Seaweeds make a healthful addition to your diet, because they offer essential nutrients and provide a range of health benefits. A 2009 report in the Journal of Medicinal Food advises that the specific vitamin and mineral content of seaweed can vary wildly, depending on it's age, the type, and the area it was grown. However, no matter which type of seaweed you'll choose, you'll be adding nutritional value to your diet.
Seaweeds are classified according to their color. Edible forms include brown, green, red, blue-green and yellow-green marine algae. Each type of seaweed has a unique nutrient composition. The most popular seaweeds are the Japanese varieties include hijiki, arame, kombu, dulse, kelp, wakame, Irish moss, Corsican and nori. Agar-agar is usually included in this grouping, but it is technically a gelatin most often made from a type of red seaweed called gelidium. Other types are being wild-crafted on European and American shores, including ocean ribbons, sea palm, sea lettuce and bladderwrack.
Wijiki, arame and wakame contain ten times the calcium of milk, based on calorie-matched portions, which means they nourish your bone tissues. Wakame and kelp contain four times the iron of beef, while sea lettuce and hijiki each contain 25 and 8 times that, respectively. Seaweeds also contain the halogen, fluorine, in their uncooked form. Arame, kelp and kombu have 100 to 500 times more iodine than shellfish depending on the time they were harvested and about 600 to 3,000 times the iodine of the average sea fish. The iron in seaweed promotes healthy red blood cell development, while its iodine content helps your thyroid gland function properly.
Vitamins and Protein
Seaweeds generally contain ten to twenty times the minerals of land plants and many other vitamins needed for metabolic processes. Some seaweeds, like nori, have protein concentrations as high as 50 percent. Vitamin A, E, C and some B vitamins can also be found in certain seaweeds. Vitamins A, E and C all act as beneficial antioxidants -- so they protect your tissues from damage -- while the B-complex vitamins support your metabolism.
Seaweeds provide few calories because of their high water and low fat content, making them ideal for low-calorie diets. However, the Journal of Medicinal Food 2009 report points out that few controlled studies have been performed to analyze the effects of seaweed consumption on overweight and obese people. The main benefits of seaweed consumption appear to be associated with cardiovascular and intestinal health. Its effects on bone health and body weight regulation need further investigation. Additionally, the presence of the fiber molecule algin allows seaweed to attract various metals in the gastrointestinal track--like mercury and lead--and draw them out of the body.
Considerations and Tips
A detailed report in the April 2009 issue of the Journal of Medicinal Food notes that more research is needed on the health benefits of seaweeds. The report also cautions against high consumption of seaweed, as well as their use in herbal medicine. Enjoy seaweed in your diet by adding piece of chopped seaweed to broth for a simple but healthful soup, or by combining fresh seaweed with sesame seed oil and shredded vegetables for a flavorful salad.
- "Journal of Medicinal Food"; Characteristics and nutritional and cardiovascular-health properties of seaweeds; Bocanegra A, et al; April 2009
- "Healing with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition"; Paul Pitchford; 2002
- "Staying Healthy with Nutrition: The Complete Guide to Diet and Nutrtional Medicine"; Elson Haas, M.D.; 2006
- HealthAliciousNess: Nutrition Facts Comparison Tool
- Water and Seaweed image by Mr Shemp from Fotolia.com
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.