8 Reasons You Should Start Eating Seaweed ASAP
Step aside, kale. There’s a new super superfood in town, fresh from the ocean, with health—and weight loss—benefits that will have you craving sushi.
Seaweed absorbs fat
Eating seaweed, which is not actually a vegetable at all but an algae, could shrink your waistline. According to a 2010 study, algae can reduce the rate of fat absorption by 75 percent, by inhibiting the effect of the digestive enzyme lipase. Clinical trials at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom are creating a “wonder bread” made with alginate fibers (cell-wall constituents of brown algae) that’s designed to speed weight loss. “This is very exciting for people who struggle with managing their weight,” says Maria E. Rodriguez, RD, CDE of Mount Sinai Diabetes Alliance. (These fat-releasing foods will also help you shed pounds.)
Seaweed busts bloat
Eating seaweed can have a diuretic effect, reducing the amount of water in your body. You can use it to make healthy foods like beans more digestible and less likely to cause bloat. Simply cook beans with the seaweed kombu. Add one piece of kombu to the pot of water you use to boil beans, and it will reduce the gas-causing qualities of the beans. Another tasty way to reduce bloat is to eat nori seaweed. If you eat sushi, nori is the salty seaweed made into thin sheets commonly used in Japanese and Korean cuisine. “Nori can be used in small strips in salads, broken up into pieces for cottage cheese or Greek yogurt, or even as an addition to slaws,” says author and chef Matthew Robinson of culinaryexhange.com. Don’t miss these other foods that reduce bloating.
Seaweed strengthens bones
Mooo-ve over, milk. According to Rodriguez, seaweed contains about seven times more calcium than milk. Wakame seaweed, for example, provides 15 percent of your daily value of calcium. Calcium is essential to increase bone growth and bone repair. As we age, our bone density decreases. For men, this generally happens around age 55 and for women, at the time of menopause, usually around age 51. Bone loss can lead to increased risks of fractures. Shoot for 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams of calcium a day. Here are the signs you could need more calcium.
Seaweed is a good source of iron
If you’re seeking more dietary sources of iron, kelp may be for you. “Kelp can be especially helpful for people following a diet with low or no animal proteins, as animal protein is a rich source of iron,” says Kylene Bogden, MS, of the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine. Kelp is a popular form of seaweed that contains almost 30 percent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for iron in just 1/3 cup—that’s four times more than spinach! Devin Alexander, celebrity chef and weight loss coach, suggests using seaweed as a crunchy snack. “I’ve used it toasted and finely crumbled as a seasoning for popcorn along with a bit of cayenne.” He also enjoys toasting seaweed with seasonings to make DIY seaweed chips. Here’s a go-to list of other high-iron foods.
Seaweed helps with thyroid regulation
Seaweed, particularly wakame, provides about 164 micrograms of iodine, which is essential for a healthy thyroid. Our body depends on healthy thyroid function to manage metabolism. “Our bodies do not make iodine, so it’s important that we consume it through food,” says Bogden. One way to take advantage of the iodine in wakame is to add it to soup, suggests Chef Robinson. Find out if your thyroid is out of whack.
Seaweed fights disease
Just 100 grams of chlorella, another type of seaweed, contains 315 milligrams or around 79 percent of the RDA for magnesium. “Magnesium is one of the most crucial nutrients in our diet, and may people are deficient,” says Cassandra Suarez, MS, of Boston. “It protects against nearly every modern disease, and can be therapeutic for difficult-to-treat inflammatory conditions such as fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, and arthritis.” Chlorella has a “green and fishy” taste so it’s best for juice smoothies or mixed into a green salad. Watch out for these signs that you could need more magnesium.
Seaweed helps with blood pressure regulation
Uncontrolled high blood pressure hikes up your risk of heart attack or stroke. Consider stocking up on seaweed to keep yours in check. Chlorella seaweed, in particular, has been shown to help regulate blood pressure in people with high or borderline-high blood pressure. “One study in hypertensive patients found that 1.5 grams of pure chlorella per day resulted in decreased blood pressure over a six-month period, as well as lowered hypertension-related symptoms,” says Suarez. Adding chlorella to a vinaigrette salad dressing is a good way to get the healthy benefits of seaweed while masking its strong fishy taste. Start by adding a half-teaspoon to a serving of bottled dressing. Whisk, and add more powder if desired. These other foods can also help lower high blood pressure.
Seaweed boosts mood
The typical treatment for depression is antidepressant medication, but a 2015 study found chlorella to have a profound effect on symptoms. “In a six-week pilot study, 1.8 grams of chlorella extract was found to greatly improve physical and cognitive symptoms of depression as well as anxiety symptoms in patients who were receiving standard antidepressant therapy for major depressive disorder,” says Suarez.
What seaweed isn’t
Seaweed is often marketed toward vegetarians and vegans as a way to get their RDA of vitamin B12, a nutrient we can get only from animal-based proteins. “While it’s true that seaweed has B12, it’s in a form that humans cannot absorb,” explains Suarez. According to a 1999 Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry study, plant foods such as seaweed contain B12 analogs, called cobamindes, which block the absorption of true vitamin B12 and actually increase the need for vitamin B12. “This is why it’s crucial to understand that there are no plant sources of B12, and that all vegans and most vegetarians should supplement,” Suarez adds. Deficiency in vitamin B12 can cause anemia, cognitive difficulties, balance problems, and tingling in hands, legs, or feet. Here are more nutrients that you might be missing if you’re vegetarian or vegan.