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Health Benefits of Seaweed

Updated on July 29, 2012
The variety of seaweeds currently in my kitchen. Photo Source: Shanna11
The variety of seaweeds currently in my kitchen. Photo Source: Shanna11

If tuna is the chicken of the sea, then seaweed is easily the salad of the sea. Considering how densely packed with nutrients and vitamins seaweed is, however, salad may not be the best designation for this nutritional powerhouse of a plant.

Many people refuse to try seaweed, or even consider eating it, and I'll admit-- in some ways it doesn't look like the most appetizing food, and due to the wide variety of preparations that can be used, not everyone is guaranteed a tasty experience.

The first time I ever ate seaweed, it was slimy, cold, reeked of the ocean and was tough to chew.

However, I discovered other forms of seaweed that are appetizing, palatable and downright tasty. Plus, I'm getting tons of nutrients at a low caloric intake.

Types of Seaweed

Type of Seaweed
Taste and Uses
Dried strips and leaves
Salty, used most often in seaweed salads
Thin sheets
Salty, earthy, toasted as "seaweed chips"
Thin, long strands
Sweet, used in seaweed salads
Kelp leaves
Savory, used in soups
The four main categories of seaweed. Wakame and Nori are my favorite.

Health Benefits of Seaweed

The health benefits of seaweed differ based on which type of seaweed you're eating, but all are densely packed with necessary vitamins and nutrients.

Wakame- Wakame is packed with antioxidants and nutrients like calcium, magnesium and iodine. The most eaten of the seaweeds, Wakame has about 5 calories per serving and is a good source of lignans, which help fight cancer. The only downside to Wakame is that it is high in sodium, but most types of seaweed are.

Nori- Nori is one of the most popular foods touted by vegans, as it is rich in necessary proteins and amino acids. Low in fat and calories, Nori is rich in vitamins and minerals that encourage healthy hair and skin.

Arame and Kombu- Arame and kombu, like the other seaweeds, are rich in magnesium, calcium, iron and iodine, all of which promote healthy growth and immune system strength.

In general, all seaweeds are good sources of necessary vitamins, like B2 and B12, as well as magnesium, iron, selenium, calcium and iodine. They are low in fat and calories and many studies in recent years have shown that incorporating seaweed into your diet helps your body lose weight.

One study of mice on a high-fat diet showed that mice who had seaweed incorporated into their high-fat diet gained less weight than mice without seaweed. With it's cancer fighting abilities and minuscule amounts of sugar, seaweed is a very healthy addition to your diet.

Downsides of Seaweed

Nothing is perfect, of course, and seaweed is no exception. Those on low-sodium diets should be careful when consuming seaweed, as almost all types are high in sodium. Nori is especially salty, as it is often toasted and prepared with even more salt than it naturally contains.

Seaweed can also be prepared in ways that reduce it's health benefits. Again, Nori is probably the main culprit, due to the way it's prepared. Nori is toasted or cooked with a variety of oils that can add additional calories and fat, so either prepare your own nori, or read ingredient labels carefully.

Finding Seaweed

If you live in a land-locked or predominantly non-Asian area of the world, finding seaweed can be tricky. Most large grocery store chains will have a small selection of Asian foods, including Americanized brands of seaweed snacks like Auntie Chun's (see Amazon section above).

Auntie Chun's and other similar brands are delicious, but expensive. The labels are in English, though, so it's easy to read and confirm what you're purchasing.

If you have time and an ounce of patience, look for Asian markets or grocery stores in your area. Read a few reviews before going, just to be safe. Specialty import stores can sometimes have more than a few terribly expired items. However, once you find a good Asian market, you're set!

Most packaging in Asian food stores will be in a language you probably can't read, but most also feature pretty obvious pictures of the product, so finding the seaweed section shouldn't be too hard. I was able to buy ten packages of seaweed for the same price as two packages of Auntie Chun's seaweed snacks at my regular grocery store.

Many health food stores also recognize the benefits of seaweed, so if you have a health food store nearby, be sure to check.

Do you like seaweed?

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    • Shanna11 profile image

      Shanna 5 years ago from Utah

      Why have I not heard of dulse before? I definitely need to make another trip to my local Asian market! Thanks guys!

    • point2make profile image

      point2make 5 years ago

      A great hub on a very healthy and yummy subject. I bought a bag of "dulse" yesterday at a local market and it is nearly gone. It taste great, if you like salty foods, it is healthy and it has important vitamins and minerals that are good for you. If you get the chance....give it a try. It's better than potato chips and a whole lot healthier. Voted this hub up.

    • Shesabutterfly profile image

      Cholee Clay 5 years ago from Wisconsin

      I don't particularly like seafood, however this hub has definitely piqued my interest. I have an iron deficiency and this might be a great way to get some much needed iron and other nutrients. Great up hub! Voted up and shared.

    • StephanieBCrosby profile image

      Stephanie Bradberry 5 years ago from New Jersey

      I was so happy to see Annie Chun's in your picture. I love their roasted sesame seaweed. they did roll out some new flavors, but I don't care for the one brown sugar one at all.

    • emimemo profile image

      emimemo 5 years ago from USA

      novascotiamiss: Thank you again! Nova Scotia seems to be so beautiful place. I will go to wholefoods near by us and check on the Dulse first.

      Oh, vote up for Shanna11!

    • molometer profile image

      molometer 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      I have been eating seaweed since childhood. It really is the salad of the sea with so many health benefits too. Great hub voted up and interesting.

    • novascotiamiss profile image

      novascotiamiss 5 years ago from Nova Scotia, Canada

      Emimemo: Here is some information about Dulse, I'm pretty sure you can use it for miso soup. You should get it in most healthfood shops or off the internet or if you need a ton it might be worthwhile coming up to Nova Scotia where you can buy the stuff in big plastic bags dirt cheap.

    • profile image

      ignugent17 5 years ago

      I agree with you that the taste is not that good and it doesn't look appealing also. I eat them sometimes and now I am happy that I get something good out of it. Thanks for the information.

    • emimemo profile image

      emimemo 5 years ago from USA

      novascotiamiss: Thank you for your information. I will check on the seaweed, Dulse. I wonder if I use that for my miso soup...

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Calhoun 5 years ago from Western NC

      Okay, so you piqued my interest here. I will be the first to admit I'm not a seafood person, and though I've tried seaweed, my first impression was that it tasted exactly like how the monkey cages at the zoo smelled. LOL...okay I know that's bad BUT, I've tried it with sushi - even vegetarian sushi because I don't eat much meat - and I didn't mind it too badly. The dried sheets, I think, are key for me. So, this is a very interesting hub, and I'll try anything once...though seafood and I don't generally get along. Hehehe.

    • novascotiamiss profile image

      novascotiamiss 5 years ago from Nova Scotia, Canada

      Unfortunately I can't eat a lot of seaweed as I'm hypothyroid but I sprinkle some on my food every now and then as a decoration. Here in Nova Scotia they actually harvest and dry seaweed. It's called Dulse and very popular as a snack. They also grind the dulse into flakes to add to food. Emimemo, I'm pretty sure you can get locally produced seaweed products in the US as well (just look in the health food store).

    • emimemo profile image

      emimemo 5 years ago from USA

      Thank you for making this hub. I wish people(business) start making the seaweeds products in USA.