Ingredient Du Jour: Seaweed
Yes, food trend forecasters are hailing seaweed as “the new kale,” as it replaces the dark leafy green in the affections of health-conscious eaters. And no wonder: sea vegetables (as aficionados call them) are extraordinarily high in many crucial vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. Read on to learn what all the fuss is about.
Types of Sea Vegetables/Seaweed
There are thousands of different species of seaweed, ranging from nutritious to poisonous, so don’t go down to the beach and start munching on what you find there. There are three basic categories of seaweed: brown, red, and green. Popular brown seaweeds include kombu (kelp) and wakame, which are frequently used in Japanese cooking. The most common red seaweed is nori, which is available in sheets and is familiar to many Americans as the seaweed that wraps sushi. Green seaweeds include sea lettuce and sea grass.
Seaweed is an excellent source of iodine, a nutrient that maintains thyroid health. Although most table salt contains added iodine, the salt in processed food does not. Mild iodine deficiencies are becoming more common, but just one gram of brown seaweed contains 50 times the recommended daily intake of the mineral! Seaweeds are also high in potassium and calcium, as well as antioxidants that help fight inflammation and infection. A study has also linked brown kelp to the modulation of endocrine hormones like estrogen and estradiol, leading to a reduction of hormone-related cancers like breast cancer.
Despite our perpetual search for a panacea, no one food is a cure-all. As with most foods, super or otherwise, moderation is crucial. Seaweed has a high natural sodium content, so consuming too much can lead to excessive sodium intake. Similarly, seaweed’s high potassium and iodine contents can be harmful in high doses. A more troubling concern is that seaweed harvested from polluted water will have those pollutants in the seaweed. Although the FDA regulates commercial seaweed, it does not regulate supplements, so make sure these are from a reputable source.