Health Benefits of Sea Vegetables

With this being the time for New Year’s resolutions, you may be thinking about ways to augment your diet with healthier foods. Most of us who are concerned about staying healthy already eat familiar vegetables grown on the land such as carrots, broccoli, green beans, Brussels sprouts, spinach, kale, cauliflower and too many others to list here. You may, however, want to consider adding the best the sea has to offer to your diet to complement the best the land has to offer.

Sea vegetables can offer a mineral-rich alternative or addition to your existing diet. It’s definitely a selling point that these vegetables are a staple of diets in Asian countries, such as Japan, where the population enjoys much lower rates of cancer and heart disease when compared to the United States and many other Western nations.

Many of the sea vegetables that you should add to your diet are types of seaweed or algae. If the only time you encounter food like this is when you go out to a sushi bar, then you should find ways to more regularly integrate them into your meals. The following is a list of some of the sea vegetables you’ll want to consider adding to your diet and pretty compelling reasons to do so.

1. Arame

This particular sea vegetable is a type of brown algae and is primarily known for its use in Japanese cooking. It’s typically sold in a dried state and is available year-round. It has a fairly mild flavor, which makes it easy to add it to a wide variety of recipes and dishes. Arame makes a good side dish with meat or fish and can be added to soups or salads. One reason you’d want to add it to your diet is Arame’s semi-sweet flavor and another is its health benefits.

Arame is rich in iron, magnesium, calcium, iodine and vitamin A. Its nutritional content makes it an excellent food for improving your hair, skin and nails. That said, the most often touted benefit of this particular sea veggie is its use as a natural detox. Body detox regimens are all the rage among those who are very health conscious given the buildup of toxins that can occur from the typical Western diet. Being rich in Chlorophyll helps this incredibly healthy sea vegetable flush dangerous toxins from your body.

2. Dulse

Dulse, also known as palmaria palmata, is a red algae that grows along the northern coasts of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. It’s known for containing all the trace elements that we need to survive as well as being an excellent source of protein for vegetarians or vegans. When incorporating it into your diet, it can be used as a flavor enhancer as well as a stand-alone snack food. You may even want to put a few strips of it on your favorite sandwich to boost the nutritional content.

Its rich vitamin and mineral makeup results in Dulse providing an extremely potent nutritional boost to your diet in general. This may take the form of specific benefits such as improved cardiovascular and digestive health. The polyphenols in Dulse have also been shown, in a 2014 study, to have anti-tumor and, therefore, anti-cancer properties. It has also shown some signs of helping with blood sugar control and weight loss.

3. Wakame

This edible seaweed has a mild sweet flavor, which makes it a culinary favorite for use in many dishes including soups and salads. Sea farmers in both Japan and Korea have been growing wakame for centuries for use in their diet. It’s also harvested in Australia and New Zealand.

As a brown algae, Wakame is rich in a substance called fucoxanthin. This ingredient has been shown to be so successful at burning fatty tissue that an internet search of fucoxanthin reveals a number of weight loss supplements that have it as a primary ingredient. Beyond weight control, Wakame is a good source of the minerals magnesium, iodine, calcium and iron as well as vitamins A, B2, C, D and K. It’s been used in Oriental medicine for improving skin and hair and for blood purification and menstrual regularity. This tasty gift from the oceans is a favorite for adding to miso soup and tofu salad or as a side dish.

4. Nori

This is one of the few sea vegetables that many people in the Western Hemisphere may already be familiar with. If you’ve ever bought sushi at a Japanese restaurant, chances are it came wrapped in nori. Being used as a wrap for sushi and other foods is its primary culinary use, and many find it to be delicious when it’s toasted.

Nori is a red algae form of edible seaweed. It’s loaded with B vitamins with a generous amount of B12 in particular. Additionally, Nori contains unsaturated fatty acids as well as plenty of proteins, vitamins, minerals and trace minerals. It can be eaten as a stand-alone snack and used to wrap more than just sushi. It’s certainly a healthier alternative to the white breads that are so commonly used in the west to put around other food.

5. Kelp

This is a brown algae that grows in shallow ocean waters. It’s known for being nutritionally dense and is packed with vitamins and minerals. Kelp grows in what are referred to as “underwater forests.” There are about 30 different genus of this species of brown algae, and they have an impressive growth rate. They stretch from the sea floor and can reach up over 200 feet in their quest to reach the sunlight at the surface.

Kombu is a popular type of kelp that is a common part of the diet throughout East Asia. Especially popular in Japanese dishes, it can be sold dried or pickled in vinegar and is a major ingredient in soup stocks as well as making a healthy snack to have with green tea.

More generally, kelp have an impressive amount of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and dietary fiber.

Its iodine content is excellent for protecting your thyroid health. Its general nutritional profile not only makes kelp a superb sea vegetable for overall health but, it excels at helping your body maintain pH balance, improve oxygenation through increasing red blood cell production and improve bone mineral density. Kelp also contains fucoidan, which helps kill cancer cells while leaving healthy cells alone.

As a member of the kelp family, kombu is becoming more popular as a flavor enhancer in many dishes. Another big benefit is that it contains enzymes that help break down the sugars in beans to make them more digestible, so they don’t produce gas.

6. Agar

Also known as agar-agar, this natural jelly-like substance obtained from algae has a sweet flavor, which makes it a wonderful sugar substitute for use in a myriad of delicious dessert recipes. It’s also an ideal gelatin substitute for vegetarians. If you are ever prone to constipation, you may be glad to hear that it also has mild laxative properties.

Agar is a good source of iron and calcium and is very high in fiber. Perhaps the best thing about it, however, from a health standpoint is what it does not contain. It has no sugar or fat and practically no carbohydrates. This makes it a wonderful ingredient for a variety of dessert dishes that will definitely make them healthier when it’s substituted in place of gelatin.

7. Spirulina

As with the nori that wraps your sushi at a Japanese restaurant, spirulina is a sea vegetable that many health-conscious people in the Western World have already heard of. It’s a type of blue-green algae that has been on health food store shelves, typically in the form of green shake powders, for quite some time.

You may have also seen some growing in the wild as it’s frequently that green mass floating on the surface of ponds that you might dismiss as pond scum. One thing that can’t be dismissed is how nutritionally packed this blue-green algae is, which has resulted in it being considered a superfood in many nutritional circles.

Its nutrient-dense makeup starts with the fact that it’s 70 percent protein by weight. This is combined with a high concentration of vitamins and minerals. The World Food Conference declared it one of the best foods for the future in 1974, and NASA incorporated it into the diet plans for their astronauts since it provided them a superior nutritional profile.

Most commonly available as a supplement in stores, the best way to add spirulina to your diet may be to simply make a spirulina powder supplement the basis of a green smoothie to give yourself an energy boost in the morning. Smoothies have become a healthy way to start the day for growing numbers of health-conscious people. Having spirulina at the core of yours will fill you with a sea vegetable that’s known for regulating blood pressure, managing cholesterol, fighting allergies, boosting immunity, improving memory and even helping fight cancer.

Benefits of Adding Sea Vegetables to Your Diet

The sea vegetables mentioned above share two things in common. They add important nutrients to your diet that are beneficial for improving your health while also not adding much fat, sugar or other elements seen as contributing to an unhealthy diet. These sea vegetables are undoubtedly a big part of the reason that many Asian cultures that incorporate them into their diet enjoy much lower rates of serious health problems such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

The next step is to figure out ways to add them to your diet naturally, so eating these foods just becomes second nature to you. Spirulina is fairly simple in that it can be taken in pill or powder form. Arame is a mild tasting form of kelp that can be an excellent way of introducing sea vegetables into your diet by something as simple as adding it to your salad dressing.

If you’re going to have miso soup or something similar anyway, don’t forget to add some kombu to it to give it a nutritional boost. If you’re looking for a way to make a tasty and nutritious addition to a sandwich, there is even a strain of dulse that some say tastes like bacon.

There are numerous references online that can help you to seamlessly integrate sea vegetables into your existing diet. After a while, you won’t even notice that it’s taking any added effort or thought to add them to your meals, and you’ll be helping prolong your healthy years and improving your quality of life by leaps and bounds.

If you’ve been working on improving your mind and body by mixing good foods from the land into your diet, it may be time for you to discover what vegetables from the sea can do for you beyond just the occasional trip to your local Japanese restaurant.

Leave a Comment