For many people who eat a typical North American diet, it may be difficult for them to eat their vegetables — let alone vegetables that come from the sea.
Why not try eating seaweed, or sea vegetables? Sea vegetables are algae; they grow on coral reefs and rocky landscapes. Sea vegetables have been Japanese mainstays for over 10,000 years, archaeological evidence has shown. They were also a delicacy in ancient China, primarily served to honor guests and royalty.
There are several varieties of sea vegetables available to you. You may have even tried some and didn’t even know it. An example is nori, which is a red seaweed used to wrap sushi rolls.
Other popular types of sea vegetables include dulse, kelp, hijiki, kombu, wakame, and arame. Sea vegetables like dulse can be sprinkled on your food to add nutrients, while wakame is typically used to make Japanese miso (fermented) soup. There are many health benefits to sea vegetables.
5 Benefits of Eating Sea Vegetables
1. Excellent Source of Iodine
A quarter cup of sea veggies contains 415 mg of iodine, accounting for 276.7% of your daily recommended intake.
Iodine can also be found in table salt, which contains 65 mcg in one gram, whereas the range for sea vegetables is 79-300 mcg in one gram. People should be getting 150 mcg of iodine after the age of 14.
Instead of getting iodine from the saltshaker on your kitchen table, replace it with a shaker of granulated or ground kelp, dulse, or nori. You can find them in many health food stores. Sea vegetables are a great alternative to salt.
2. Optimal for Thyroid Function
The iodine in sea vegetables is essential for thyroid hormones, thyroxine, and triiodothyronine — which regulate metabolism in every cell of your body and are important in nearly every physiological function.
Your body isn’t able to synthesize these hormones without iodine. If you are thyroid deficient, a common sign is an enlarged thyroid gland, known as a goiter. Eating healthy sea vegetables is a great way to avoid any thyroid issues.
3. More Minerals Than Typical Veggies
Minerals are important for your health and they play vital roles in every cell of the body. Mineral deficiencies can contribute to minor and major health conditions. Sea vegetables are known to contain over 12 different minerals and they contain 10-20 times more minerals than in your typical land vegetables. Iodine, magnesium, iron, calcium, manganese, phosphorus, and potassium are some of the minerals you can find within sea vegetables.
The magnesium and tryptophan found in sea vegetables help with relaxation and sleep. The sea vegetables also contain the five key antioxidant vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, C, and E, selenium, and zinc. They also have all four fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, K, and the heart-healthy B vitamin, folic acid.
4. Beneficial for Women’s Health
Sea vegetables are an important component for women’s health because they contain lignan phytonutrients. Lignans are converted into esterolactone and enterodiol when the body is low in estrogen, such as during menopause. This can help relieve menopausal symptoms.
Lignans can also bind to estrogen receptors, which is beneficial for women when estrogen levels are too high, such as during PMS.
5. Ideal for Weight Control
Kelp is commonly used in powdered form for smoothies or in your water. A quarter cup of sea vegetables only contains nine calories, which is perfect if you are looking to control and maintain a healthy weight.
Mateljan, G., The World’s Healthiest Foods: Essential Guide for the healthiest way of eating (Seattle: George Mateljan Foundation, 2007), 310-312, 314-315, 760.
Murray, M., N.D., et al, The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine: Third Edition (New York: First Atria Paperback, 2012), 662-664. 150-151, 319-320.
Haas, E., et al, Staying Healthy with Nutrition: The Complete Guide to Diet and Nutritional Medicine (New York: Ten Speed Press, 2006),
Kristy, “Eat Your (Sea) Vegetables,” The Naked Kitchen web site, Jan. 12, 2012; http://www.thenakedkitchen.com/eat-your-sea-vegetables/.