The World Health Organization (WHO) tells us that cardiovascular diseases are the number one cause of premature deaths on a global scale. It’s amazing just how many people die from these diseases, but what is more incredible is how widespread and preventable the pathologies leading to these deaths are.
One way to prevent cardiovascular diseases is to avoid obesity and eat healthy, which means, essentially, that it is up to us. But it shouldn’t be solely our responsibility, it should be shared by all of society. That is what Ole G. Mouritsen, professor of biophysics at the University of Southern Denmark. He believes he has the answer to this problem: seaweed.
Professor Mouritsen has written several books on seaweed and is the co-author of an article in the journal Phycologia reviewing the existing knowledge on the health effects of 35 different varieties of seaweed. In the article, he offers ideas on how consumers and the food industry can use seaweed to make every day meals healthier.
“Certain substances in seaweed may be important for reducing cardiovascular diseases. We think this knowledge should be available for society and also be put to use”, says Mouritsen.
Seaweed Is Better Than Salt
Different seaweed species have a variety of health benefits. They contain beneficial proteins, antioxidants, minerals, trace elements, dietary fiber, and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Seaweed also contains potassium salt, which does not lead to high blood pressure unlike the sodium salts found in processed food.
Seaweed also contains ‘umami’ – the fifth basic taste, which is known to make you feel full and regulate food intake as well as reduce the craving for salt, sugar, and fat. Professor Mouritsen believes that all a person needs is 5-10 grams of seaweed a day to take advantage of its health qualities.
In his article, he and his co-authors suggest that seaweed should be added to fast food, making it healthier than it is now. It can even work to make the food taste better. Another example of its usefulness is in flour. Granulated seaweed can replace some of the flour that goes into producing dry pasta, bread, frozen pizzas and meals, snack bars, the list is endless!
Seaweed In Meat Products
It is even possible to add seaweed to meat products and give the consumer more dietary fiber and antioxidants, and even lower cholesterol levels. In the article Mouritsen describes a study performed on a group of overweight, but still healthy men. They were given bread made with added seaweed from the species Ascophyllum nosodum.
They discovered that bread that contained less than 4% seaweed content had an acceptable taste. They also found that by eating bread with 4% dried seaweed, the overweight men ingested more dietary fiber (4.5g more fiber per. 100g) than when they ate the control whole-meal bread. They also consumed 16.4% less energy in the 24 hour period after eating the seaweed enriched bread.
How To Get The Health Benefits From Seaweed
- Seaweed contains only few calories, but is still rich in rich in essential amino acids, dietary fibers, minerals, trace elements, vitamins and polyunsaturated fats.
- You can add up to 5% dried seaweed to a dough without losing its ability to raise.
- Dried seaweed can be stored for months or years without loss of flavor and nutritional value.
- Dried seaweed can be added to food as powder, granulated or in pieces in pastries, egg dishes, mashed potatoes, dressings, or sprinkled on vegetables or fish dishes.
- Powders and granulates can be used instead of salt.
- Some species may contain large amounts of iodine.
- Never eat seaweed that is washed up on the beach (obvious but had to be said)
Incorporating seaweed into your diet is a great way to look after the health of your body, especially your heart. Hopefully corporations that are making a lot of the foods we eat will start to do the same too.