Most of us have enjoyed some flavorful, sticky sushi over the years, and likely had our first taste of seaweed in doing so. Filled with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, this incredibly powerful food is under-utilized in western diets. But you don’t have to spend a fortune in a sushi restaurant every time you want a bite of this extraordinarily nutritious fare, which is abundantly available in the wild. And you don’t necessarily have to eat it to reap some of its health benefits…
Different Varieties Of Seaweed
There are more than 100 different species of edible seaweed, and around 10,000 species of macro-algae. Seaweed comes in three color varieties – red, brown and green. Brown varieties of seaweed are the most commonly eaten, including wakame and kelp. They are also the varieties that have had the most scientific research conducted on them. The next most common is red seaweed, such as nori, which is the one you would be familiar with if you frequent sushi restaurants. Unsurprisingly, the most common seaweed-based diets are eaten in Japan, which is where sushi originates, and Japanese diets are among the healthiest in the world.
Health Benefits Of Seaweed
1. High Source Of Vitamins And Minerals
Seaweed is most commonly known as an exceptional source of iodine, which is a nutrient missing from just about every other food. Although there are some problems with consuming too much iodine, maintaining healthy levels of the non-metallic mineral through your diet is critically important for a healthy thyroid. If the thyroid, which is a gland in the neck that helps produce and regulate hormones, is not healthy due to a lack of iodine, it can cause weakness, high cholesterol and fatigue. In the long-term, an underactive thyroid caused by an iodine deficiency can lead to a number of health problems and serious medical conditions, including depression, obesity, heart palpitations, memory loss and goiters.
Seaweed is also a source of protein, vanadium, magnesium, calcium, and vitamins A, C and K. Vanadium is an important mineral that is rarely found in food. It is required in trace amounts to assist in the metabolizing of carbohydrates. One cup of nori seaweed provides 83% of your daily recommended intake of vitamin A, and 52% of your daily value of vitamin C. Vitamins A and C are both essential in maintaining a strong immune system, and vitamin A is important for eye health. Vitamin C is also beneficial in maintaining healthy joints and it helps the body absorb iron from plant-based foods.
2. Seaweed May Help Regulate Estrogen And Estradiol Levels
These two hormones are responsible for the proper development and function of the sexual organs. Research suggests that eating seaweed may help regulate estrogen and estradiol levels, potentially reducing the risk of breast cancer, improving female fertility issues, and even controlling symptoms of PMS. According to the study, the adsorption effect of dietary fibers on extrinsic estrogen from seaweed is more effective from brown seaweeds than red seaweeds.
3. Seaweed Helps Prevent Inflammation
A number of studies have proven that seaweed is an extremely powerful source of antioxidants, which help prevent inflammation. As a result, eating seaweed may reduce the risk of arthritis, celiac disease, asthma, depression and obesity. A study into the antioxidant activity of two edible green seaweeds, ulva genus and ulva prolifera, found varying levels of phenolic compounds, which are one of the most effective antioxidants in marine algae.
4. Seaweed Detoxifies From The Inside Out
Seaweed removes fats and toxins from the body and helps protect the liver from toxic damage. The sodium alginate in seaweed, especially kelp, absorbs toxins from the digestive tract. A Canadian study from McGill University found that seaweed soaks up cadmium and lead from inside the body, which can accumulate from cigarette smoke and industrial and transportation waste in the environment. Green seaweed is also a potent detoxifier because of the presence of chlorophyll in it, which contains special fibers that bind and remove unwanted toxins.
5. Seaweed Is Full Of Skin-Healthy Minerals
Seaweed has more than 50 powerful minerals and, because of that, people have enjoyed long soaks in seaweed baths for centuries. The heavy-duty detoxification properties in mineral-rich seaweed nourish and rejuvenate the skin, fight cellulite and minimize the visible appearance of wrinkles. As well as fighting signs of ageing, seaweed extracts can minimize pigmentation and blotchiness in the skin, especially paler skin types.
Brown algae complex is used in eye creams, facial serums and moisturizers for a very high concentrated dose of antioxidants, which fight visible signs of ageing in the skin. It works by protecting the membranes of skin cells and preventing damage to the skin’s natural amino acids. By strengthening cell membranes, environmental impacts that accelerate skin ageing are slowed down.
6. Seaweed Strengthens Hair
As well as improving the quality and strength of skin, seaweed extracts help improve hair health and strength, aiding it in rebuilding itself. Eating seaweed or taking marine extract supplements encourages scalp hydration, which revitalizes dry hair, and it can also increase hair mineralization, promoting thicker, stronger hair. Seaweed-based shampoos and conditioners can also improve the appearance and shine of hair, protecting it against environmental damage. A Korean university study found that the hair-growth effects of seaweed could be beneficial in treating spot baldness in the future.
7. Seaweed Is A Natural Pick-Me-Up And Tonic
Seaweed-based drinks and soups have been consumed in Ireland and the Caribbean for centuries as all-round tonics or as a pick-me-up, especially after an illness. Some claim kelp can reduce phlegm and reduce swelling, and it is also used as a natural hangover cure in some areas. Brown seaweed may assist the acid-alkaline balance, and has a prebiotic effect on the gut flora, which helps protect the gut lining. Seaweed is also used in home remedies to heal digestive problems. Research suggests that brown seaweed may be a good weight management tool as well because of its effects on lipase activity, which is an enzyme used by the body to break down fats.
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