Seaweed - the Modern Day Superfood That Got Everyone Talking

Touted as the modern day superfood, let’s get to know seaweed or otherwise known as sea vegetables.

You might have heard of the new fad in healthy eating – The Seaweed. The term seaweed is very board because seaweed comes in a variety of shapes and types.

Basically, seaweed is a term often used to describe a group of plants and algae that grow in the oceans, rivers, as well as in lakes and other water bodies. They are highly nutritious and are an important food source for marine life.

But, seaweed is equally beneficial for us humans, too!

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Seaweed – the trustworthy superfood has centuries worth of history

Since it is only recently talked about or that we have studied the nutritional aspects of seaweed, it must be a new discovery, right? You are wrong!

You will be surprised to know that seaweed has been an item of human consumption for thousands of years. There are records that we can use as evidence, which states that Japan has included seaweed in their staple diets going back 2000 years.

Some records claim that at least 6 different varieties of seaweed had been in use in Japan in 800 A.D.

There is also evidence which supports the fact that seaweed was used by ancient Greeks in medicine. Seaweed was also used by the Greeks as means of cattle fodder. And, these are just a few examples.

Bladderwrack Seaweed
Source: KenWalker/Wikimedia Commons

If we were to delve in further and expand the research to other parts of the world, you can see that China, Ireland, Hawaii, and the Tongans too, have used seaweed hundreds of years before us.

So, it is safe to say that seaweed has been an active component of food and medicine across many countries and cultures. The modern world is now recognizing its importance thanks to new research.

They are often also called Sea Vegetables, due to the benefits of consuming them. 

Do we eat all types of seaweed?

There are many types of seaweed to choose from, but can we eat them all? The answer is yes, but the best among them are the ones that give you the most amount of nutrients with minimal intake.

Also, you should only eat seaweed that is harvested from unpolluted ocean waters. Here are some of the common seaweeds that you can eat and get real benefits.

Seaweed Salad
Source: Ken Hawkins/Flickr

Agar-Agar: A colorless, odorless, and flavorless alga that is used for its gelatinous nature. It is an organic alternative to gelatin.

Agar-agar is a great source of fiber and promotes weight loss by inhibiting the body to store excess fat.

Arame: A brown alga that is rich in iodine and calcium, and is widely used in Japan and South Korea. The mildly sweet flavor of Arame makes it a regular ingredient in Japanese sweets and savories.

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Arame is also rich in iron, and antioxidants.

Bladderwrack: It is a variety of kelp that was commonly used in making herbal teas in China and Japan. Bladderwrack contains a high concentration of iodine; hence, it is very helpful in treating thyroid problems and skin diseases.

It is also a good source of beta-carotene, potassium, mucilage, and zeaxanthin.

Dulse: The Dulse is a red alga that is rich in potassium and calcium, making it a rich source of minerals for increasing bone strength. It also contains iron, which helps in blood production and health.

Dulse is found to be effective in reducing blood pressure.

Hijki: Hijki is very popular in Korea, Japan, and China for its culinary uses as well as health benefits. Hijki contains minerals such as calcium, iron, and magnesium while also having a high amount of fiber.

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Kelp: Kelp is a vitamin powerhouse containing vitamins A, B1, B2, C, D and E. Kelp also has an impressive concentration of calcium - 168 mg per 100 grams.

This even beats the concentration of calcium in milk, which measures to 125 mg per 100 grams.

Nori: Meet the most common edible seaweed available worldwide. Nori is immensely famous for its use in the preparation of sushi.

Nori has a mix of vitamins and minerals, giving it the most comprehensive nutritional profile among seaweeds. It is also rich in unsaturated fatty acids and important amino acids.

Sea Lettuce: Sea lettuce is often used as a replacement for Nori. It is packed with protein, iron, fiber, minerals, and Vitamins A, B, and C.

It is most commonly used as a salad green due to its distinctive flavor and aroma.

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Benefits of including seaweed in your daily diet

Seaweed Salad
Source: Loozrboy/Flickr

From the list of the most common edible seaweeds above, you now know the impressive nutritional content. They are touted as superfoods because of their high concentration of vitamins and minerals.

One common nutrient that is found across all seaweed is dietary fiber. It helps in digestion and helps in weight loss. And, depending upon the type of seaweed you select, you will get certain nutrients like Omega 3s and antioxidants.

So it’s always a good practice to try out different seaweed varieties.

Adding seaweed to your daily diet is what nutritionists recommend to get a balanced diet. Their combination of vitamins and minerals also help in balancing our hormones. 

There are even claims based on various research that seaweed can help in cancer and tumor treatments.

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Seaweed bad for your health? Or is it our doing?

Seaweed takes nutrients from the water that they grow in. If the water around them is polluted, they will absorb the pollutants into their system.

When we consume them, the harmful elements enter our body, causing problems.

A research found out that mercury and arsenic levels in the Korean adult population, which included a moderate amount of seaweed in their diets were higher than the basic blood level limit.

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Make sure that the seaweed you get is from organic sources. A different approach is to limit your seaweed intake to just three times a week and choose different brands of seaweed.

Seaweed on its own cannot harm our bodies, but when they grow in the polluted regions where water is contaminated from industrial wastes, they become a threat to humans as well as marine life.

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