We are familiar with seaweed in our sushi, but are we familiar with its benefits?
Seaweed, member of the algae family, belongs to a group of plant-like organisms that grow in the sea. Although seaweed is mostly used for filtration purposes in the water, research and records show seaweed has been a dietary staple for over 2,000 years. According to Natural Knowledge 24/7, it was year 794 when the people of Japan began using red seaweed to make nori, the seaweed now used in sushi.
Rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, seaweed packs a nutritional punch with a number of health benefits. Seaweed contains high levels of Vitamin A, C, B-6 and B-12. It is also protein enriched and contains calcium levels higher than broccoli. Seaweed is also a great source of omega-3 fatty acids; one sheet of nori alone has the same amount as two avocados.
Seaweed also curbs salt cravings. It is naturally salty and has a delicate crunch making it a great alternative to potato chips or salty nuts. A full package of seaweed sheets (roughly 11 sheets) is less than 50 calories, so it’s guilt-free. Sea vegetables, like seaweed, are low in calories and are an excellent source of fibre. The fibre and carbohydrates in seaweed act like prebiotics, so it promotes healthy gut bacteria.
Seaweed contains a high level of iodine, an important nutrient missing from many other food sources. Healthy levels of iodine are important in maintaining a healthy thyroid. A thyroid low in iodine can cause problems like fatigue, muscle weakness and high cholesterol. Seaweed can also boost one’s metabolism and help with digestion. In women it can help regulate estrogen and estradiol levels in the body, control PMS and improve fertility. Eating seaweed is also linked to a healthy heart because it reduces blood pressure and the risk of heart disease.
When consuming seaweed, beware of the potential risks. An overconsumption of iodine can cause thyroid problems such as hypothyroidism. An excessive amount of iodine can interfere with the production of the thyroid hormone which can later result in fatigue, weight gain and dry skin. For adults, the tolerable intake level for iodine is 1.1 grams per day.