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Health Benefits of Seaweed
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
Salty, earthy, toasted as "seaweed chips"
Thin, long strands
Sweet, used in seaweed salads
Savory, used in soups
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.
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.