How many of you have ever tried sushi? No, not the one with the raw meat in it, but the other kinds that have rice covered with nori (a seaweed) and veggies and avocado inside.
Besides the great taste of the veggie sushi, you may be surprised that you are getting more than a mouthful of flavor. The sea vegetable called nori, which is one of numerous sea vegetables has many nutritious benefits.
Seaweed contains a massive variety of health-promoting components as compared to the majority of other plant and animal-based foods available on land. Seaweed is a rich source of essential minerals such as magnesium, calcium, copper, potassium, selenium, zinc, iodine, and iron, while also containing a very low amount of fats. Seaweed is also a treasure trove of antioxidants, phytonutrients and rich fiber content that is required by the body. Vitamins present in seaweed are vitamin A, B, C, E and K. Seaweeds also contains omega-3 fatty acids and all the vital amino acids necessary for the body.
Raw or Sun Dried Seaweed Contains:
- High protein content: from 20% in green algae to 70% in spirulina.
- High mineral content, especially: iodine, potassium, selenium, calcium, iron, magnesium.
- More vitamin C than oranges.
- Vegans can rejoice in the fact that it’s one of the only natural, non-animal sources of vitamin B-12, which is essential for many cognitive and bodily functions.
- Natural iodine maintaining a healthy thyroid function.
- Anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory properties.
If you have seen the packages of different sea vegetables at the grocery store but were afraid to try them, let us assure you, go ahead and give them a try! Not only will you enjoy their salty addition to soups, salads and even smoothies, but your body will love the added nutritional benefits.
What Makes Seaweed So Great?
A member of the algae family, edible seaweed typically comes in three varieties: brown, red, and green. The most commonly eaten (and researched) are the brown varieties such as kelp and wakame, followed by red seaweed, which includes nori (yep — that’s what most sushi chefs use).
While seaweed-based cuisine has a proud history in many Asian countries, Japan has made it into an art form, employing over twenty different species in their fare. In a restaurant, you’re most likely to consume seaweed in a small kelp (kombu) salad, simmered into miso soup, or wrapped around a sushi roll.
Other Health Benefits of Seaweed
Seaweed contains cancer-fighting agents that may prove useful in fighting tumors and other cancer conditions like colon cancer and leukemia. Brown seaweed such as kelp, wakame, and kombu contain glycoprotein and sulphated polysaccharides called fucoidans that possess immuno-stimulant, anti-viral, and anti-cancer properties. Research studies on the effectiveness of dietary seaweed on breast cancer have shown promising results in reducing the production of cancer-promoting hormones, including estrogen, and have the ability to inhibit the proliferation of malignant cancer cells.
Source of Iodine:
Seaweed is a rich source of iodine, which it absorbs in ample amounts from the sea water. Iodine is a vital nutrient required for proper growth for all age groups. It is essential for the normal regulation of thyroid function, which also involves the brain and pituitary gland. The thyroid hormone also plays an essential role in the process of myelination of the central nervous system in newborns. A deficiency of iodine in the body can result in abnormalities such as thyroid enlargement or goiter, hypothyroidism, and mental retardation.
Seaweed has a mild laxative effect and is quite useful in maintaining healthy digestion. It aids in stimulating the release of digestive enzymes, supporting the absorption of nutrients, and facilitating the metabolism of fats. Studies have shown that polysaccharides exert prebiotic effects on the gut, which helps in normal functioning of beneficial stomach bacteria and shields the stomach wall against harmful bacteria.
The Fucoxanthin compound present in brown algae has been proven effective in exerting anti-diabetic effects. Along with this, the triglyceride absorption of kombu, has been praised for its effect on diabetes. As stated by the research, the anti-diabetic effect can be attributed to the presence of alginic acid in the kombu.
Seaweed extracts have long been appreciated for their preventative effect in the growth of dental cavities. The anti-inflammatory properties are responsible for the improvement in the functioning of salivary glands and making the oral tissues more resistant to damage.
Laboratory research has made it evident that seaweed possesses antioxidant and anti-coagulant properties. Anti-coagulants, also known as blood thinners, prevent the formation of blood clots and decrease the threat of stroke, cardiac failure, and obstruction in the veins and arteries.
Seaweed possesses the ability to detoxify and cleanse the body and facilitates the excretion of toxic waste. The binding property of the natural absorbent, alginate, which is present in seaweed, makes toxic materials, including heavy metals like lead, mercury, and other pollutants indigestible and eliminated them from the body through bowel movements.
Seaweed possesses anti-viral properties that have been proven promising in providing a protective effect against Influenza B virus. Seaweed extracts obstruct the absorption of harmful viral particles in the cells and prevents the body from getting infected.
Seaweed has been useful in sustaining lower levels of triglycerides and cholesterol in the body. This helps in maintaining a healthy heart, smooth circulation in the blood vessels, and prevents fatal conditions like heart failure, and atherosclerosis.
Seaweed has the ability to protect the skin from damage caused by exposure to ultraviolet B radiation from sunlight. This defensive effect can be attributed to the presence of fucoxanthin in the seaweed, which aids in preventing cell damage and enhancing the survival rate of the pre-treated cells. The antioxidant effect of fucoxanthin protects the skin from photo-aging, pigmentation, and wrinkle formation.
Protects Your Eyes:
The anti-ocular inflammatory effect exerted by fucoxanthin, present in seaweed, has shown promising results in the prevention of after-cataract. This complication is also known as posterior capsule opacification which can occur after cataract surgery. Fucoxanthin is utilized in the formulation of products used in ocular implants in the cataract surgery to avoid the risk of after-cataract.
The wealth of essential vitamins, minerals, amino acids and antioxidants in seaweed helps in keeping the skin revitalized, moisturized, and youthful. These elements guard the skin against the harmful effects of environmental pollutants and helps to slow down the skin’s aging process. Scientific research has proven that seaweed extracts contain anti-aging properties. The anti-inflammatory properties present in seaweed are useful in treating skin rashes and wounds. The phytonutrients elevate blood flow and bring a healthy glow to the face. Seaweed wraps detoxify and cleanse the skin by expelling toxins out of the pores. Seaweed baths have also been admired among British and Irish people for ages due to their therapeutic effects.
The high mineral content of seaweed also aids in maintaining healthy hair. They help in strengthening the roots and shafts of hair follicles and make them thick and lustrous.
So, What Else Is New?
And if that isn’t enough to get you singing the praises of seaweed, now scientists have found that a type of commercial red algae could help counteract food allergies. They report their findings in mice in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, June 1, 2016.
Food allergies are a major global health issue that can be life threatening in some cases. One 2014 study by researchers at Mount Sinai Hospital estimates that the condition affects about 8 percent of children and 5 percent of adults worldwide. In people who are allergic, certain compounds in food trigger a cascade of immune system reactions that lead to symptoms such as hives, wheezing and dizziness — and in the worst cases, anaphylactic shock.
Previous research has suggested that certain seaweed varieties contain polysaccharides with anti-asthmatic and anti-allergy effects. But no one had investigated whether similar molecules in Gracilaria lemaneiformis, a commercial variety of red algae, might have similar properties. Guang-Ming Liu and colleagues wanted to find out.
The researchers isolated polysaccharides from G. lemaneiformis and fed them to a group of mice sensitive to tropomyosin, a protein that is a major shellfish allergen. Another group of mice, also sensitive to tropomyosin, did not get the polysaccharides. After both groups were given the allergen, allergy symptoms in the treated mice were reduced compared to the untreated animals. Further studying polysaccharides from G. lemaneiformis could help lead to a better understanding of food allergies and their prevention, the researchers say.
So, if you are a bit reluctant to add a bit of the sea to your meals, go find yourself a great recipe and slowly introduce it into your diet. Just two tablespoons once a week is enough for you to create a favorable change. No need to add any more since the power isn’t in the quantity, it is in the quality.
A Few Precautions
There are a few considerations before you bring this to your plate. Too much iodine can have its own issues, so since seaweed is high in iodine, treat it with respect and enjoy it only once a week as stated above.
There can be some drug interactions using seaweed. Anti-thyroid as well as blood clotting drugs can be sensitive to the influence of seaweed.
But, if you are looking for a powerhouse of nutrients, and have no problems with medicines interacting, look no further than the sea to find what just may be the next best condiment you’ve ever had.