Unless you’re a big fan of sushi, you may not think of seaweed as a delicious treat. Well get ready to see it in lots of other foods. And this healthy trend doesn’t stop with just seaweed. Lots of chefs and diners are discovering the power of sea vegetables.
Seaweed and sea vegetables have made several food trend lists for 2017. These “superfoods” provide rich sources protein, vitamins, minerals and fiber without a whole lot of calories. They also have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects. Read on to discover which ones you might incorporate into your healthy lifestyle.
Although there are over 10,000 known species of seaweed, only several of them are used as food. Not only is seaweed incredibly low in calories, it’s also rich in nutrients absorbed from the sea, including calcium and iron. Seaweed provides the best source of iodine, like that found in Diamond Nutritionals’ Thyroid Support Formula.
Chefs often use seaweed to bring the quality of umami to dishes. Umami has received a lot attention recently, although westerners may struggle to put their finger on the flavor. It’s savory without being sweet, salty, bitter, or sour. If you enjoy Asian cuisine, you probably experience it without necessarily knowing it.
Look for one of three main kinds of seaweed on the market: nori, kombu and wakame. Nori is the one used in sushi rolls and you may find it sold in dried sheets. Some like to crumble it onto salads or soups for umami. Kombu and wakame are both used in miso soup. Chefs opt for wakame, the sweeter of the two, for seaweed salads.
Of the 10,000-plus known species of seaweed, over 300 are species of kelp. Although kelp is actually a type of seaweed, it has some different uses from those I mentioned above. It also offers similar health benefits to seaweed.
The rich nutrient content in kelp (like iodine) means that it is in great demand as a food and herbal supplement. Kelp contains dietary fiber, proteins, sodium, potassium, calcium, and iron, magnesium, and beta carotene, phosphorous, vitamins A, C, B12, B1, B2, K, choline, folate and amino acids.
A popular use for kelp is making kelp noodles, often found in Korean cooking. You may have had them in spring rolls. Look for kelp noodles in health food stores or Asian food stores, or make your own. A 1/2 cup serving of kelp noodles has 1 gram of dietary fiber.
Food manufacturers also use kelp to thicken foods like ice cream and toothpaste.
Spirulina: A Healthy Algae
Spirulina is a blue-green algae with many uses. Look for spirulina powder at your grocery store. Add it to smoothies or salads. Why? For one, it’s one of the few plant sources of complete protein. It contains all of the essential amino acids, which can be a challenge to get for vegetarians and vegans. It also packs plenty of calcium, iron, magnesium, and vitamins A, E, and K. Food manufacturers now use spirulina to dye foods green naturally.
Another use for algae is as a cooking oil. Algae oil has a high smoke point, so it can be used in cooking at higher temperatures. It has the same fat content as olive oil but less of it being saturated fat.
Algae is another great source of iodine. Brown algae also supplies vanadium, a mineral linked with hormone, cholesterol, and blood sugar metabolism. The pigment which gives it its color, fucoxanthin, has been linked to enhanced fat burning in animal studies.
Time To Try For Yourself!
The International Journal of Epidemiology reported in 2007 that Japanese eating habits–with their emphasis on fermented soy (natto), fish, green tea, and seaweed–may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. You may well know the benefits of the other items on the list. Now maybe it’s time to try seaweed and its relatives!
Let us know about your experiences and tell us about your favorite “sea vegetable” dish, in the comments below.
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