The Many Culinary and Nutritional Benefits of Seaweed
There are many benefits of including seaweed in one's diet. That is a long established fact. The people of Japan, China, and other Asian nations have been eating this sea vegetable for centuries. Although we often tend to think of eating seaweed is something that we would only encounter in the East, seaweed harvesting, or kelp harvesting, has been practiced in the British Isles as well for several centuries.
The availability of fresh seaweed in the marketplace is somewhat limited, and it can be more difficult to find unless you live in an area bordering the northern Atlantic or Pacific oceans. Most Asian food stores will at least have seaweed in dried or cooked form, and just about anywhere you can find sushi, you're going to find seaweed. In any event, we're seeing more and more of this salt-water vegetable consumed in North America with each passing year.
Vitamins, Minerals, Fiber, and More
The nutritional benefits of seaweed are many. There are a number of different varieties of seaweed, but all are rich in vitamins, particularly vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 is said to play an important role in brain health and brain development. Iodine is also present in seaweed in significant amounts. That is probably not all that surprising, considering where seaweed comes from. A lack of iodine can sometimes lead to thyroid problems. A healthy diet usually contains sufficient iodine, so not everyone needs to eat seaweed to satisfy their daily needs, but eating seaweed is certainly a quick way to meet the daily requirement.
Another vitamin that seaweed is rich in is vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 plays a vital part in the formation of red blood cells, and the vitamin also plays an essential role in keeping the immune system in good shape. Finally, seaweed is an excellent source of fiber. Fiber is of course very important when it comes to keeping the digestive system functioning normally, but it plays a number of other important roles in the body as well.
If there is anything negative about seaweed from a nutritional perspective is that it's high in sodium, and would therefore not necessarily be a good food choice for those on a low-sodium diet. There is some good news associated with seafood's sodium content however. Flakes of seaweed that have been dried or roasted, can be sprinkled over foods as a substitute for salt. A few flakes of seaweed will usually contain a great deal less salt that that coming out of a salt shaker, while still imparting a slightly salty taste. When used in this manner, seaweed could be perfectly acceptable as part of a low sodium diet.
Four Types of Seaweed Definitely Worth Trying
When you purchase seaweed in the market place, you don't just purchase 'seaweed'. There are different types, and each of these type has something different to offer.
- Wakame seaweed has a taste that is best described as salty-sweet. Wakame is usually eaten raw, and imparts a nice flavor to many kinds of salads, especially cucumber salad. Wakame can also be used in soups. This particular type of seaweed is very rich in calcium and magnesium.
- Kombu is a type of kelp, and has what would best be described as a savory flavor. Kombu makes an excellent addition to soups or broths, and is sometimes added to vegetables while they are being cooked in a pot. Kombu is rich in iodine, and is also rich in the phytochemical fucoidan, which is known for its blood thinning properties.
- Arame is a sweet tasting seaweed, which usually comes in the form of long strands. Arame is particularly rich in potassium, is believed to have certain antiviral properties. It is often included in weight-watchers diets since, when eaten in sufficient quantities, it tends to prevent weight gain.
- Nori is the favorite seaweed of many people, and has a number of culinary uses. This seaweed comes in the form of sheets. It is usually roasted, or added to stir fry combinations. It is also used as a wrap, where cooked vegetables are placed on top of a sheet of it. Nori has somewhat of an earthy flavor. A very healthy food item, Nori is rich in vitamins C and B12, and is also rich in fiber and is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Seaweed is a member of the algae family of plants, which may account for the fact it is not as popular a food item as it really deserves to be. The fact that we call these plants weeds probably do not help their marketability either. Fishermen and boat owners often consider these plants as nothing more than a nuisance, and the dry seaweed often found along a beach isn't always all that appetizing looking. The truth is, all of the four kinds of seaweed described here are among the healthiest foods one can eat, and most who try one of these seaweeds will either like the taste, or will acquire a taste in a short time.