Most of us are familiar with seaweed in our sushi, and the accompanying miso soup. But beyond the delicious taste, have you ever wondered about the seaweed health benefits. Keep on reading about Health Benefits of Seaweed
Incredibly strong in antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins, seaweed packs the serious nutritional punch.
Table of Contents
What Is Seaweed?
Algae, or algae, belongs to the group of plant organisms that grow in the sea.
Some algae are unicellular organisms such as microalgae, which means they are more like bacteria that also generate energy through photosynthesis.
Most of the algae that we consume as food have many cells. Algae are part of a healthy diet and are used in medicinal plants in various traditional cultures.
Different Kinds of Seaweed:
Scientists have classified the types of algae into different categories according to their pigments, cell structure, and other traits. The algae groups (or phyla) that are commonly consumed include:
- Green algae such as sea lettuce or vulva, and sea grapes
- Brown algae such as kombu, arame, kelp and wakame (miso soup)
- Red algae such as dulse, wash, and nori (sushi algae)
- Blue-green algae such as spirulina and chlorella
Health Benefits of Seaweed
The unique properties of algae make the body beneficial in several ways: You may like to read kinds of bacteria
Vitamins and minerals
Algae are much richer in nutrients than terrestrial vegetables. It is an excellent source of micronutrients including folate, calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron and selenium. More importantly, algae are a major source of iodine.
DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids
Unlike terrestrial plants, algae contain pre-formed omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, so algae or algae oil can be a reliable source of omega-3 for vegetarians.
Aids to Digestion
Beans can cause upset stomach and gas for many people. This can be easily fixed by adding kombu, a particular type of algae, to beans when cooking.
Algae contain many antioxidants. As part of a healthy diet, algae can help protect against oxidative stress and prevent chronic diseases such as cancer and digestive problems.
Fibers and Prebiotics
All plants contain fiber, but algae also have other odd types of carbohydrates that we do not have the digestive enzymes to digest. These include carrageenan, fucan, galactan, and much more. These carbohydrates then become food for bacteria (see this study for a more detailed explanation).
What you eat directly influences the bacteria that dominate your gut. The types of bacteria that can best feed on the foods you choose to eat will grow better (learn more about this fascinating topic here). This illustrates why few cultures handle various kinds of food better than others. In fact, scientists have found that intestinal bacteria in healthy Japanese are higher in bacteria that can digest types of carbohydrates in algae (source).
Seaweed as the Superfood: How It Stacks Up
There are many benefits of algae and it is a very nutritious food.
- Healthy people can enjoy algae as a condiment a few times a week.
- If you have concerns about thyroid health or digestive function, you may want to talk to your doctor about monitoring your condition as you introduce more algae into your diet.
- With few exceptions, the radioactivity and toxicity of heavy metals are of little concern to algae.
- In general, the algae harvested on the Korean coast are quite safe.
- If in doubt, buy your seaweed from a reputable company that tests their products for contamination, such as the Maine coast.