Japanese cuisine is one of the most famous and favorite kind in the whole world. Sushi, ramen, maki, gyudon…The list of amazing Japanese food is endless. And one of their staple ingredients is seaweed. It’s actually a common name for a number of species of marine plants and algae. They usually grow in oceans, but they also thrive in lakes, rivers, and other water bodies.
All kinds of seaweed are edible, though some taste better than others. Also, some can lead to an upset stomach.
For years the Japanese have been using this unlikely plant life in their food. Plenty like snacking on dried seaweed straight out of the bag. You can also make use of it in a salad, in soups, or sprinkled on other food.
Most seawood available don’t taste bitter. There are even some types that taste sweet, and even others with umami flavors. This means it’ll be easier to introduce to picky eaters.
Types of Seaweed
The different categories of seaweed available are made based on their cell structure, pigments, and other factors. The most common types are the following:
Blue-green algae. These include chlorella and spirulina.
Green algae. Some examples are sea grapes, ulva, or sea lettuce.
Brown algae. Belonging in this category are kelp, kombu, arame, and wakame (the one used in miso soup)
Red algae. Examples are laver, nori, and dulse.
Its Nutrient Content
I know it may not look like much, and some people actually shudder at the thought of eating it, but seaweed is very healthy for you. It’s known to be chock-full of vitamins, minerals, and plenty other nutrients. In fact, it’s much more nutrient-dense as compared to vegetables that grow on land.
For one, seaweed is known to have high amounts of the fat-soluble vitamin K. It also possesses a good amount of iron as well as calcium. And finally, this plant food is high in iodine as well.
On top of that, seaweed contains plenty of other nutrients. It has fiber, prebiotics, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants. It has vitamins A, C, D, E, and the B vitamins. For its mineral content, it boasts of magnesium, potassium, and copper.
It’s been said that one of the secrets of the Japanese for living long and healthy lives is their consumption of seaweed. Here are a few of the benefits this helpful algae boasts that you can enjoy for yourself.
There are certain types of seaweed with anti-carcinogenic properties. They have compounds that effectively activates the process of natural cell death among lymphoma, leukemia, colorectal, and stomach tumor cells.
Other types of seaweed have the ability to decrease estrogen levels, which in turn reduce the risk of breast cancer. The soluble fiber in seaweed is also effective in reducing the likelihood of colon cancer.
Boosts Heart Health
Certain compounds found in seaweed work together to ensure your heart will keep on pumping for a long time. The sulfated polysaccharides it has reduces blood pressure and prevents blood clotting. They also reduce LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol levels, as well as lower high blood pressure.
Adding seaweed to your daily diet helps in reducing your risk of developing diabetes. It contains compounds that reduces insulin resistance and stabilizes blood sugar levels. The type of fiber the water plant has actually slows down the speed at which carbohydrates are absorbed in the body. This makes int infinitely easier for your body to stabilize blood sugar levels.
Aids in Weight Loss
Seaweed has fiber, which increases the feeling of satiety and enhances the feeling of fullness, all while keeping hunger pangs at bay.
It also contains fucoidan, which enhances the breakdown of fat and prevents its formation. And finally, it has a low calorie content, which makes it a healthier option as an afternoon snack.
All these work together to achieve healthy and effective weight loss.
Boosts Gut Health
Bet many of you didn’t know that seaweed can do wonders to your digestion. Well, it does. And here are the numerous ways how.
First, since it’s rich in fiber, it makes sure you have regular bowel movements. This prevents constipation and ensures smooth digestion.
Second, the prebiotics found in seaweed improve the production of healthy bacteria in the gut and. They also reduce the amount of harmful bacteria in the gut more effectively than other types of prebiotics. In addition, these prebiotics prevent the formation of stomach ulcers by blocking harmful bacteria from sticking to the gut wall.
Provides Better Skin
Plants from under the sea can do so much for our skin. From cleansing, to toning, to moisturizing, to revitalizing, to repairing…I could go on. That’s why so many beauty products make use of the different types of seaweed.
It contains antioxidants, which provides anti-aging properties. Say goodbye to wrinkles, fine lines, dark spots, saggy skin, and other skin blemishes. And according to Dr. Max Huber, the founder and creator of Crème de la Mer, “it is a powerful catalyst for skin renewal, bathing the skin in moisture and calming sensitivities.”
Seaweed can also be applied topically. In this process, it can draw excess fluid and waste products from the skin. It also cleanses dead skin cells and other skin impurities on the surface.
Guarantees Hair Health
Numerous extracts in seaweed help hair to rebuild itself and makes it grow stronger. They promote scalp hydration, which then improves the condition of dry hair. They also increase hair mineralization, which thickens hair. And finally, they have the ability to protect the hair from environmental damage.
Ensures a Healthy Thyroid
The thyroid is a gland in your neck that helps produce and regulate hormones. It also makes sure your metabolism is functioning well. If your thyroid is not working properly, this will lead to a multitude of effects, like high cholesterol, fatigue, and muscle weakness. If left untreated, this will then develop to even more serious medical issues, such as goiters, memory loss, and heart palpitations.
That’s why maintaining healthy levels of iodine in the body is so very important. And that’s where seaweed comes in.
Word of Warning
Though eating seaweed is generally considered safe, there are still some side effects you need to watch out for.
Contains Heavy Metals
There are some varieties of seaweed that contain high levels of arsenic, mercury, lead, or cadmium. Note that the FDA regulates the levels of these heavy metals in fresh seawood. Unfortunately, supplements are not regulated and may possess levels that could be dangerous to your health.
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Types of seaweed to watch out for include hijiki (contains arsenic well above the safety limit), laver, gulfweed, sea mustard, and seatangle.
Causes Gastrointestinal Issues
Some people may experience mild to moderate gastrointestinal issues when taking seaweed. According to a 2012 study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a few individuals experience nausea, abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhea.
Interferes with Kidney Function and Blood Thinners
There are some types of seaweed that have very high levels of potassium and sodium. Too much of the two minerals can cause trouble with the kidneys.
Also, since it’s known to have high levels of vitamin K as well, this could interfere with blood-thinning medications. Individuals who are taking blood thinners should always check with their doctors before taking in seaweed.