Seaweed and marine algae have more concentrated nutrition than vegetables grown on land and they have long been considered to possess powers to prolong life, prevent disease, and impart beauty and health. For thousands of years, this mineral-rich vegetable has been a staple in Asian diets.
There are over 20 types of edible seaweed and even more are being discovered. Common types of seaweed include nori, kombu, kelp, dulce and Irish moss. Some types of seaweed have more calcium than cheese, more iron than beef, and more protein than eggs, plus seaweed is a very rich source of micronutrients. Traditionally, its healing properties are said to include everything from treating cancer, lowering cholesterol, shrinking goiters, dissolving tumors and cysts, detoxifying heavy metals, reducing water retention, and aiding in weight loss. Here are three good reasons to eat your sea veggies!
1. Nori: A Skin Superstar
Best known as the outer wrap of sushi rolls, nori is a great snack for skin health. Just one sheet of nori has the same amount of omega-3s as two whole avocados. The omega-3s in nori help create a natural oil barrier on your skin, helping to reduce acne and dry skin, particularly helpful during these dry, heated winter months. Nori also helps reduce the body’s production of inflammatory compounds that affect how healthy the skin looks and feels. Find nori in Asian grocery stores and healthy food markets, often in sheets, strips, or flakes.
How to Eat It: Make your own simple sushi: Cover an open sheet of nori with brown rice. Then add shredded carrots, thinly sliced avocado, and any other raw vegetable that strikes your fancy. Roll it all up and dip in sesame oil and ginger sauce.
2. Wakame: Beat the Bloat
Often found floating in miso soup, wakame looks like slippery spinach. It is a diuretic, which means it helps reduce the amount of water in the body. Because it prevents bloating and is packed with osteoporosis-preventing calcium and magnesium, wakame is sometimes referred to as the “women’s seaweed.” But the wakame benefits don’t end here – this seaweed is also high in important trace minerals and is one of the few non-animal sources of vitamin B12.
How to Eat It: Try it in miso soup. Or soak the wakame for a few minutes to reconstitute, then chop, and turn into a salad. I recommend pairing it with cucumbers and rice vinegar.
3. Kombu: Metabolism Booster
Kombu comes in long, thick brown strips. Kombu is valuable for its high content of iodine, which is needed to produce two important thyroid hormones that control the metabolism. Our bodies don’t make iodine, so we have to get it through food. Many people are thyroid deficient and the iodine in kombu can help. Also, there is a pigment in kombu called fucoxanthin, which may boost production of a protein involved in fat metabolism.
How to Eat It: Try simmering chopped kombu in your soups until soft – or use it to make dashi stock, which is the Japanese equivalent of chicken broth. To make your own dashi, cook 4 cups of water over low heat, and then add 8 inches of kombu that has been cut in half. Simmer over low heat and then strain the stock. Sometimes dried shiitake mushrooms are added for flavor.