I absolutely love seaweed! It is delicious as a snack or even as a meal. It is a pretty common ingredient in Asia and nowadays it is also increasing in popularity in the west. Seaweed is a form of algae that naturally grows along shorelines in sea. What is great about seaweed is that it is high nutritious while being very low in calories. A little seaweed can pack a punch and have a lot of benefits for you.
There are many different varieties of seaweed available for you. A few of the most common would be nori, kelp, wakame, chlorella, and kombu. Nori is the typical algae that you would find as dried sheets that are used for sushi. Kelp nowadays can be found to be used as alternatives to noodles for those who are intolerant or sensitive to gluten. Chlorella is pretty often found in the supplement aisle of the supermarket, they are usually sold as a powder form for those who want to mix it into their drinks or even make a smoothie bowl.
Seaweed has one of the highest levels of minerals and trace elements for the calories. For 80g of seaweed, it is around 36 calories with 7 grams of carbohydrate and 2.4 grams of protein. It contains vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin C and vitamin E. It is much more nutrient dense than many other vegetables you would find on the land. You can also find micronutrients such as calcium, folate, magnesium, zinc, iron and selenium. What is even more crazier, wakame (brown algae) has around 13.5 times the antioxidant capacity as vitamin E.
It contains a variety of antioxidants too! By eating food with antioxidants, the free radicals in your body would become less reactive. This helps prevent further damage on your cells and might even prevent several diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.
Seaweed also contains a decent amount of iodine. Iodine is something that is required by your body for your thyroid to function properly. If your body does not receive enough thyroid, it can lead to hypothyroidism. This is when your thyroid gland does not produce enough hormones. Over time, hypothyroidism can lead to health problems such as join pain, obesity, infertility and heart disease. Adding seaweed in your diet can definitely help provide you with more iodine for your thyroid to functional well.
As mentioned above, adding seaweed to your diet can help reduce your chance of developing diabetes. There are certain compounds that are found in seaweed that can help stabilise your blood sugar levels and therefore preventing type 2 diabetes. One antioxidant in seaweed can help reduce your insulin resistant while also stabilising your blood sugar levels. One study showed that people with type 2 diabetes who took a large portion of powdered seaweed everyday had 15 to 20% lower blood sugar levels 4 weeks later than those who had the placebo.
Seaweed extract is also found in skincare products. Since seaweed is a natural source of vitamins and minerals, it can definitely be beneficial for your skin. Seaweed can help protect your skin from the harsh outdoor pollution and air by adding an extra layer of hydration to stop your skin from fully drying out. Seaweed can also be beneficial for those who suffer from acne, rosacea or other skin conditions. Most seaweed contains anti-inflammatory properties and therefore will be able to have a cooling effect on your redness.
The fact that seaweed has high concentration of vitamins, mineral and fatty acid is great for your hair. Not only does it hydrate your hair, it can also provide decent protein and help your hair grow stronger. The seaweed on your scalp can help hydrate it and therefore will improve and prevent your hair from getting too dry. The minerals in seaweed can also help promote fuller hair. In fact, using seaweed in your hair products is pretty popular in Japan. They often use a product that is called Funori, which is basically seaweed powder. It’s generally used as a conditioning cleanser and helps slow down hair loss.
In the end, eating seaweed is pretty safe. But too much seaweed can also cause side effects. Make sure you know your portions well and don’t overeat. Like any other food, overeating a certain food won’t be good for you. Different types of seaweed contains different levels of potassium and sodium, this might be harmful to those who have kidney issues. As mentioned before, seaweed is high in iodine and might help your thyroid functions, however too much iodine is harmful to you too.
If you’re stumped on how to eat seaweed, you can also grab those snack seaweed. Those are really low in calories and great for you to snack if you are trying to lose weight. If you prefer including it into your meal, you could always wrap the seaweed in rice, meat and vegetables to provide a full and satisfying meal. I personally like to make a kelp salad. All you need to do is hydrate the kelp and mix it in vinegar, garlic, red pepper and a little sesame oil.