To many, seaweed is nothing more than an alarming slimy sensation that grazes against your skin while you’re at the beach. The truth is, seaweed is more nutritious and versatile than most of us have ever considered. There are many varieties of seaweed, which have been used in medicine, folklore, farming, and cooking for centuries. Let's take a look at seaweed’s health benefits, which are just one reason to try this superfood.
What are the health benefits of seaweed?
The health benefits of seaweed are mostly summed up in the food's rich collection of vitamins and minerals, which can help boost all areas of bodily health. According to Healthline, iodine, iron, and calcium are among the vitamins and minerals found in seaweed. Other varieties contain additional vitamins and nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B12, omega-3 fatty acids, copper, protein, and fiber.
There are many different varieties of seaweed — 10,000 of them, some believe — and quite a few of them are actually edible. According to BBC Good Food, kombu kelp, arame, nori, and dulse are all delicious and nutritious varieties of seaweed. Each one lends itself to a different type of cooking and comes with a different flavor profile, with kombu being mineral-rich in flavor and best for soups, while dulse is better served as a sort of snack or chewy seaweed chip.
Seaweed is good for the thyroid.
According to Healthline, seaweed contains enough iodine and the amino acid tyrosine to help support healthy thyroid function. The thyroid gland is responsible for many processes within the body. It repairs damaged cells, regulates growth hormones and energy production, and is responsible for reproductive hormones. These hormones require iodine and without them, your body could undergo unwelcome hormonal changes that lead to things like swelling and weight gain.
Seaweed feeds gut bacteria.
Seaweed, specifically certain types of algae, might actually be helpful for maintaining the bacteria that enables a healthy digestive tract. According to Medical News Today, certain types of algae-rich seaweed contain high amounts of fiber. This prebiotic fiber feeds gut flora, which in turn can help alleviate common gut problems like diarrhea and constipation.
Seaweed helps balance weight and blood sugar levels.
The fiber contained in seaweed doesn’t just help gut bacteria; it can help also people who are trying to lose weight. According to Medical News Today, that excess fiber can help people feel full for longer without contributing an excess of calories to their daily diet.
In the same way, these high amounts of fiber can help regulate blood glucose and insulin levels. Seaweed might even reduce inflammation and minimize other diabetic risk factors, though many of these diabetes tests have only been administered on rats via a 2018 study. More human trials need to be completed before this can be said with absolute certainty.
Seaweed contains antioxidants.
Antioxidants may sound like a health food buzzword, but these compounds are essential for protecting your body from cell damage. According to Healthline, certain seaweeds are high in flavonoids and carotenoids. Research has shown that flavonoids protect cell membranes, while brown algae, also known as wakame, contains a carotenoid with 13.5 times more antioxidant properties than vitamin E.
No matter how you slice it, wrap it, or sautée it, seaweed is a nutritional powerhouse. It’s a slimy, yet satisfying addition to many different styles of dishes, and we have no doubt that modern chefs will find increasingly inventive ways of preparing it for years to come.