Seaweed? For dinner? Seriously?
Yes, yes, and yes! Chances are you’ve had seaweed as part of a sushi roll or even as a side dish or salad at a Japanese restaurant, but have you considered adding it to your regular weekday at-home dining experience? Now might just be the time to try it!
Seaweed has been growing in popularity, making it more widely available in grocery stores, and it is absolutely chock-full of nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, protein, antioxidants, omega 3 fatty acids, and even trace elements.
Trace elements are dietary elements that are essential to the body for things such as growth, metabolic function and other processses but are only needed in very small quantities (aka trace amounts) and include (but are not limited to) selenium, copper, magnesium, iodine, etc.
Why Should I Care?
The purported health benefits as to why you should be eating seaweed range widely from estrogen regulation (leading many to speculate that seaweed consumption may help lower the risk for breast cancers) to reduction in blood pressure (and therefore a reduction in heart disease). Further research is needed to examine all potential health benefits of seaweeds and determine their maximum therapeutic potential in terms of disease prevention and risk reduction.
Seaweed’s most well-documented health benefit is that it is a phenomenal source of iodine, an essential element needed for thyroid regulation. The thyroid, which is a gland located in the neck, secretes and regulates various bodily hormones involved in everything from growth to metabolic regulation. Consuming healthy, adequate levels of iodine is key to maintaining a healthy thyroid – inadequate iodine can cause goiters, extreme fatigue, and even intellectual disability. However, as with all good things, moderation is the key to success! The same way too little iodine can be harmful, so can too much. Be sure to curb your intake if there are medical reasons to limit iodine.
How to Buy Seaweed 101
The 411 on common edible seaweeds: seaweeds are members of the algae family and are typically available in three varieties; red, green, and brown. The most commonly eaten varieties are red seaweed, which is used to form nori, and brown seaweed (such as kelp or wakame), which frequently finds its way into in soups and salads.
- Nori – a red seaweed used most commonly for sushi rolls is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and B12 while being lower in iodine than many other varieties of seaweeds.
- Dulse – another red seaweed, this varietal is frequently consumed in its dried flakey form as a flavoring for soups, but can also be sautéed with a little butter and garlic for a lovely side dish.
- Kelp – also known as “kombu,” this brown seaweed is very high in iodine and is often used in combination with dashi to make broth for soups, particularly miso soup.
30-Minute Recipe: Wakame Salad
(adapted from Karman Meyer, RD)
- 1 oz dried wakame, rehydrated per package instructions
- ½ medium seedless cucumber, halved lengthwise and cut into ⅛” slices
- 1 medium carrot, shredded with a vegetable peeler or zoodler
- 2 tbsp sesame oil
- 2.5 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- 1 tsp low-sodium soy sauce or tamari
- 1 small garlic clove, minced
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
Drain all liquid from the rehydrated wakame and tear wakame into bite-sized pieces, as needed. Set aside in medium mixing bowl.
In a small dish, stir to combine: sesame oil, vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, and garlic. Pour this over the wakame.
Add sliced cucumbers and shredded carrots to the wakame dressing mixture and toss to combine. Refrigerate to chill before serving; for best flavor, allow to marinate for 24 hours prior to serving.
Sprinkle toasted sesame seeds on top just before serving.
Post written by FFC contributor Carla Schmitz.