Kelp or seaweed also called a “miracle plant” is a green marine plant that is used to enhance flavors in a variety of dishes, from salads and soup to meat and seafood dishes. In Japan, for example, seaweed makes up 25% of all food in the diet. Today, seaweed is also a popular ingredient in some skincare and weightloss products.
Seaweed Classification: In general, seaweed is classified according to its color which is brown, red green, and blue-green.
Seaweeds Available Form: Seaweed is usually sold commercially in dried form.
Seaweed Varieties: There are more than 2,500 varieties of seaweed which include everything from the algae that forms on ponds to kelp and other marine plants with long stems and leaves. A variety of kelp known as California kelp is not as good product for nutritional purposes; however, it is useful as a fertilizer, to enrich soil.
Common Kinds of Kelp:
- Kombu, a type of kelp that is most widely sold seaweed in Japan. Kelp is light brown in color and usually available as flakes or in powder form. It is used to flavor soup stocks.
- Wakame, another type of kelp, it is highly sought after for bean-curd soup or salads. Wakame is long hard strips that can be softened with water.
- Nori or Laver is a commonly consumed red seaweed. In Japan, nori is used to wrap sushi, and in Wales it was traditionally made into flat breads.
Important thing to know about Seaweeds:
- Some varieties of seaweeds are up to 30 times higher in minerals than land vegetables, which is affected by depleted nutrient levels in our soils.
- The mineral content of various types of seaweed differs, but most provide calcium, copper, iron, potassium, and magnesium. Some supply beta carotene, a precursor of vitamin A; the levels vary with the cooking method.
Kelp or Seaweed Health Benefits:
- Kelps correct mineral deficiencies. Sprinkling a little kelp on your food (about a teaspoonful twice a day) will provide both salt and vital trace minerals.
- Kelp is also a good source of protein and iron which is important for blood cell function.
- Kelp is reported to aid in brain development.
- Helps to detoxify the body.
- Helps to increase metabolism.
- May help in controlling obesity because it dissolves fatty wastes through the skin.
- Seaweed bath helps maintain hormone balance for a more youthful body.
- Seaweeds are a rich source of iodine. The thyroid gland needs iodine to make the hormones that regulate body metabolism and regulate many other bodily functions; a goiter, marked by an enlarged thyroid is a sign of iodine deficiency.
- Seaweeds have a higher proportion of essential fatty acids than land plants.
- Seaweeds have high fiber content, making up 32% to 50% of dry matter. Soluble fibers have beneficial effects on the digestive system, cholesterol levels and blood glucose levels.
- Seaweed is a good source of calcium; for example, an 8g portion of dried kombu provides much more calcium than a cup of milk.
- Brown seaweed (kombu or wakame) contain polysaccharides called fucoidans. Fucoidan is said to possess remarkable bio-defense qualities, which may inhibit the growth of certain tumors.
- In ancient Egypt seaweed was used as a treatment for patients with breast cancer but the modern use of chemo and radiation therapy makes the health benefit of seaweed far more evident because it provides a natural detox.
- Seaweed can assist in maintaining the acid/alkaline balance in blood, lymph and cells.
- Seaweeds most dramatic use is its ability to neutralize heavy metal pollution and radiation in the body.
- Seaweed contain large amount of lignans, plant compounds which act as a weak estrogen and along with magnesium may help restore normal sleep patterns and reduce hot flushes.
Kelp or Seaweed Nutrient Content: Per 100 gm.
- Vitamin A: 2 I.U.
- Niacin: 5.7 mg.
- Calcium: 1,093 mg.
- Iron: 100 mg.
- Phosphorus: 240 gm.
- Fat: 1.1 gm.
- Carbohydrates: 40.2 gm.
- Protein: 7.5 gm
Kelp or Seaweed Nutrient Content: Per ½ cup serving
- Folate: 200mcg (micrograms)
- Magnesium: 120mg
- Useful amount of iron and calcium
- Protein: 2g
- Calories: 50
Nori or Laver Nutrient Content: Per ½ cup serving
- Vitamin A: 5,200 I.U.
- Iron: 2mg
- This type, however, contains smaller amounts of magnesium and calcium than kelp does.
- Protein: 6g
- Calories: 40
Kelp Side Effects: Some seaweed supplements can cause health problems. High doses of kelp tablets can set off an outbreak of acne. The high iodine content can cause thyroid disorders; varieties containing iron can provoke iron overload.