The ocean is the mother of life on the planet and, not surprisingly, the memory of the ocean still flows in our arteries and veins. Blood has a mineral composition almost identical to that of ocean water. Those minerals make both the ocean and our blood alkaline, which strengthens our immune system and make our blood resistant to disease.
Seaweeds are among the most nutrient-dense foods on earth. They are rich sources of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, potassium, iodine, zinc, trace minerals, and essential vitamins, such as vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, and some B12.
Here is a summary of just some of the nutritional benefits that seaweeds provide.
- They protect against heart disease. As rich sources of folic acid, seaweeds reduce homocysteine levels in the blood. Homocysteine is an amino acid that acts like battery acid on the inner wall of arteries and contributes to the creation of atherosclerotic plaques that block blood flow to the heart and brain and lead to heart attacks and strokes. Folic acid reduces both the homocysteine levels and protects against the formation of plaques.
- They protect against numerous cancers, including those of the colon and breast. Seaweeds provide an abundance of lignans, a plant chemical that blocks the formation of blood vessels – and thus block blood flow – to tumors. Like all living tissue, tumors need blood, oxygen, and nutrients to survive. That means that they need blood vessels to attach to the tumor and supply these life-giving substances. Lignans attach themselves to tumors and cut off blood supply to these malignant tissues.
- They are anti-inflammatory. Most of the illnesses we suffer from today arise from inflammation, which is an immune reaction to disease-causing agents in the blood and tissues. The minerals and vitamins in seaweeds reduce the inflammatory response, cool the body, and protect against the diseases caused by excess inflammation.
- They are highly immune boosting. The immune system needs minerals to thrive. Many of the minerals found in seaweeds stimulate our powerful natural killer cells to become more numerous and aggressive in the face of a threat to health, especially cancer cells. Natural killer cells are specifically designed to fight cancer. The more NK cells we have, and the more aggressive they are, the lower our chances of contracting this dread disease.
- They promote healthy thyroid function. The hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), both produced by the thyroid gland, are essential to all metabolism and thus are essential to life. The thyroid requires iodine in order to produce both of these hormones. Sea vegetables are rich in iodine. New research has shown that iodine is essential to our body’s efforts at preventing and defeating the most common forms of cancer, such as breast, colon, and prostate cancers.
No Need to Be Concerned About Sodium
Among the questions some people have when considering seaweed as a staple part of their diets is the sodium content. Only a small percentage of people are sodium-sensitive, which means that only a minority of people experience elevations in blood pressure as a consequence of sodium consumption.
Nutritionists maintain that the effects of sodium in seaweed are offset by its high levels of potassium, which maintains the body’s fluid balance. Seaweed’s sodium-to-potassium ratio is 3 to 1, which is very close to the body’s 5 to 1 ratio.
Contrast this with standard table salt, which has the ratio of 10,000 to 1.
In addition, we recommend soaking seaweed for at least three hours (you can also soak overnight) and rinse before cooking in order to remove excess sea salt.
We also recommend that you eat only one-to-two tablespoon-size servings of seaweed, between five and seven days per week. Indeed, because seaweed is so rich in nutrition, we need to eat only small amounts in order to obtain seaweed’s many benefits. Those one to two tablespoon size servings will provide all the benefits of seaweed, while protecting against the possible side effects from the over-consumption of sodium.
Below is a guide to sea vegetables – how they are used and some of facts about their nutrient content. Following this summary are a few recipes that can help you incorporate seaweed into your diet.
AGAR. This is a natural gelatin from the sea. It makes jellos, aspics, and puddings. It has no color, flavor, or calories.
WAKAME AND ALARIA. (Alaria is the Atlantic ocean form of wakame.) Wakame is rich in calcium, thiamine, niacin, and vitamin B 12. It is good for purifying the blood and strengthening the intestines, skins, and hair. Alaria is also high in A, B, and E.
One hundred grams of wakame contains: 10.2 grams of protein; 1,300 milligrams (mg.) of calcium; 13.0 mg. of iron; 6,800 mg. of potassium; 2,500 mg. of sodium; 140 International Units (IU) of vitamin A; 0.11 mg. of vitamin B1 (thiamine); 0.14 mg. of vitamin B2 (riboflavin); 10.0 mg. of vitamin B3 (niacin); 15 mg. of vitamin C.
ARAME. Mild, light, and delicate. Rich in iron, calcium, potassium, A and B vitamins. Harvested primarily in Japan, arame is first simmered and then dried. It can even be soaked and then added to salad, with no further cooking. Add to soups or stews, or saute’ with other vegetables.
DULSE. Native to the Atlantic Ocean and widely used in the British Isles where it is called laver. Dulse can be eaten without cooking, but its flavor becomes more mellow when cooked. Along the coast of Ireland, Scotland, and Wales dulse is cooked with porridge or eaten dry with when drinking beer.
Dulse is fast cooking and can be added to soups and salads, or combined with grain. Dulse is very high in protein – 25 grams and 150 milligrams iron.
One hundred grams of dulse contains 21 grams of protein; 214 mg. of calcium; 32 mg. of iron; 7,914 of mg. of potassium; 1,760 mg. of sodium; 188 IU of vitamin A; 1.93 of vitamin B2 (riboflavin); 1.89 mg of B3 (niacin); 6.4 mg. of vitamin C.
KOMBU AND KELP. Both referred to as brown seaweed, kombu is the Japanese version of kelp, the latter being the thinner variety of these related plants. Traditional healers have used this seaweed as a way to purge the body of toxins. Studies at McGill indicate that kelp aids the body in discharging radioactivity.
Kombu and American kelp is used to make soup stock. They both contain glutamic acid, which is a substance that enhances the flavor and nutritional content of anything it is simmered with. It also helps to make beans more digestible. High in iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and iodine.
Kombu and kelp can be cooked with beans for the purpose of tenderizing, and also enjoyed with vegetables, deep fried, or pickled It has a high content of glutamic acid and is therefore good for unifying and enhancing the taste of other ingredients in soups, broths, and stews.
One hundred grains of kombu contains 955 mg. of calcium; 5,800 mg. of potassium; 2,500 mg. of sodium; 535 IU of vitamin A; 2.1 mg. of B3 (niacin).
NORI. An excellent wrapper for rice or other snacks, nori contains 470 mg. of calcium; 23 mg. of iron; 510 mg. of phosphorus; 3000 mg. of vitamin B1; 1.24 mg. of vitamin B2; and 10 mg. of vitamin B3 (niacin).
Nori is the most commonly used seaweed. It can be dry roasted, crumbled, and used as a condiment for soups, popcorn, and rice dishes. It can also be added to stir fries.