My very first experience with sea vegetables was at a Buddhist Temple in Mississauga where they served their main meal with seaweed salad and it was YUM! The first bite into the seaweed salad changed my taste bud for good! Later when we fell in love with Sushi I have had many nori rolls and seaweed salads. Luckily my education in the field of nutrition and herbal medicine also lead me to learn and explore more about sea vegetables or seaweeds. I use them in many of my favourite and delicious recipes at home, such as, I use Irish moss as a thickener for my almond milk, use kelp in my kelp and zucchini noodles, use Agar Agar in making vegan cheese and arame to cook rice. I will soon share some of these recipes with you.
I have been to many wellness seminars and I believe I heard someone (quite possibly David Wolfe) quoting someone, “The future of nutrition lies within the ocean”
There are many essential nutrients required by the body to function at optimal level. The word ‘essential’ is used because the body cannot produce these nutrients on its own and need to derive them from the food we eat. Of which trace minerals and glycol nutrients are required for optimal cell function. However, many of these nutrients are missing from the very soil we grow food in. Tropical countries and countries were the land has been under water do not have this problems as much. Therefore using sea vegetables that are mineral and nutrient rich are the best ways to ensure we get all of our essential nutrition. The best thing to know about sea weeds it is grown wildly under the sea and doesn’t have to be organic and no one needs to worry about GMO! Because this is under water it is in its most pure form and human interjections to change anything in it has not happened. It is a wild edible from the ocean.
Sea vegetables contain vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and polysaccharides (long chain sugar, almost a bitter sugar). There are mainly three categories of seaweeds – green, red, brown, blue-greens and yellow-greens.
As I am moving towards being an herbalist, I am seeing the medicinal value of sea vegetables.
Sea vegetables are the best source of iron and iodine. Seaweeds contain ten to twenty times more nutrients than land vegetables.1 They balance thyroid function and prevent aging and chronic disease. Sea veggies are also chockfull of chlorophyll (specially the green seaweeds) and dietary fiber and they lend a salty flavor to foods, which comes from a balanced combination of sodium, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron and many other trace minerals naturally found in the ocean. The nutrient that makes it unique is the glyconutrients found in sea weeds.
Common Benefits of all Sea Vegetables:
- All sea vegetables contain protein, fiber (soluble and insoluble), omega 3 fatty acids and minerals.
- Most all of the sea vegetables contain both fat and water soluble vitamins such as, high amount of Vitamin A, beta carotene, B complex, Vitamin C and E.
- All seaweeds are excellent source of calcium, iodine and iron.
- More minerals and trace minerals combinations compared to any land vegetables.
- Kelp, kombu and wakame contains alginic acid which assists the human body with detoxification from heavy metals and radioactive isotopes.
- All sea vegetables contain iodine which makes it essential for hormonal health.
- The iron content in seaweeds is more bioavailable to the body because they also contain high amount of vitamin C.
- All seaweeds improves carbohydrate metabolism and aids in weight loss.
- All of the seaweeds assist the body with reducing bloating, swelling and water retention.
- Seaweeds are known to bind with heavy metals and radioactive pollutants in our body and remove them.
- Sea vegetables are also high in lignans that can block oestrogens or the bad estrogens. This reduces the chances of estrogen related cancer.
Precaution before Culinary Uses:
- Wash fresh sea vegetable thoroughly before using them for cooking to get rid of any sands.
- After cooking or adding them to salads, refrigerate any left overs.
- Pre-soak dried sea vegetables before consuming or adding to a dish.
- Note before soaking that sea-vegetable grows double in size after soaking.
- Store dried sea vegetables in an air-tight glass container after opening the initial package.
Varieties of sea vegetables:
Benefits of Agar Agar: (Gelidium corneum)
Taste: Salty and Sweet
Agar Agar also known as Kanten in Japan, is wonderful for creating delicious sugar-free desserts. It comes in powder, flakes, bars and long string (almost like noodles). It is a vegetarian alternative to gelatin. It can be used to firm up jellies, pies and puddings as well as when vegan cheese. Currently Agar Agar noodles are available at Chinese Super stores and health food stores. Note that it simply dissolves in hot liquid and thickens at room temperature.
- Agar Agar has mild laxative properties and therefore can be helpful for those who suffer from constipation.
- If used in conjunction with vegetables in a salad Agar Agar can aid in weight loss.
- Agar Agar is known to reduce inflammation, improve liver, lungs and heart health.
- Agar Agar is known for its high content of iron and calcium.
- Could be used in treating hemorrhoids.
- This sea vegetable also can assist in eliminating radioactive toxins from the body.
- In cosmetic industry, it can be used to soften and moisturize skin and hair. Therefore, a number of cosmetic manufacturers are starting to use Agar Agar as one of the raw material in making lipstick, soap, ointments, lotion and cream.
Caution: Do not use if you have loose stools or diarrhea.
Benefits of Arame: (Eisenia bicyclis)
Taste: Salty and Sweet
Arame has a rather mild flavor. Arame is brown Japanese kelp used primarily in Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Peruvian and Indonesian cuisine.
- Arame is a good source of calcium, potassium, vitamin A and dietary fiber
- A tablespoon of dried arame will give you 0.7 mg of iodine, therefore beneficial for thyroid health. Contains more iodine than shell fishes and more calcium than milk.
- Arame can be used in lowering blood pressure.
- This seaweed contains an abundant amount of chlorophyll.
- The nutrients in Arame improve the elasticity of skin while the antioxidants and minerals draw toxins from the dermal tissue.
- Arame also contains Omega 3 fatty acids, which reduces inflammation in skin, strengthens hair, bones, teeth and nails.
Benefits of Bladderwrack: (Fucus vesiculosus)
- Improves thyroid function as it contains a good supply of iodine.
- Bladderwrack increase metabolism and curbs appetite.
- Contains beta-carotene that improves vision by fighting the free radicals in the cornea.
- Reduces inflammation for people suffering from arthritis, gout, sore muscles and joints.
- Bladderwrack is amazing for those suffering from high cholesterol, blood sugar issues and even cancer. A unique fiber found in bladderwrack is called Fucoidan (a polysaccharides) which promotes cell regeneration.
- The fiber in the bladderwrack also assists to relieve from constipation, reduce flatulence, bloating, cramping and reduces the chances of ulcer.
- Bladderwrack has also been used in skin care for dryness, wrinkles, and age spots. It has also been used to fight skin irritation such as burns, insect bites and itch.
Benefits of Dulse: (Palmaria palmate)
Dulse also comes in shakable flakes, similar to granulated kelp and can be a good substitute for salt. Expect a chewy texture and slightly salty finish. Dulse is available in fresh, dried, flaky and form. Dulse flakes are often shredded and sprinkled on soups, but fresh dulse can be sautéed like vegetables, dulse flakes can be used in lentil soups or sprinkle on avocado or salads. It can also be consumed as a snack.
- Dulse packed with protein, iron and contains all 8 glyco nutrients.
- It has less iodine (by most accounts, about 1/5 of the amount) than kombu, with high amounts of magnesium and calcium.
- The high levels of vitamin A found in dulse make it an ideal solution for vision problems.
- Dulse also contains manganese which can assist with preventing skin conditions (scurvy) and viral infections (herpes).
Benefits of Hijiki: (Sargassum fusiforme)
In Japan Hijiki is known to have a very strong taste. Hijiki grows in the coastal regions of Japan, China and Korea. The “Hijiki” means “Bearer of wealth and beauty.” It expands up to four times more than its original volume after soaking in water.
- Hijiki has vitamin B2 and niacin which assists in balancing blood sugar levels and aids in weight loss.
- Iodine present in it balances hormones (thyroid) and also ensures their proper functioning.
- Hijiki is a rich source of the essential bone mineral – calcium. A small amount of hijiki contains more calcium than cow’s milk. Hence it is beneficial for bone, teeth, hair and nails.
- Hijiki is known to reduce phlegm in the body and assist in detoxification.
- It is an amazing addition to beauty care as it is known to brighten skin tone of the face and add luster to the hair. If you think about the Ayurvedic perspective of understanding how the food looks like or the color or the shape of the food guides you what it is good for. Hijiki looks like thick, black hair.
Benefits of Irish moss (Chondrus crispus)
Taste: Salty and Sweet
Irish moss is also known as “Sea Moss” or “Carrageen Moss.”
- Irish moss contains vitamin A, D, E, and K as well iodine, potassium, sulphur and calcium chloride.
- Used externally as a beauty care ingredient, as it softens and soothes the skin as well as reduce wrinkles and dark circles.
- Other skincare benefits include sunburn, chapped skin, eczema, psoriasis, and rashes.
- Within the food industry it is used as a thickener, so it is a great addition to a raw vegan diet such as to make ice-creams and nut milks. I add this powerhouse of seaweed in my homemade almond milk.
- Irish moss is used in reducing mucus and dryness from the lungs. It is used as a remedy for any lung diseases such as cold, flu, and mumps.
- This seaweed is also used to lower cholesterol.
- The gelatinous substance in Irish moss makes it a useful treatment for peptic and duodenal ulcers.
- Irish moss is also used in kidney and bladder diseases.
Benefits of Kombu (Laminaria japonica)
Kombu is a type of kelp. It comes dried, for soup or broth, or fresh, to be eaten as sashimi.
- Kombu contains high amount of iodine, calcium, magnesium and iron.
- Kombu is used in Chinese medicine as a treatment for goiter.
- The alginic acid in Kombu is known to act as an intestinal cleanser.
- Kombu in the diet will provide the much-needed iron to maintain good health.
- In cooking Kombu is used as a flavour enhancer as it contains glutamate.
- Kombu is also used when cooking lentils as it is known to improve the digestion of the legume.
Benefits of Kelp (Laminariales)
It is edible brown algae. At specialty grocery stores it is found in dried as well as powdered form. I mix this in my salt bottle to get more nutritional benefit from this salty food.
- Kelp adds good amount of iodine in one’s diet which boosts metabolism and improve thyroid function.
- Kelp is known to contain all 8 glyco nutrients.
- Kelp has been used for men’s reproductive health especially for prostate problems.
- Kelp is also used in autoimmune conditions such as Hashimoto’s condition, rheumatism, hypothyroidism as well as hyperthyriodism.
- The abundance of vitamins and minerals in kelp can promote healthy hair and skin.
- Kelp is useful for the GI tract and the pancreas.
- Kelp is known to reduce swelling, edema, ovarian problems, tumors, lymphatic swelling, goiter and swollen testes.
- The nutrient content also aids in heart health and reduces blood pressure. It protects the heart in high altitudes and assists in deep breathing.
- Kelp is also used to sooth lungs and throat when suffering from coughing and asthma.
Benefits of Nori (Porphyra species)
Seaweed sheets used to make sushi rolls which are essentially Nori. Roasted Nori also available and has the best of flavours amongst the sea vegetables.
- Nori contains one of the richest sources of protein (30-40 grams of protein per 100 gram) and amino acids (such as Taurine) of all seaweeds.
- Nori contains high amounts of Vitamin A, B1, B12, niacin, Vitamin C, E, K, potassium and iodine.
- One sheet of Nori has high amounts of fiber and omega 3 fatty acids.
- Nori contains all of the 8 glyco nutrients.
- Nori is used in reducing cholesterol and high blood pressure.
- Also used to prevent goiter, edema and painful urination.
- Nori is amazing for skin health and reduces the chances of beriberi, cysts, warts, and rickets.
Benefits of Sea Lettuce (Ulva lactuca)
Sea lettuce is also known as Irish seaweeds. It is green seaweed or algae that grow worldwide. Sea lettuce is added in soups, meats and fish.
- Rich source of B vitamins, vitamin A, C and E.
- Sea lettuce is known to be used to protect from macular degeneration.
- Sea lettuce also contains good amount of calcium and magnesium – both minerals promotes bone and dental health.
- Sea lettuce is also rich in high amount of protein and iron.
Benefits of Sea Palm (Postelsia palmaeformis)
Sea Palm is brownish-green in color, looks just like a miniature palm tree. Sea palm has a sweet and salty taste. It can be added to soups or salads. Toasted sea palm can also be consumed on its own.
- Sea palm like the other sea vegetables contains an array of nutrients that boosts metabolism, reduces edema, improves thyroid function, and aids in weight loss.
- Sea Palm eliminates toxins and heavy metals from the body.
- Reduces the chances of growths, tumors, goiter and cysts.
- This antioxidant rich sea vegetable eliminates free-radicals and in turn slows down aging.
Benefits of Wakame (Undaria pinnatifida)
Wakame is related to kombu and also is known as badderlocks, murlins or wing kelp. I have added to soups, rice and stir fries. Roasted wakame can be sprinkled on salads or stews as an easy way to add minerals to your favorite foods. Wakame contains high levels of B Vitamins and C which makes it amazing fat burning.
- Contains fucoxanthin which improves insulin resistance.
- Also is a diuretic herb which reduces swelling, water retention and bloating.
- Wakame contains good amount of calcium which makes it good for bone, hair and skin health.
- Reduces the chances of tumors.
- In Japan wakame is given to mothers after childbirth to purify blood.
Types of Sea Vegetables or Seaweeds in Nature:
|Green Algae||Brown Algae||Red Algae|
|Sea Lettuce||Arame||Agar Agar|
In future, I will be sharing two sea vegetable recipes. These are:
- Edmame and Arame Salad
- Sea Vegetable Rice.
Phipott, Jane and Bradford, Montse, “Seaweed: Nature’s secret for a long and healthy life”. The Nutrition Practitioner. Winter 2006
Mateljan, George. Sea Vegetables. Weblink, http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=135.
Pitchford, Paul. Healing with Whole Foods. Third Edition. Page: 580 – 595.5
Ravensthorpe, Michael , “Sea Lettuce: A Possible Secret to Longevity.”
Weblink: http://spiritfoods.net/health-benefits-of-sea-lettuce/. Date researched: May 28, 2017.