6 Reasons to Start Consuming Seaweed

Author BIO:

Charles Watson is the head content writer for Sunshinebehavioralhealth.com.  

When you think of seaweed, you probably think of it tangling around your feet while you're swimming in the ocean. However, this plant is packed with vitamins and minerals that can help your health. Not to mention, it's low in calories, so it's an excellent addition to your diet.

About Seaweed

Seaweed, also known as sea vegetables, is a form of algae found in the ocean. Although sea creatures are the ones who consume it regularly, people can benefit from the health properties of seaweed as well. You can find it in a variety of colors ranging anywhere from black to brown to green to red. Green algae includes sea lettuce, Ulva, and sea grapes. Brown algae is a category with kelp, arame, kombu, and wakame. The red algae group consists of nori, laver, and dulse while blue-green algae include spirulina and chlorella.

While Asian markets commonly sell fresh seaweed, most people must opt for dried seaweed found in the supermarket. Online marketplaces like Amazon also sell it dried. You may prepare dried seaweed by first soaking it in hot water. You can enjoy fried seaweed directly out of the bag if you choose nori or dulse. Sometimes, these products contain high amounts of MSG, so make sure you read the product carefully.

You can prepare seaweed in a salad once you cook it. You may want to try creating a garlic, vinegar, ginger, and sesame oil dressing, just like they commonly do in Japan. Soup with seaweed is usually prepared in a bone broth. You could also opt for garnish soups, rice, noodles, and other dishes with dried seaweed flakes.

1.  Antioxidant-Rich

Antioxidants are substances in food that protect the body against free radicals, which ultimately prevents free radicals from doing damage on a cellular level. Since free radicals are a possible cause of heart disease, diabetes, and some forms of cancer, they might reduce your likelihood of developing these conditions, as noted by the National Institutes of Health. Some of the antioxidants in seaweed include vitamins A, C, and E. Additionally, they consist of flavonoids and carotenoids, which have also been shown to protect the cells in your body from the damage of unstable cells.

2. Improved Digestive Health

Your stomach has bacteria that plays a positive role in your digestive health by breaking down the foods you consume and boosting your immune system. Some evidence suggests you have more bacteria cells in your body than you do human cells like skin, nerve, and brain cells. When you don’t have an adequate amount of gut bacteria, you could find yourself experiencing sickness. It possibly puts you at a greater risk for developing certain digestive illnesses as well.

Seaweed has fiber, which helps regulate your bowel movements and promote overall better gut health. In fact, the fiber comprises about 25 to 75 percent of the dry weight of seaweed -- a figure that’s higher than the fiber in a majority of fruits and vegetables. It also feeds the bacteria in your large intestines. The sugars in seaweed assist in the growth of bacteria of healthy bacteria. The sugars in the seaweed nourish the cells lining your gut.

3. Loaded With Vitamins and Minerals

Although every type of seaweed contains different nutrients, no matter which one you choose, you reap the reward of enhancing your vitamin and mineral intake.

One kind of seaweed is spirulina, and just one tablespoon of it dried supplies you with the following nutrients:

  1. Riboflavin

  2. Thiamin

  3. Iron

  4. Manganese

  5. Copper

  6. Vitamin A

  7. Vitamin B-12

  8. Vitamin C

  9. Vitamin E

  10. Vitamin K

  11. Folate

  12. Zinc

  13. Calcium

It only has 20 calories and 1.7 grams of carbs. It’s rich in protein and contains less than one gram of fat. This particular form of seaweed -- as well as chlorella -- consists of every essential amino acid.

4. Could Help With Weight Loss

Seaweed has a great deal of fiber, but it doesn’t have a high amount of calories. The fiber in it slows down the digestive process, which means you feel full for longer. Several animal studies indicate a relationship between the fucoxanthin in seaweed and a reduction in body fat. In one study, the rats who consumed fucoxanthin reduced their weight. On the other hand, the rats who ate the controlled diet didn’t lose any weight. The expression of a protein that metabolizes fat in rats was increased as a result of the fucoxanthin.

Several other animal studies came to the same conclusion. In another study, the fucoxanthin decreased blood sugar levels in rats, which showed to have a benefit on weight loss.

5. Possible Reduction in Heart Disease

You might reduce your risk of heart disease when you consume seaweed regularly. Not only does seaweed contain antioxidants that protect your heart, but it may also decrease the amount of unhealthy cholesterol in your body. One study conducted on rats that were fed a high-cholesterol diet loaded with fat revealed a link between seaweed and a reduced cholesterol level. The study lasted eight weeks and showed that eating a diet with 10 percent of freeze-dried seaweed reduced the total cholesterol level in the rats by an average of 40 percent. It decreased LDL cholesterol by an average of 36 percent. In addition, the rats saw an average 31-percent reduction in triglyceride levels.  

Fucans within the seaweed prevent blood clotting. A study conducted on animals showed that fucans extracted from seaweed had the same impact as a prescription anticoagulant.

Researchers evaluated the peptides in the seaweed. In the early phases of the study, the protein-like substances in seaweed prevented blood pressure from increasing. More research is needed to determine if seaweed could reduce high blood pressure.

6. May Help Manage Diabetes

One study conducted on Japanese people showed a connection between the fucoxanthin in brown seaweed and an improvement in their blood sugar levels. During the course of this eight-week study, the participants consumed seaweed oil that had either 0, 1, or 2 milligrams of fucoxanthin. The study concluded that the individuals who had the highest level of fucoxanthin had the greatest improvement in blood sugar levels.

Consuming seaweed on a regular basis appears to have plenty of benefits. First and foremost, it’s nutrient rich. Not to mention, it could benefit various aspects of your health including your cardiovascular health.