Seaweed Health Benefits and Recipe Ideas

Seaweed Health Benefits and Recipe Ideas

Seaweeds are a type of algae (a large group of aquatic plants) that grow in the ocean. Edible seaweeds fit for human consumption are also known as sea vegetables. They fall into three categories: red algae, brown algae and green algae.

When health experts recommend eating 5–7 (or more!) servings of fruit and vegetables daily, I bet that sea vegetables weren't the first thing to come to mind. However, they can in fact be a valuable part of our diet.

Nutrition Facts about Seaweed

If you're wondering about the benefits of eating seaweed, here is a quick overview of some key nutrients that seaweed contains.

  • Iodine
  • Fiber
  • Antioxidants
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Vitamin K and other vitamins

Seaweed is an excellent source of iodine, an essential mineral for thyroid health. The fibers found in seaweed may also benefit gut health and weight management, and the omega-3 fatty acid DHA derived from sea vegetables is a great option for vegans and vegetarians who do not eat fish or take fish oil. Continue on for more seaweed benefits!

Sheets of nori are nutritious

Seaweed Health Benefits

  • Immune system support

An interesting study showed that elderly Japanese participants who consumed fucoidan had improved immune responses to the flu vaccine compared to those who took a placebo. Fucoidan is a type of carbohydrate found in wakame and other seaweeds.

Beta-glucans are another type of fiber found in seaweed (and a few other foods). Beta-glucans can help modulate immune system response and inflammation, along with other healthy biological effects.

  • Promotes healthy skin

Various bioactive compounds found in seaweed may improve skin conditions such as acne, hyperpigmentation and skin aging, including improvement of sagging eyelids.

  • Blood sugar support

In addition, compounds found in seaweed may be useful in metabolic disorders such as diabetes. Brown seaweeds have been studied to balance after-meal blood sugar spikes.

  • Brain health

Feeling a post-mealtime slump? Consuming brown seaweed before a meal has even been shown to help improve parameters related to brain function in the 3 hours after lunch, a time in which many experience a lapse in focus and attention.

  • Associated with longevity

There's an island off the coast of Japan called Okinawa. The people of Okinawa are widely known for their longevity. And seaweed may have something to do with it: sea vegetables are a staple of the Okinawan diet, and many studies have shown that seaweed may prevent lifestyle-related diseases.

Seaweed Recipe Ideas

So how can you eat sea vegetables? Turns out, there's plenty of ways: seaweed is often enjoyed paired with rice dishes or incorporated into a soup or salad. Here are some fun and easy recipes for preparing seaweed into a healthy and delicious dish!

Seaweed salad with sesame seeds

Seaweed salad

Seaweed salad is commonly served as a side dish in Japanese cuisine. The good news: it's simple to make at home using sea vegetables of your choice along with a soy sauce and vinegar based dressing.

Sushi burrito roll with rice, tuna and carrot

Sushi burrito 

This trendy food is not only Instagram-able, but can do double-duty by delivering a healthy dose of fillings: vegetables, protein, you name it. Like its sushi roll counterpart, sushi burritos usually use nori as its seaweed of choice.

Temaki handroll wraps ingredients in nori

Temaki handrolls

If you're not sure about trying your hand at sushi making and burrito rolling, a handroll is an easy alternative! Plus, if you are cutting back on starches such as rice, this is a good option that omits it. Here's quick video on how to make temaki sushi handrolls!

Whether you're already a sushi lover or just ready to expand your repertoire and get adventurous and benefit from sea vegetables, there are many other ways to cook with seaweed. Tag us on Instagram @LifeExtension to show us your culinary creation!

Holli Ryan is a registered dietitian and nutritionist

About the Author: Holli Ryan is a South Florida based Registered and Licensed Dietitian-Nutritionist. Holli believes that quality dietary supplements are an essential tool that have a variety of applications, from maintaining good health to managing chronic disease.