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.
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
75g roughly chopped onion
1-2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 medium potato, chopped
2 tsp dulse (plus 1 tsp to garnish)
1 tsp chopped fresh tarragon
4 cups chicken stock
150g frozen or fresh peas
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Directions:Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion and garlic and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes until soft but not browned. Add the potato, dulse and tarragon, and sauté for another minute, stirring well. Add half the stock, stir and simmer for 20 minutes until the potato is soft.
Pour this into an electric blender and add the peas and remaining stock. Blend until the desired consistency is reached.
Pour the soup back into a clean saucepan and reheat gently, stirring frequently. Do not boil. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
500g apples, peeled, cored and sliced
75g powdered sugar
100g plain wholemeal flour
75g porridge oats
2 tsp seaweed flakes
100g soft dark brown sugar
75g cold, unsalted butter, cubed
25g sunflower seeds
15g pumpkin seeds
Directions:Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease an 11x7 inch baking dish.
Put the apple, butter and sugar in a pan. Cook over medium heat for 10 mins, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved and the fruit is just beginning to collapse. Taste and add more sugar if desired. Stir in the blackberries, transfer the mixture to the oven dish and set aside.
Combine the flour, oats, seaweed and sugar in a bowl. Add the butter and rub in with fingertips until the mix resembles coarse crumbs.
Crush the seeds so they break down a little, then stir into the crumble mixture. Spoon the crumble mixture over the filling. Bake for 35-40 minutes until golden brown and bubbling. Leave to settle for about 10 minutes.