The Body Ecology Diet Sea Vegetables- Dulse, Wakame, Kombu, and Other Nutrition Rich Gifts from the Sea
One of the components of the Body Ecology Diet is adding nutrient rich sea vegetables, sometimes called seaweeds, to our diets. Sea vegetables are a surprisingly great source of vitamins and minerals. Other recommendations of the BED include mineral rich salts, and beneficial grains—quinoa, amaranth, millet, and buckwheat, which I have also written about.
I have previously written an article outlining the basics of The Body Ecology Diet (BED). This diet plan seeks to restore health through good nutrition, rebalancing the body’s internal environment. Weight loss is a pleasant side effect to the BED. The cover of The Body Ecology Diet carries this statement: “A must-read for anyone who wants to be healthy or who is exhausted, overweight or has digestive problems, candida, viral infections, cancer or neurological disorders such as ADD, Autism, Alzheimer’s, and Multiple Sclerosis.”
Many Sea Vegetables are Available in the Grocery Store and Online
Alarmingly Low Levels of Nutrients in our Soil and Foods
Our ancestors ate fruits, vegetables, and grains grown in soil rich in minerals and other nutrients. Unfortunately, commercial farming today takes place on soil depleted of valuable nutrients. Fortunately, unlike land-based vegetables and grains, sea vegetables remain dense in valuable nutrients.
Our Produce Has Lost Nutritional Value
Sea Vegetables Background Basics
Sea vegetables, often referred to as seaweed, are actually algae. Many experts tout sea vegetables as among the healthiest foods in the world. They can grow in fresh water lakes, but as with fish, fresh water vegetables are more prone to pollutants. They are commonly grown in rocky landscapes or on coral reefs in depths of four feet or deeper. They can grow at considerable depths, so long as sunlight can penetrate the water. Like land vegetables, they need sunlight to grow.
Evidence suggests that the Japanese have eaten sea vegetables for more than 10,000 years! They were considered delicacies by the ancient Chinese. Though most of us may think that sea vegetables are only eaten by Asian cultures, they have actually been consumed by most cultures located by water since ancient times. Other countries that have a history of eating sea vegetables include Norway, Ireland, Scotland, Iceland, the Pacific Islands, New Zealand, and South American coastal countries.
Nutritional Benefits of Sea Vegetables
Sea vegetables are said to provide the broadest spectrum of minerals of any food. They contain almost all of the minerals found in the ocean, and the same mineral found in healthy human blood.
Sea vegetables are excellent sources of Vitamin K, iodine, and B vitamins. They are also good sources of magnesium, iron, and calcium. Other vitamins such as A, C, and E can be found in sea vegetables, as well as a wide range of amino acids. They also contain trace minerals like zinc, chromium, antimony, tin, boron, and bismuth, important, but largely missing in food today.
Additionally, sea vegetables contain favorable amounts of lignans, which are thought to help protect against cancer, and fucans, which help reduce the inflammatory response.
Health Benefits of Sea Vegetables
Health Benefits of Sea Vegetables
The phytonutrient, lignans, in sea vegetable, inhibit blood cell growth, limiting nourishment to fast growing tumors. Lignans also limit metastatic spread of cancer cells. After menopause, fatty tissue is a prime site of estrogen synthesis, and high levels of some estrogen metabolic wastes, considered a risk for breast cancer. Lignans are thought to deter estrogen synthesis in fat cells as well as some chemotherapy drugs.
Lignans are good sources of folic acid, which are linked with decreased risk for colon cancer. Lignans act like weak estrogens, and may decrease menopausal symptoms like hot flashes.
In general, sea vegetables are rich in folic acid, which can prevent some birth defects, notably spina bifida. Folic acid helps break down homocysteine, which can damage the walls of our blood vessels, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Magnesium, present in sea vegetables, can help decrease blood pressure and prevent heart attacks. Magnesium has also been shown to help prevent migraines and decrease asthma symptoms. It may help promote normal sleep in menopausal women.
Some sea vegetables contain fucans, which can decrease the inflammatory response. Sea vegetables, particularly kelp, are rich in iodine. Iodine is crucial in the production of thyroid hormones. Thyroid hormones regulate cell metabolism throughout the body.
The Body Ecology Diet Basic Principles
Sea Vegetables’ Role in the Body Ecology Diet
The body ecology diet recommends making sea vegetables a regular part of our diet. Sea vegetables are balanced foods, neither “contracting” not “expanding”. They are “alkalizing”, and good for balancing acid forming foods like meats. When our internal environment is too acidic, it is more hospitable to diseases, including cancer.
Donna Gates sites many of the nutritional and health benefits discussed above in The Body Ecology Diet.
Sea vegetables are natural protection from potentially infectious bacteria, viruses and fungi.
When we have an imbalance in our internal body ecology, we do not digest protein well, and subsequently do not absorb minerals well. Ocean vegetables are rich sources of trace elements and minerals otherwise deplete in our modern diets.
Among thyroid issues is the influence on the gall bladder, liver, bile ducts, pancreas and colon. Poor thyroid function therefore causes poor digestion and poor available nutrients.
Integrating Sea Vegetables into the Diet
Sea vegetable combine well with grains and other starches, meat protein, and land vegetables.
Japan is the largest supplier of sea vegetables. They come dehydrated, and are light weight. They are therefore inexpensive to ship. A fair assortment of sea vegetables are available at health food stores, oriental markets, and some mainstream grocery stores.
Add small pieces of sea vegetables to sandwiches, salads, stir frys, and soups.
Store sea vegetables in airtight containers.
Cucumber Arame Salad
Common Sea Vegetables
Arame has a sweet, mild tastes. Rinse and soak 15 minutes, then drain. No need for cooking. Use in stir-frys, with rice, with vegetables, in salads, or coated with vinaigrette.
Here are some recipes with arame to try:
Arame Salad from the Joy of Kosher website consists of arame or wakame seaweed, daikon radish, and carrot with teriyaki-honey dressing.
Arame Zucchini Stir Fry from Genius Kitchen includes tofu, zucchini, sun-dried tomatoes, and arame.
Cool Arame Salad with Sweet Potatoes on From the Ground Up Wellness consists of arame, leeks, sweet potato, and mushrooms with sesame-tahini dressing.
Dulse, Avocado and Tomato Sandwich
Dulse has a mild flavor, and is a good source of iron. It does not need to be cooked. Dulse can be eaten straight from the package as a snack. Buy it crushed, flaked or as a powder, and sprinkle in salads, soups, vegetables, or sushi. The powder can be used much like salt. It smells fishy if you take a big whiff, but I have not found it to make my food taste fishy when cooked in a recipe.
Here are some recipes with dulse to try:
Pear-Dulse Salad from The Seaweed Man website includes pears, celery, carrot, nuts, and dulse with umeboshi vinegar and mayo dressing.
Gourmet Burgers with Dulse Seaweed and Oyster Sauce by Master Chef winner James Nathan is posted o Mara Seaweed website, with the promise that it “will change the way you enjoy burgers”.
Lamb Koftas with Dulse is also from Mara, and combines lamb wit cumin, coriander, cinnamon, garlic and mint.
Amusing Dulse Commercial with Music
Hiyashi Ankake Udon (with Kombu)
Kombu has a flavor like MSG, but with no side effects. Use it to add a salty taste to stocks, soups, grains, or vegetables when cooking. I have added kombu to soup stock, and experienced no fishy taste. I’ve also cooked beans with kombu. Kombu will help beans cook faster, and reduce gas and make them easier to digest. Just add a piece of kombu instead of salt to your soaked beans, and cook as usual.
As a general rule for using kombu in recipes, is use plenty of water to rehydrate the kombu. Cook food at least 30 minutes. Remove before serving. You can also soak overnight for a nutritious mineral rich stock. Dry strips of kombu on low temperature in your oven for a crispy snack.
Here are some recipes with kombu from Bon Appetit to try:
Sweet Potato-Turmeric Miso Soup
Chicken Curry Laksa
Kombu-Cured Salmon with Fresh Yuzu Kosho
Hijiki has a mild and slightly fishy or salty flavor. It requires more rinsing, and longer soaking and cooking time than the other sea vegetables. Hijiki’s volume quadruples when soaked. Simmer 45 minutes or longer until really tender.
Here are some recipes with hijiki to try:
Hijiki with Carrots from TheKitchn website.
Two from CookPad.com:
Sushi Rolled in Nori
Nori has a slight sweet taste. Toast it and eat it as a snack, or toast and crumple over grains, vegetables, or soups. Nori is used to make sushi rolls. Make rollups with BED grains or meat protein.
Here are some recipes with nori to try:
From TheKitchn, Nori is my Alternative Wrap for Burritos, with extensive discussion on how to use nori as a burrito wrap, and suggested fillings.
From the New York Times, Japanese-Style Rice Salad.
From KitchenBowl, Korean Rolled Omelette with Seaweed.
From Bon Appetit website, Toasted Nori Mayonnaise.
From Chocolate and Zucchini, Cucumber and Avocado Quick Nori Roll.
Soup with Wakame
Wakame is strong and full of flavor. It is used in miso soup. Break wakame into small pieces and add to salads or soups. You can also soak it and cook it for 10 to 15 minutes.
Here are some recipes with wakame to try:
Vegetable Rice Bowl with Miso Dressing, from Martha Stewart.
Easy Wakame Brown Rice, from AllRecipes.com.
Wakame and Cucumber Salad, from Food and Wine website.
Flan Made with Agar Agar
Agar-agar is a thickening agent used to make puddings and geletins. It has mild laxative properties. Add about one heaping tablespoon of agar-agar flakes per one cup of liquid. Always add agar-agar to cold liquid. Cook at a low simmer 20 to 30 minutes.
Here are some recipes with agar-agar to try:
Vegan Mango and Coconut Jello with Agar-Agar, from VidhyasHomeCooking.com.
Vegan Strawberry Mousse Cake, from CilantroandCitronella.com.
Tofu Agar Jam Chocolate Dessert
Agar Orange Jelly
Pollutants in Sea Vegetables
Although potentially healthy plants grow in fresh water lakes, these are much more likely to be contaminated with pollutants. Just as sea vegetables absorb and retain vital minerals and elements from the sea, they absorb heavy medal pollutants. Arsenic is the most prevalent toxic risk, and hiziki or hijiki is the most affected. Buy certified organic sea vegetables.
Talk to Your Health Care Provider
This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you think you might want to try The Body Ecology Diet, pick up a copy of the book, and do your homework, including talking to your doctor.
The Versatile Vegetable by Miranda Barrett
The Body Ecology Diet by Donna Gates, with Linda Schatz
Living Cuisine by Renee Loux Underkoffler
© 2010 rmcrayne