellness discussed here.
How would you like to consume this superfood? Do you have it dried, in sushi, or in soup? Share how you include edible seaweed in your food for that boost in vitamins and minerals in the comments section below.
- The Battle Of The Greens: Moringa vs. Matcha
- Turmeric: The Super-Root Could Save You Money (And A Trip To The Pharmacy)
- Mushroom Health Benefits
Sources for this article:
- Organic Facts
- Natural News
- NHS UK
- Weight Loss Resources UK
- Huffington Post UK
- Quick and Dirty Tips
- Health-Supplements AU
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on February 27, 2017, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.