Eating seaweed was something I heard a lot of jokes about in high school. It was viewed as kind of the ultimate dorky health food that “no one” could ever like. That’s changed in recent days because people have finally realized how delicious and beautiful Asian food is, and many traditional Asian dishes contain seaweed. Our sushi obsession has helped changed our mind as well.
Besides being delicious, it turns out that seaweed is a wonderful healthy food to include in your diet! My doctor recommended that I eat seaweed three times a week for health reasons, and I have failed in meeting that goal. So one of my recent pushes for myself was to start making a lot more dishes (for the benefit of the whole family!) on a regular basis that use seaweed in a delicious way.
But I’m not the only one that may benefit from seaweed! Here are four reasons you may want to join me in eating more seaweed!
Seaweed is delicious
From a culinary perspective, what would sushi be without nori, or what would miso soup be without wakame? So many Asian dishes get part of their scrumptious flavor from seaweed. My husband is half Japanese-American, and he has introduced me to Asian cooking that goes far beyond Americanized “Chinese take out”. As I have slowly worked at learning how to use a variety of seaweeds in dishes, I’ve learned there are many ways to enjoy it. So reason number one? It makes your Asian food more authentic and taste great as well.
Dr. Price noted the traditional consumption of it
In his book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, Dr. Price noted that those consuming a traditional diet who lived far away from the sea often went to extra-ordinary lengths to get seaweed. It was considered a very important food for maintaining health. For those of us who try to take cues from a nutrient dense diet based on traditional foods, adding in seaweed makes a lot of sense for us. This is especially true because many of us don’t eat iodized salt, but prefer unrefined salts that only have very minute amounts of iodine (if any, depending on the salt).
Traditionally, seaweed based soups and foods were given to the ailing, the pregnant, and the nursing mother.
Seaweed is a source of iodine and other nutrients
The reason seaweed was recommended to me was because it is a great source of iodine, and my levels were a little on the low side. Iodine is a crucial nutrient for us to get, and there is a lot of interesting research on the possible health benefits of iodine. It is also a source of vitamin C, manganese, vitamin B2, vitamin A, copper, pantothenic acid, potassium, iron, zinc, vitamin B6, niacin, phosphorus, and vitamin B1, and it contains protein as well.
The Weston A Price Foundation has a fascinating article on iodine’s possible health benefits that you may find helpful. They begin with this, “Iodine is critical to human health. It forms the basis of thyroid hormones and plays many other roles in human biochemistry. While the thyroid gland contains the body’s highest concentration of iodine, the salivary glands, brain, cerebrospinal fluid, gastric mucosea, breasts, ovaries and a part of the eye also concentrate iodine. In the brain, iodine is found in the choroid plexus, the area on the ventricles of the brain where cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is produced, and in the substantia nigra, an area associated with Parkinson’s disease.”
Current research on the benefits of seaweed is encouraging
Take a peek at some of the research out there showing promise for the benefits of including seaweed in your diet.
Sea vegetables and lower blood pressure: “A 2011 study published in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry reviewed 100 studies on the health benefits of seaweed and reported that some of the proteins in seaweed could serve as better sources of bioactive peptides than those in milk products. These reduce blood pressure, and boost heart health.” Times
Seaweed and breast cancer: There is a lot of research on this topic as scientists attempt to figure out why Japanese women have such lower rates of breast cancer. Could seaweed consumption be part of the reason they have lower rates? Here are just two of many studies on the topic:
- The consumption of seaweed as a protective factor in the etiology of breast cancer: proof of principle
- Dietary Seaweed Modifies Estrogen and Phytoestrogen Metabolism in Healthy Postmenopausal Women1,2
Seaweed May Improve Heart Health: Not surprising if it helps lower blood pressure, seaweed may be a heart protective food.
And those are just a few of the many, many studies out there. There is a reason that many call seaweed a “superfood”! Because of my new push to include seaweed in our diet more consistently, expect to see some dishes including seaweed in them soon.