Aside from swimming with it or seeing it wrapped around our sushi, many Americans have few encounters with seaweed. Many of us don’t even know how to begin preparing it. Furthermore, since many Americans don’t know the health benefits of eating seaweed, there isn’t a strong urge to learn more about this sea vegetable…at least until now.
A Little About Seaweed
Seaweed is a member of the algae family. Edible seaweed comes in three varieties: brown, red and green. Most sushi chefs use red seaweed like nori, but the brown varieties such as kelp and wakame are most common. In fact, researchers have recently discovered a brown variety of seaweed that allegedly tastes exactly like bacon when cooked!
Researchers at Oregan State University patented the newly discovered strain of seaweed. It is normally found along the coastlines of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, but researchers are now working on cultivating it in-land (with twice the nutritional value as kale, it’s worth the trouble).
Still, seaweed’s been labeled a superfood, and for good reason! Check out why you should be eating more seaweed!
1. Excellent Source of Iodine
Manufacturers have been adding iodine to table salt since the 1920s when many Americans suffered from iodine deficiency. Iodine is critical in maintaining a healthy thyroid. An unhealthy thyroid can cause weakness, fatigue, high cholesterol and impaired memory among many other illnesses.
Since Americans usually consume too much salt, iodine seems like the one nutrient you don’t have to go out of your way to consume. However, as we become more conscious of what we put in our bodies, we start to keep salt at bay. Unfortunately, iodine is kept at bay as well, and now mild iodine deficiency is becoming increasingly common again.
This is where seaweed comes to the rescue. Just one gram of brown seaweed contains anywhere from five to 50 times the recommended daily intake!
2. Regulates Estrogen and Estradiol Levels
Estrogen and estradiol are hormones that are responsible for the development and proper functioning of sexual organs. Seaweed could help to reduce breast cancer, control PMS and improve female infertility.
3. Potent Source of Antioxidants
Seaweed’s high level of antioxidants make it the ideal food to prevent inflammation, thus protecting you against a variety of ailments including arthritis, celiac disease, asthma, depression and obesity.
How much seaweed is too much?
Of course, upon discovering a new superfood, there’s the temptation to overindulge. Keep in mind that two tablespoons of red seaweed have 34 times the potassium found in an equal sized serving of bananas. A serving size that huge can cause heart palpitations among those who have kidney problems.
Over consumption of seaweed also leads to an over consumption of iodine, which is just as bad as having too little of this nutrient.
Where the seaweed comes from matters.
If the water your seaweed comes from is contaminated, (with toxic metals or arsenic for example,) the seaweed will also be contaminated. Although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates commercial seaweed, seaweed supplements are NOT regulated. Do not take seaweed pills if you are pregnant or lactating.
Ways to Incorporate Seaweed Into Your Diet
Aside from sushi rolls, there are many ways to get more seaweed in your diet. Here are just some of them:
- For salads, seaweed is a great substitute for spinach or lettuce. You can soak dried wakame seaweed in warm water until it expands and use it as the base for a traditional Japanese seaweed salad as well.
- Try sprinkling crispy bits of seaweed on a traditional salad if you prefer, or grind up the dried bits and use them as a healthy salt substitute!
- Seaweed is low in calories, making it the perfect snack. You can make a seaweed spread for your toast, or bake seaweed into muffins. You can bake nori seaweed, get some wasabi sauce, and a make a healthy chip and dip.
- If you’d rather sip your seaweed, soak and strain this chewy vegetable, pour over ice and serve with a twist of lime.
- Got a sweet tooth? Bake seaweed into your baked goods or make a seaweed pudding! Here’s a healthy Seaweed Cookie Recipe you have to try!
- 6 tablespoons of raw grass-fed and unsalted butter
- 2 teaspoons of ground seaweed flakes plus additional to sprinkle on the cookies
- 9 tablespoons cacoa
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 ½ tablespoons of cold pressed olive oil or coconut oil
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons of coconut flour
- Mix the butter and ground seaweed flakes together until the mixture is smooth. Beat in the cacoa, then the egg yolk.
- If using an electric mixer, scrape down the sides, then add the olive/coconut oil and coconut flour until smooth.
- On the countertop, roll the dough into two logs, each 8 inches long. Wrap each in plastic and chill the dough for an hour or until it is firm enough to slice.
- Preheat the oven to 300F (200C). Line a baking pan with parchment paper then slice the cookies ¼ inch thick. Place the cookies evenly-spaced on the baking sheet.
- Sprinkle a bit of ground seaweed over the top of each cookie. Bake the cookies for 12-14 minutes or until slightly firm. Cool before serving.
- You can store the cookies in an airtight container overnight, but they’re best the day they’re made. Enjoy!