Unless you're of Asian descent – or Aquaman – you probably haven't eaten much seaweed, and that's a shame. The algae and marine plants we collectively term “seaweed” are among the most nutritious food you can eat above or below the waves, and a regular diet of it can actually protect you from certain diseases.
First off, don't walk into your local grocery store looking for packages labeled “seaweed,” you'll be disappointed. Instead, keep an eye peeled for the specific types: nori, kelp, kombu, dulse, and wakame, among others. Some seaweed, such as spirulina and chlorella are sold in tablet form, and are more likely to be sold in your health food store or pharmacy.
Both spirulina and chlorella also contain twice as much protein per portion as other seaweed, as well as all of the essential amino acids required by the human body, making them “complete” sources of protein.
One of the biggest jump-starts eating seaweed will perform on your body will be the boost it provides your thyroid – and help you avoid the condition known as hypothyroidism. Your thyroid manages your body's protein synthesis and metabolism, and requires a good deal of iodine to function properly. And seaweed is loaded with iodine. In fact, some varieties might be considered overloaded. Kelp, kombu and dulse contain such very high doses of iodine and they should not not be eaten frequently, or in high amounts.
Diabetics looking to control their blood insulin levels should look toward the shore. Fucoxanthin, the antioxidant that gives brown algae its color, is believed to help reduce insulin resistance and stabilize blood sugar levels.
If you're a fan of prebiotics, then you should be a fan of seaweed. The agars, carrageenans and fucoidans found in seaweed supplements can improve the amount of healthy bacteria and reduce the amount of harmful bacteria in the gut even more effectively than “conventional” prebiotics.
Other studies have revealed seaweed to be a veritable medicine chest in the combat versus:
- Bone and inflammatory diseases: The botanicals' antioxidants have proven effective against rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis;
- Metabolic syndrome: Seaweed may lower blood sugar, weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol;
- Skin damage: elements found in seaweed can help prevent wrinkles, sun spots, and premature aging.