Making Seaweed More Healthy
Seaweed is your common sea algae, high in minerals and vitamins including iodine, copper, calcium, magnesium, manganese, vitamin B2 and C. It’s also one of the few food sources of vanadium, which may improve the body’s sensitivity to insulin and decrease the body’s production of glucose. It also contains unique phytonutrients and antioxidants needed to protect cells and DNA against damage, including women at risk of estrogen-sensitive breast cancers.
Classified based on their coloring, cell structure, among others, you have red algae or nori, used in sushi. There’s brown algae (that absorbs more iodine than other sea plants) like kombu and kelp, used in miso soup; green algae is found in sea lettuce and sea grapes. Every kind of seaweed has its own unique set of nutritional contents beneficial to different eaters.
However, seaweed is not for everyone. For example, seaweed may benefit those with hypothyroidism, but not for those with hyperthyroidism, as iodine-rich foods can worsen the condition. For those on blood thinners (like aspirin), these drugs may interfere with the actions of vitamin K. Also, the high carb content of seaweed (excess amounts of polysaccharides) may contribute to gas, bloating, and gut discomfort in certain people. Better to start with a small amount and then adjust based on how you feel.
How much seaweed is safe to eat?
If healthy and without a thyroid issue, RDA for adults 19 years and older is 150 mcg (upper limit is 1,100 mcg). All seaweed varies as far as its iodine content. One dried sheet (1g) can contain anywhere from 11 to 1,989 percent of the RDA for iodine. For the three common seaweeds, these are their iodine content: nori contains 37 mcg iodine per gram, wakame is 139 mcg, kombu is 2,523 mcg.
Seaweed quality matters
The plant can absorb heavy metals like a sponge: arsenic, lead, mercury and cadmium. Trace amounts of arsenic are present in a lot of seaweed, but more concentrated in seaweed grown in water polluted by industrial waste or are not organic. Opt for organic seaweed from companies dedicated to producing products in clean waters, such as the Gulf of Maine and the North Atlantic.
There are many popular nutritionist-approved seaweed snacks but check the labels for high sodium. Go for miso soup with kombu, or seaweed flakes, which can be added to roasted veggies and salads. Add powdered spirulina, a type of seaweed that’s rich in protein, to your favorite smoothie recipe. Seaweed wraps are also a great idea because they’re basically a veggie-packed wrap without the carb-heavy exterior. Start by simply julienning veggies on hand (like carrots, cucumber, mushrooms) then roll them in a full-size nori sheet. Serve with miso dressing for dipping.