The Benefits of Seaweed (And When To Avoid It)

Most of us are familiar with seaweed in our sushi, and the accompanying miso soup. But beyond the delicious taste, have you always wondered about the health benefits of seaweed ?
fabulously deep in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, seaweed packs a serious nutritional punch .

What Is Seaweed?

Seaweed, or alga, belongs to a group of plant-like organisms that grow in the sea .
Some algae are single-celled organisms such as microalgae, which means that they are more like bacteria that besides generate energy through photosynthesis.

Most of the seaweed that we consume as food have many cells. Seaweed is separate of a healthy diet and is used in herb tea medicines in many traditional cultures .

What Are the Different Types of Seaweed?

Scientists have categorized types of seaweed into different categories based on their pigments, cellular telephone structure, and other traits. The groups ( or phyta ) of seaweed that are normally consumed include :

How to Cook and Eat Seaweed

If you live near an asian market or Chinatown, you may be able to find fresh seaweed. otherwise, you may find many types of dry seaweeds in the supermarket and on-line, such as on Amazon .
Dried seaweed would need to be soaked in hot water, and rinsed well ahead consumption. Some slurred and tougher seaweed like kombu might be well sliced thin or boiled .
Seaweeds are very versatile. here are a few unlike ways to enjoy them :

  • Snacking out of a bag – Nori and dulse can just be eaten out of a bag. You will want to check the labels and watch out for some brands of snacking nori that contain a lot of MSG though. Seasnax is a good brand for this that uses seaweed from Korea and clean ingredients.
  • Salads – Most types of seaweed can be made into a Japanese-style salad with vinegar, sesame oil, ginger, and garlic. Try this recipe.
  • Soups – Seaweed tastes delicious in bone broth, which makes it seaweed soup.
  • Sprinkled on other foods – Seaweed flakes can be sprinkled on salads, rice, soups, or any other dishes.

Most seaweed is not bitter. Some types are a bit sugared and may even have umami flavors, which means that it may be easier to get some finical eaters to eat seaweed than vegetables .

Benefits of Seaweed

The alone properties of seaweed make it beneficial to the body in respective ways :

Vitamins and Minerals

Seaweed is much more alimentary dense than any farming vegetables. It is an excellent source of micronutrients including vitamin bc, calcium, magnesium, zinc, cast-iron, and selenium. More importantly, seaweed is a great source of iodine .

DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids

Unlike bring plants, seaweed contains preformed omega-3 fatty acid fatty acids DHA and EPA, indeed seaweed or alga oil can be a authentic source of omega-3 fatty acid for vegetarians .

Aids with Digestion

Beans can cause flatulence and stomach overturn for many people. This can be easily fixed by adding kombu, a particular kind of seaweed, to the beans when cook .


Seaweed contains many antioxidants. As part of a healthy diet, seaweed can help protect against oxidative stresses and prevent chronic diseases such as cancer and digestive problems .

Fiber and Prebiotics

All plants contain character, but seaweed besides has early curious types of carbohydrates that we lack the digestive enzymes to digest. These include carrageenin, fucan, galactan, and many more. These carbohydrates then become foods for the bacteria ( see this survey for a more detail explanation ) .
What you eat directly influences which bacteria dominates in your gut. The types of bacteria that can feed best on the foods you choose to eat will grow better ( read more on this capture subject here ). This explains why some cultures handle different types of food better than others. In fact, scientists found that the gut bacteria in goodly japanese people are higher in bacteria that can digest the types of carbohydrates in seaweed ( source ) .

Potential Risks from Eating Seaweed

There are a couple potential concerns to be aware of when consuming seaweed :

Too Much Iodine Can Cause Thyroid Problems

Iodine is a very significant mineral for thyroid functions, and seaweed is a great beginning of iodine. While the thyroid can adjust to higher intakes of tincture of iodine, it is possible to develop thyroid gland problems from besides much iodine. This may be particularly true if you are susceptible to thyroid issues ( like me ) .
A japanese study found that women who regularly consumed 15 – 30 grams of kombu had elevated TSH, and reduced loose T3 and T4. When these women stopped consuming seaweed, then their TSH and thyroid hormone levels returned to convention. consequently, the authors of this learn recommended not to exceed 3 mg of iodine ( a service of seaweed typically contains 20 – 50 milligram ) .
asian cuisines typically serve seaweed along with foods that contain goitrogens that inhibit iodine absorption by the thyroid. These include the coarse asian staples such as bean curd, soy milk, and cruciferous vegetables. This might explain why most japanese and other asian people can consume seaweed without any trouble ( source ) .
Those with existing thyroid disease ( or those predisposed to it ) should monitor sum iodine inhalation. This is specially significant for those who live in countries that fortify foods and mesa salts with iodine. Generally, pulmonary tuberculosis of seaweed on occasion ( 2 – 3 times a week ) as a condiment ( 1 – 2 tablespoons ) broadly will not exceed the 3 magnesium limit of tincture of iodine .
To be safe, monitor thyroid hormone levels with your doctor as you introduce seaweed into your diet to see if eating seaweed will possibly cause a thyroid problem for you .

Digestive Problems from Seaweed Carbohydrates and Fibers

Seaweed contains many types of carbohydrates our digestive system can ’ metric ton compilation. These carbohydrates are passed down to our intestine bacteria. For people prone to digestive problems or with little intestinal bacterial overgrowth, these carbohydrates cause significant issues .
The food diligence widely uses these carbohydrates, such as carrageenin and agar, to stabilize or texturize foods in the food industry. Carrageenan, in particular, is very debatable. It causes inflammation both in the gut and throughout the human soundbox. It is consequently identical fresh to avoid carrageenin as a food additive .
While pure carrageenin has been linked to health problems, there is no cogitation linking carrageenin in hale food sources to the same problems that have been linked to carrageenan in isolation. It is possibly best to avoid seaweeds that are higher in carrageenin content such as irish moss and occasionally enjoy other seaweeds in moderation .

Radioactive Levels from Fukushima Radiation

A high iodine diet can protect against radiation. This is why when the Fukushima nuclear plant melted down, the japanese government gave tincture of iodine supplements to aid workers and evacuees .
Chris Kresser discusses the subject of Fukushima radiation sickness in Pacific seafood in this blog post. He states that the levels of radiation in the US Pacific coast are rather insignificant when compared to early background sources of radiotherapy that already exist in the US, or compared to our photograph flying on an airplane. bottom-feeding fish near the coasts of Japan show more contamination, but even then the levels of radiation fall below the external dose limit .
In fact, Maine Coast, a seaweed purveyor that regularly tests their products for toxins, found that their products alone have background levels of radiation even right after the Fukushima event in March 2011 ( informant ) .
Because seaweed is at the bottom of the food chain ( where it is eaten by other animals ), the concentration of toxins in seaweed is much less than in fish or other animals that eat the seaweed .

Toxic Heavy Metals

While ample in beneficial minerals, seaweed besides can contain toxic metals. This probably depends on the type of the seaweed, where it is harvested from, and the variation of toxin levels in the water. several reports detail the fleshy alloy contented of seaweed :

  • Heavy metals in laver, seatangle, sea mustard, hijiki, and gulfweed from the South Korea coast are below safety limits (source, and source).
  • Hijiki, regardless of brand, contains arsenic that is above the safety limit (source).
  • A Spanish study extensively compared various types of seaweed imported from Japan, China, Korea, and Chile that are sold in Spain. They concluded that most seaweed products are safe with respect to WHO guidelines. However, some species such as Hijiki and H. fusiforme may be high in arsenic (source).

intemperate metals levels in seaweed can truly vary from batch to batch. The best way to know for surely is to purchase your seaweed from companies that regularly third-party lab test their products for heavy metallic levels. One company I like that does this is Maine Coast. They publish their test results on their web site here.

Remember that heavy metallic element exposure besides comes through early sources like the environment and foods like fish and seafood. Everyone ’ sulfur ability to remove these heavy metals from their bodies differs. If you are concerned about heavy metal levels, it might be wise to avoid seaweed and seafood raw .

Seaweed as a Superfood: How It Stacks Up

  • There are many benefits of seaweed and it is a very nutritious food.
  • Healthy people can enjoy seaweed as a condiment a few times a week.
  • If you have concerns about thyroid health or digestive function, you may want to speak to your doctor about monitoring your condition as you introduce more seaweed into your diet.
  • With a few exceptions, radioactivity and heavy metal toxicity is of low concern for seaweed.
  • In general, seaweed harvested from the Korean coast is quite safe.

When in doubt, purchase your seaweed from a reputable company that tests their products for contamination, such as Maine Coast. WM-Seaweed-InfoGraph
What is your experience with seaweed? Do you have any concerns about its safety? Please share in the comments below.

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Category : Healthy