Chia seeds, kale, moringa, matcha… there’s a new superfood for what seems like almost every month of the year. Yet 2015’s firm favorite isn’t quite so exotic.
Seaweed, a longtime favorite in Japanese cuisine, could make any everyday meal healthier, according to a new study. “Certain substances in seaweed may be important for reducing cardiovascular diseases,” explains Ole G. Mouritsen, professor of biophysics at the University of Southern Denmark.
Alongside his team, Mouritsen – the author of “Seaweeds: Edible, Available, and Sustainable” – found that by eating bread containing dried seaweed, overweight men ate 16.4 percent fewer calories in the 24-hour period afterward.
What is good in seaweed?
“Like other algaes and vegetables, seaweed is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet,” says Alice MacKintosh, nutritional therapist at The Food Doctor Clinic.
Made up of 70 percent of protein, it contains all eight essential amino acids, as well as healthy fats and nutrients like vitamins A through E, with high levels of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron, selenium and zinc.
Seaweed is also a good source of dietary fiber for only a few calories. “An important feature is also that the seaweed has umami – the fifth basic taste, which is known to promote satiety and hence regulate food intake in addition to reduce cravings for salt, sugar and fat,” Mouritsen adds.
What are the benefits?
Due to its unique combination of nutrients, seaweed supports a host of vital bodily functions. “Its high antioxidant levels are also particularly appealing to women as skin support,” says MacKintosh. “The high levels of iodine, a nutrient often deficient in western diets, make it supportive of thyroid function – especially hypofunction – and hormone health.”
Just like vegetables, different species of seaweed, such as dulse, konbu, bull kelp, macrokelp, winged kelp and sea lettuce, have different taste and nutrient profiles.
How much do you need?
When it comes to such a highly nutritive ingredient, a little goes a very long way. Mouritsen estimates that a person should consume about one teaspoon of dried, mixed seaweeds per day to benefit from its positive qualities.
How can you integrate it into your diet?
Unlike in Japan, where it’s used in plenty of dishes, fresh seaweed isn’t a staple food worldwide. But its dried version is now easily accessible.
“The products are designed to be used as seasoning, much the same way you do with dry herbs,” says Mara Seaweed’s Louisa Copping. “You can use it on vegetables, fish of course, or white meat, and you can add it to bread, or cakes – it’s very versatile.”
For easy ways to add seaweed into your diet, try these recipes from Mara Seaweed.