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Nutritional Value and Health Benefits of Seaweed

Updated on August 21, 2011

Seaweed is the perfect mineral supplement to human body

Minerals are essential nutrients for human body, the mineral content in adult body is about 4% of total body weight. The lack of minerals can cause a range of abnormal reactions: Iron deficiency may cause anemia and other symptoms of hypoxia; potassium deficiency may cause elevated blood pressure; magnesium deficiency will easily lead to cardiovascular disease; calcium deficiency has an impact on bone health; iodine deficiency affect the secretion of hormones; zinc deficiency affect intelligence; selenium deficiency will cause cancer.

Iron content of algae is generally higher than that of land vegetables, for example, 100 grams of fresh laver, undaria and ulva contain 23 mg, 7 mg and 5.3 mg iron respectively. Land vegetables, on the other hand, are generally low in iron, even spinach – recognized as a iron-rich vegetable- contains only 3.7 mg per 100 g fresh spinach.

Seaweed also has a unique advantage as a potassium-rich food. 100 grams of laver and kelp contain about 1640 mg and 1503 mg potassium respectively. Except potassium, seaweed is rich in magnesium too, there are about 460 mg of magnesium per 100 grams laver.

We all know that drinking milk has calcium-enriching benefit. Compared with milk, seaweed is a perfect alternative that helps to enrich calcium in our body. The calcium content in undaria, kelp and laver are extremely high, about 1300 mg, 800 mg and 600 mg per 100 grams respectively. Eating 60 grams of dried undaria each day can fully satisfy the body’s need of calcium.

The distribution of iodine in the natural world is concentrated mainly in the seawater. Due to the accumulation process, the concentration of iodine in seaweed is even higher than in the seawater, almost 10 thousand times higher! Iodine is an important element whose compounds are primarily used in medicine and many other industries.

Seaweed provides various vitamins to the body

Vitamin is an essential substance in the growth of human body, and the development of many physiological activities. It plays a vital part in metabolism and the absorption of many nutrients. The lack of vitamin can cause a series of problems that are harmful to human health: Vitamin A affect eye health; lack of vitamin B1 can inhibit the activity of nerve cells; lack of vitamin B2 has negative impact on oral health; lack of vitamin C may reduce the body's ability to resist disease; lack of vitamin D will affect bone health; Vitamin E shortage will cause premature aging in hair or skin.

Seaweed contains all kinds of vitamins needed by human body, including vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B3, vitamin B12, folic acid, vitamin PP, vitamin H, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E and vitamin K. Regular consumption of algae can meet the needs of the body effectively.

Seaweed provides a variety of amino acids to the human body

Seaweed contains high levels of methionine and cystine, both are elements lacked in animal products. So it is highly recommended that seaweed should be eaten with foods rich in animal protein to enhance the biological effect of proteins.

Seaweed contains the majority types of carotene

Carotene is an outstanding antioxidant, whose basic role is to scavenge free radicals: carotene can prevent the harmful combination of free radicals and normal cells through the substitution effect. The whole process will prevent cancer and atherosclerosis caused by the oxidation of low density lipoprotein. Besides, carotene can also turn into vitamin A to take effect.

There are many types of carotenes, each of them has their distinctive functions besides shared usefulness. Study has revealed that, eating a single type of carotene for a long time may inhibit the absorption of other types. To this end, experts suggest that we should try to consume various carotenes instead of stick to a single type.

Seaweed contains comprehensive types of carotene, regular consumption of seaweed will satisfy the body’s needs for a wide range of carotenes.

Algae protein is a terrific plant protein

Most people would not think of algae protein as a type of plant protein, however, algae is rich in protein, for example, the protein content of kelp, undaria, agar is between 15% and 30%,  Chlorella and Spirulina, particularly, have surprisingly high contents of protein, accounting for 50% and 60% of the total weight of stem species. Algae protein is a perfect choice for those who needs protein supplement.

Seaweed is an important source of dietary fiber

Dietary fiber is indigestible substances in plant foods, mainly made of polysaccharides and lignin. Dietary fiber helps the body to eliminate blood lipids, increase bowel movement, discharge toxic substances and regulate sleep.

Seaweed is rich in agar, carrageenan, xylan, cellulose, kelp starch and many other types of dietary fibers. It ranks first in all food in terms of dietary fiber content. Before the introduction of the concept of dietary fiber, people haven’t paid much attention to seaweed in its health benefits. Nowadays, seaweed are being considered as an important source of dietary fiber.

Seaweed contains more than 50 kinds of unsaturated fatty acids

Seaweed contains a variety of fatty acids, of which more than 50 are unsaturated fatty acids. Unsaturated fatty acids usually take up 50% of the total fatty acids in seaweed. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and gama-linolenic acid are three common types of unsaturated fatty acids contained in seaweed.

EPA has many health benefits, such as lipid-lowering, anti-platelet aggregation, delayed thrombosis, cardiovascular protection and other effects, it has been used as raw material for the treatment and prevention of cardiovascular disease. In addition, EPA can also improve sexual function, it is used in the treatment for impotence.

DHA is an important substance in the growth and development of the brain, accounting for 10% of the total lipids of the human brain cells. DHA forms the basis of brain cells, it plays a vital role in brain cell division, nerve conduction and intelligence development. In addition to its effects in brain development, DHA also has many health benefits in the control of cardiovascular diseases, prevention of dementia, anti-allergy etc.

Gama-linolenic acid can regulate blood pressure, soften blood vessel, relieve arteriosclerosis, preventecoronary heart disease, inhibit cholesterol synthesis and help the human body maintain normal cholesterol levels. It can also be used to treat hyperlipidemia through reduced human plasma cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

Fucoidan helps to prevent cancer

Fucoidan in seaweed has many health benefits such as anticoagulation, lipid-lowering, anti-thrombosis, detoxification and cancer prevention, and thus plays an important role in the medical field.

Phycobiliprotein is very expensive on the market

Phycobiliproteins are a type of water-soluble protein with fluorescence, found in the red and blue algae in 1836, including phycoerythrin, phycocyanin, allophycocyanin and phycoerythrocyanin.

Phycobiliprotein not only helps to prevent cancer and promote the clinical effectiveness of blood cell regeneration, but also works as a new generation of fluorescent probes in recent years. Phycobiliproteins has a strong fluorescence, normally 30 times stronger than commonly used fluorescein. Phycobiliprotein, combined with biotin, avidin, and various monoclonal antibody, produces fluorescent probe for cell surface antigen detection, protein and nucleic acid analysis and other fields of biological macromolecules. So phycobiliprotein has been used widely in the clinical diagnosis of cancer and leukemia and biological engineering. Phycobiliprotein’s extensive usage in medical field makes it very expensive in the international market.

Mannitol is an important raw material of infusion

Mannitol was first found in 1884 in brown algae, it is prevalent in the brown algae, the dried white powder on the surface of dried kelp is mannitol.

Mannitol has a diuretic effect, often used as a raw material in infusion or as auxiliary materials in tablets. It is used to treat kidney failure, drug toxicity, edema, and ascites and many other diseases. Mannitol is a small molecular carbon compound that can serve as sugar substitute for people with diabetes. It can also be used for the treatment of B encephalitis. In addition, mannitol can treat hepatitis, shock, glaucoma, brain edema. 

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