Do you eat seaweed? Read further to discover the health benefits of seaweed.
Seaweed or sea vegetables are forms of algae that grow in the sea. They range in colour from red, green, brown and black and are a food source for ocean life. It is commonly eaten in Asian countries such as Korea, Japan and China.
There are many varieties of seaweed. These include:
Each type of seaweed may contain slightly different nutrients and minerals. Seaweed grows along rocky shorelines around the world or near salty waters and they generally contain many healthful minerals that are easy for the body to break down. Therefore, adding seaweed to your meals may help with thyroid function, digestive health, and weight loss.
The Okinawans in general eat seaweed daily and this is one of the major contributors to their longevity past 100 years of life. The benefits of seaweed include:
1. High in nutrition
Seaweed is a rich source of iron, iodine, protein, carbohydrates, fibre and minerals. It also contains Vitamins A, B, C and E. Eating this marine algae is a simple way to boost one’s intake of vitamins and minerals without adding many calories.
Seaweed also contains antioxidants, which may protect the body from oxidative stress and reduce inflammation at the cellular level.
The type of seaweed and location in which it was grown can alter its nutrition content.
2. May help with thyroid function
The thyroid gland controls and releases hormones for energy production, growth, and cellular repair. It needs iodine to function properly and the amount a person needs depends on the state of their thyroid. Seaweed has the unique ability to absorb concentrated amounts of iodine from the ocean. The recommended daily intake for iodine is 150mcg per day.
An underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) is caused by Iodine deficiency. A goiter is one of the symptoms of an underactive thyroid. It is a swelling of the thyroid gland that causes a lump in the front of the neck.
Ensuring your body has sufficient iodine may prevent or improve hypothyroidism..
When the thyroid gland is overactive and produces excessive amounts of hormones, this is called hyperthyroidism. Excessive consumption of iodine may promote this dis-ease.
3. Contains a Variety of Protective Antioxidants
Our bodies face various stress, pollution and chemicals that oxidises our bodies daily. Antioxidants make these substances called free radicals less reactive. Excess free radicals are considered to be the underlying cause of several diseases such as Diabetes and Heart Disease.
The antioxidants found in seaweed helps to prevent such Diseases.
4. May help with the management of Diabetes
Fibre-rich foods may help with the management of diabetes. because high amounts of fibre help regulate blood glucose and insulin levels. The benefits of consuming seaweed is, it increases one’s fibre intake without a large increase in calories.
Compounds in seaweed may also reduce diabetes risk factors, such as inflammation, high fat levels, and insulin sensitivity.
5. May protect the heart
High-fibre foods may reduce levels of cholesterol in the blood. These soluble fibres bind to bile acids or salts in the body. The body uses cholesterol to replace these elements, which may result in a decrease of bad cholesterol
The high levels of antioxidants in seaweed may also support heart health over time.
6. May support gut health
Good Bacteria in the intestines play an important role in breaking down food and supporting digestion and overall health. It helps resolve issues such as constipation and diarrhoea.
The prebiotic fibre in seaweed helps feed the gut’s bacteria ensuring improvement in gut health and thus, the health of the immune system.
7. May help with weight loss
Fibre helps a person feel full. However, it contains very few or no calories itself. Seaweed may therefore help those trying to lose weight as it is high in fibre and low in calories.
How to Consume Seaweed
Adding seaweed to your meals can be very simple. The big sheets of dried nori used in sushi also make a great substitution for tortillas or bread, and they can make delicious wraps.
Flavouring bean soups with kombu can reduce the risk of gas thanks to kombu’s healthful enzymes.
Many companies produce roasted seaweed with a little oil and salt, which can be a perfect way to satisfy a salty craving. Toasted seaweed or seaweed flakes can be a great topping for grains such as rice or quinoa and may help reduce the amount of salt or soy sauce a person needs.
For those who are not fans of seaweed’s flavour, a person can slip it into a hearty vegetable soup or other soups.
Be careful when ordering “crispy seaweed” in Chinese restaurants. These are unlikely to be the real seaweed, Instead it is deep fried cabbage or lettuce.
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