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Are Sea Vegetables Really Superfoods?

by Fariya Khan
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sea vegetables

Sea vegetables are the latest offering in the healthy eating scene. In the wake of increased global warming, more farmers are looking for sustainable methods to grow food and sea vegetables are providing the answer. From nori (the green black covering on our sushi), to the kelp vegetable and kombu, are all edible algae that have made their own league of superfoods. Marine superfoods if, I may call them.

dulse

What Are Sea Vegetables And Why Do We Need Them?

The sea, with all its salty glory is a potent source of minerals. Minerals in saltwater bodies are constantly being regenerated, quite unlike mineral content in soil on land. Intensive over farming in the past century has severely depleted the soil off its quality. Which implies, that the commercial vegetation we end up eating, isn’t nearly as healthy and wholesome as we think.

To make up for this loss of essential vitamins and minerals, incorporating sea vegetables into your daily diet can be quite beneficial. The prime reason behind this is that while terrestrial vegetables get only be as nutritious as a soil to grow on, sea vegetables spend their entire lifespan in a complete mineral bath. Soaking up iodine, calcium, magnesium, zinc, manganese, iron potassium and more, edible sea algae and plants are extremely nutritious. I would even go as far as to say that sea veggies are some of the true superfoods.

There are dozens of species that exist, some common kinds are:

Varieties Of Sea Vegetables

Kelp Vegetable

A form of a seaweed, kelp has long been a staple in Asian cuisine. It is large, brown-green and with flowy leaves. Kelp grows in shallow, saltwater near coastal fronts, and is the most commonly available type of edible seaweed. The interesting fact about kelp vegetable is that you can have it raw right out of the water! As far as health benefits of sea kelp go, this super food is highly rich source of iodine, folate, vitamin K1 and calcium.

kelp

You can find organic sea kelp in its dried form in health stores or Asian food stores. While presoaking it makes it easy to work with, you can add kelp to broths and stews to easily extract its nutrients. Organic sea kelp seasoning benefits the same way as the dried sheets and is easier to sprinkle over dishes as a finisher. There are also several kelp supplements available, but we always advocate consuming nutrition through real and wholesome form-food.

Kombu

This sea superfood is a form of kelp and has all the goodness of it and more. Kombu is eaten more widely in japan. It tastes somewhere between mildly salty and slightly sweet and like kelp, can be had raw, cooked or in dried form. Another interesting use of combo is as a meat tenderizer, since it contains glutamic acid, an acid known to soften proteins.

Use Kombu to create complex flavored vegetable stocks, and stews along with root vegetables like carrots, turnips, and parsnips.

Nori

For those of you who have thought what the green black covering on your sushi was, its Nori. But that is just one of many usages of nori. It is originally a Japanese word for edible seaweed, but now people throughout the world know it as the processed sheets of red algae.

nori sushi

A super food for your skin, Nori contains as many omega 3’s in one sheet as you will find in 2 avocados! It also has more protein than an egg and 10 times more calcium than a glass of milk!

Adding adequate quantities of nori seaweed to your daily diet can help prevent heart diseases, control triglyceride levels, and maintain a healthy level of HDL or good cholesterol. It is worth mentioning that nori is one of the milder forms of seaweed in terms of nutrition. To me, this only means that I can have more of nori.

Atlantic Dulse

An edible seaweed with beautiful shades, from ravenous red to dark purple, dulse is a wild seaweed that grows in the cold waters of the North Atlantic and the northwest Pacific Ocean. Atlantic sea vegetables like dulse attach themselves to the rocks in these waters. This sea super food is then meticulously harvested by hand from June to October. In this short harvesting time, it is cleaned and dried in the sun, and then processed as needed.

Eating dulse is quite simple and different from the others as it does not require any soaking or cooking and can be enjoyed in its dried form, as a snack straight out of the bag. You can by all means, roast it, grind it, and sprinkle dulse flakes on your soups, salads and stir frys.

Why Should We Eat Sea Vegetables?

Due to the presence of micro minerals like copper, iodine, magnesium and selenium, big name brands are targeting super foods like kelp, dulse, kombu, and nori to incorporate them into products. You see, an increasing percentage of the population is turning towards veganism, and for those of you who mostly follow a plant-based diet, sea vegetable’s health benefits are a real reason to have some. They also give that umami flavor, which lends a depth of flavor to vegan food, so if you are a newly converted vegan who still struggles with cravings-sea vegetables are for you!

sea veggies

Another reason you should eat more of these edible algae has to do a lot with Mariculture. Mariculture or the cultivation of food from sea, is a major player in the search for sustainable food yields. Studies show that we as a world will need to produce up to 70% more food by 2050, and agriculture on land may not suffice. With worsening global warming and drought conditions in many countries, relying on fresh water for traditional farming is becoming more challenging.

In such a scenario, production of sea veggies could represent a possible transformational equation to the global food security problem.

Sea Vegetables Health Benefits

Support Thyroid Health

A healthy thyroid relies on iodine to release hormones, which regulates growth, energy, reproduction, and repair in our bodies. The average iodine content in Nori, Kombu and Kelp are more than adequate to support healthy thyroid function. Sea veggies also contain tyrosine, an antioxidant that works together with iodine to maintain the thyroid gland.

Rich Source Of Trace Minerals And Vitamins

Each sea vegetable has a unique set of nutrients, but overall, they provide a good dose of zinc, iron, copper, manganese, sodium, calcium, magnesium and vitamins A, C, E and K.

Provide Protective Antioxidants

Beneficial plant compounds, i.e flavonoids and carotenoids protect your body’s cells from exposure to free radicals. Edible seaweed are particularly good sources of productive antioxidants.

Contain Fiber And Polysaccharides To Support Gut Health

While the water content in sea vegetables is quite high, it is also an excellent source of fiber. Certain sugars in seaweed called sulfated polysaccharides are known to increase good bacteria in the gut and produce short chain fatty acids which nourish the gut lining.

May Improve Blood Sugar Control

Alginate, a substance in sea vegetables prevented blood sugar spikes in some animal studies, so it is possible that edible algae may enhance blood sugar control in us.

A little goes a long way with these sea super foods and health benefits in comparison are plenty!

Where Can You Buy Sea Vegetables From?

You may not find them raw but look for sea vegetables in the international food aisle of large grocery stores. Dried seaweed preserves nutrients, it’s the most common form you will find them in, i.e dulse flakes and nori flakes. The cold dairy section also carries kelp noodles and sometimes rehydrated varieties of sea vegetables.

How Do You Eat Sea Veggies?

These sea superfoods take your food up a notch, regardless of how you decide to use them. Here are some ideas.

  1. Try wrapping gobs of tuna salad with nori squares for an instantly healthy snack.
  2. Use kelp vegetable in a breakfast quiche.
  3. Sprinkle Atlantic dulse flakes on stovetop popcorn.
  4. Add nori chips to a fruit and nut trail mix.
  5. Sea vegetables love to be added to soups, broths, and stews as they impart a deep, umami flavor.  So satiating during the winter months, I say!
  6. Combine some granulated organic sea kelp with your favorite greens to give your morning smoothie a boost of nutrients.

Most of these sea vegetables are used minimally, more so as garnishes and flavorings or to develop stock bases. Since they are so incredibly nutrient dense, there is a chance you may eat them to excess.

If seaweeds are unfamiliar territory to you, I encourage you to be bold and give them a try. Sea veggies are the perfect way to power-up your recipes!

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