Kelp & Sea Vegetables

Kelp & Sea Vegetables

Add some sea life to your diet!  Sea vegetables have become widely popular in recent years. What used to be predominantly popular across Asia has become a global delicacy and a great addition to our diets. Although we associate sea vegetables with Asian cuisine (they have been consuming it for over 10,000 years), almost all sea-bordering countries have included seaweeds in their diet: Iceland, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway, Scotland, the Pacific Islands and South American countries.

Many varieties of sea vegetables are now available in local supermarkets they offer the some of the greatest nutrition of nearly any food, containing virtually all the minerals found in the ocean – the same minerals that are found in human blood!

The fact is sea vegetables aren’t really plants. They are technically a form of edible algae and there are thousands of different varieties, but they are vegetable-esque and many of these items have the texture of lettuce. The most popular are Arame, Dulse, Hijiki, Kelp, Kombu, Nori and Wakame.

  • Arame is a mild and sweet, lacy and wiry type of kelp.
  • Dulse is a chewy and soft type of sea lettuce.
  • Hijiki is a strong-flavored sea vegetable that looks like wiry dark pasta.
  • Kelp is a kind of algae seaweed. It varies from light brown to dark green in color. There are about 30 different types!
  • Kombu is a marine species of Phaeophyceae (a type of kelp or seaweed), which is extensively cultivated on ropes in the seas of Japan and Korea. sometimes sold as a soup flavoring and is very dark.
  • Nori is the purple-black variety of seaweed we are most familiar with in the west. It turns green when toasted and is the one used in sushi rolls.
  • Wakame is an edible seaweed, which may be sold in strips or sheets. It has a subtly sweet flavor and like Kombu, is most often served in soups and salads.

A Cornucopia of Healthy Nutrition!

These beautiful foods are fully loaded with goodness! They’re an excellent source of natural iodine and vitamin K, a great source of folate, magnesium, iron, calcium, riboflavin and pantothenic acid. In addition, seaweeds contain beta carotene, niacin, potassium, phosphorous, selenium, vitamins A and C and 18 different amino acids! Whoa!

Sea vegetables also contain something known as Lignans, phytonutrients that inhibit cancer tumor growth and estrogen synthesis in fat cells that are linked to breast cancer.

More Sea Vegetable Health Benefits

  • The folic acid in sea vegetables may reduce the risk of colon cancer, prevent birth defects and help protect blood vessel walls.
  • The natural iodine in seaweeds helps to regulate thyroid function.
  • Their magnesium content can reduce blood pressure and help to prevent asthma, heart and migraine attacks. Magnesium may also help restore normal sleep patterns to menopausal women.
  • Some sea vegetables contain Fucans, compounds similar to carbohydrates that can reduce inflammation in the body.

It is recommended to eat whole seaweed rather than taking supplements if at all possible. The supplements lose much of the nutritional value due to the heavy processing, but if you must take the supplements, look for capsules or those products with the least amount of manufacturing.

Environmental Issues To Consider

One of the reasons sea vegetables are such a great source of nutrients is due to their absorptive abilities. However, this makes seaweed and sea vegetables very vulnerable to polluted waters. The sad fact is they can sponge up arsenic, cadmium and lead. In recent times, sea vegetation has even been used to measure the content of such pollutants in bodies of water by marine ecologists. So you have to be very careful when buying these food items. Many of them can contain high levels of arsenic if you don’t buy organic varieties. Ask your health food professional for assistance when buying sea vegetables.

If you live near a Whole Foods market (or any health food store), go in and ask to speak to a manager (or produce manager) for advice. They can tell you the latest news and what options you have for purchasing. He or she may advise you to purchase powdered products or organic packaged sea vegetables.

For example, one tablespoon of dried sea vegetable contains about 1/2 milligram and 35 milligrams of iron, and this iron is also accompanied by a measurable amount vitamin C. Since vitamin C acts to increase the bioavailability of plant iron, this combination in sea vegetables may offer a special benefit.

Health food stores will recommend only those food items that are the healthiest, with the least amount of processing, but also with your personal safety in mind. Today, our oceans are in big trouble, so they can direct you as to what is safest.

Another great, safe idea is to keep a shaker of kelp or seaweed flakes on the dinner table and use it instead of table salt for seasoning foods. You can also experiment with adding your favorite sea vegetable to vegetable dishes, salads, and miso soups. They are easy to add to dishes because no cooking is required.

Including just 1 tsp. of kelp, seaweed or sea vegetables into your diet can offer you incredible health benefits and offer a fun culinary flair to your recipes along the way.

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