If you’ve ever seen seaweed on the beach or in the water, the thought of eating it in a meal might seem strange, even disgusting. Seaweed is actually a kind of sea algae that provides food for several kinds of ocean life. They’re available in several colors, including red and black as well as the more familiar green and brown varieties. We can find seaweed all along most rocky shorelines, but it’s most commonly used in Asian cuisine such as Korean, Chinese, and Japanese delicacies.
There are several reasons why people would choose to consume seaweed. It’s a very versatile ingredient and can work in a range of dishes as a wrapping, a garnishing, or part of a soup. The most convincing reason for adding seaweed to our diet, however, is probably the high level of nutrients inside this item.
The nutrient content of seaweed is surprisingly high, so you don’t even need a lot of it at once. Here are just a few benefits of seaweed that have been backed by scientific research:
1. Supports Thyroid Function
Many people these days are suffering from thyroid problems in one form or the other. With hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism on the rise all over the world, it seems very challenging to keep this particular gland’s hormones balanced just right.
Why is it so important to keep the thyroid healthy? The functions of the thyroid include controlling energy production, physical growth, repairing damaged cells, and ensuring healthy reproduction. If our thyroid is more active or less active than it should be, the adverse effects could include exhaustion, fatigue, a weakened immune system, and infertility.
If we want to avoid all that and take extra precautions to ensure the health of our thyroid, it’s a good idea to increase our intake of tyrosine and iodine. Iodine is an especially important substance that helps the thyroid to make healthy hormones. If we don’t have a decent level of iodine in our internal systems, issues like weight changes, tiredness or neck swelling could be in our future.
We need around 150 mcg of iodine in order to help our thyroid function properly, and seaweed can really help with this. Seaweed has a specific ability that allows it to absorb iodine in concentrated amounts while it’s in the ocean. Just one little dried sheet of this ingredient could contain at least 11 percent of the RDI for iodine. That percentage could go all the way up to 1,989 percent, so we’re more than covered.
One of the most well-known types of seaweed and among the best iodine sources is kelp. We just need a single teaspoon of kelp in its dried form to gain the RDI of iodine 59 times over.
Moving on to tyrosine, this is an amino acid that teams up with iodine to make two hormones. These hormones also assist the thyroid gland in its proper role and function.
2. High Level of Minerals and Vitamins
There are several varieties of seaweed available in the market, and each of them has their own unique nutrient profile. You can try sprinkling some dried seaweed on your food to up your vitamins if there’s any deficiency in your internal system.
For example, one tablespoon or seven grams of spirulina seaweed (dried) can give us 1.7 carbs, 4 grams of protein, 0.3 grams of fiber, and 11 percent of the RDI of iron all within 20 calories. There are also several other nutrients in there, including riboflavin, thiamin, copper, manganese, calcium, magnesium, sodium folate, and Vitamins, K, E, C, and A. Omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin B12 are just a couple more essential nutrients that we can get from most types of seaweed, especially the dried purple and green kind.
The contribution to our RDIs of many vitamins and minerals might be fairly low, but it all adds up when you use seaweed as a seasoning in your regular meals.
3. Has Several Protective Antioxidants
With the high level of pollutants and unhealthy ingredients in the foods we consume these days, it’s all the more important to have a lot of antioxidants in our diets as well. With the antioxidants available in seaweed, we can help our bodies fight off harmful substances like free radicals and minimize the damage they do to our body cells.
When free radicals are limited, we also stand to lower our chances of some very dangerous illnesses, including diabetes, heart disease, etc.
Vitamins C, E, and A are known as antioxidant vitamins. As we’ve already discussed, these are present in seaweed. Other beneficial compounds in this ingredient are carotenoids and flavonoids, which are known for preventing free radical damage.
However, we must take such benefits with a pinch of salt. There is a debate going on about how many nutrients our bodies can absorb at once. While opinions may differ, we should keep in mind that a heavy dose of vitamins and nutrients is not always a good idea.
4. Gives Us Polysaccharides and Fiber for Supporting Gut Health
If we want good health, we have to place special importance on our gut health and the beneficial bacteria in that part of the body. Having an imbalance between harmful and beneficial gut bacteria could cause several diseases and sicknesses.
In order to get that perfect balance, getting more fiber in our system is one way to go.Seaweed, actually contains a lot of fiber according to its weight, with the substance making up 25 to 75 percent of most seaweeds’ dry weight. This alone makes seaweed fiber content much higher than what is found in most kinds of vegetables and fruits. With this fiber, we can improve our digestive system and feed our good bacteria for better gut health as well.
There are also certain sugars known as sulfated polysaccharides present inside seaweed. These have the potential to enhance the production of beneficial bacteria in the gut as well as the level of short-chain fatty acids. The latter give nourishment and support to the gut’s cell lining.
5. A Full Feeling Leading to Weight Loss
There are several ways to lose weight, but it usually just boils down to eating less and getting more exercise. Many people struggle with these two activities, especially when it comes to suppressing their cravings.
When we put seaweed in our everyday diet, however, we might end up feeling really full from all that fiber. As a result, we might even feel tempted to give in to unhealthy food choices. This would directly result in your consuming fewer calories per day. The bonus here is that seaweed fiber contains a negligible amount of calories, if any.
Here are some more choices for getting the necessary amount of fiber in our daily routine.
With all the health benefits in seaweed, it’s no wonder that people are adding it to their soups, stews, sushi rolls, salads and other dishes. Many companies are even putting a form of seaweed in their supplements in the hope of attracting more customers. While we also have to follow a balanced, healthy diet and follow a proper exercise routine to get an ideal body, seaweed and other similar options could help us along the way. Here are some snack hacks that can help us avoid the trap of gaining unhealthy weight.