When we think about nutrition-rich seafood, usually delicious salmon, swordfish, tilapia, tuna, cod, halibut, lobster, red snapper, mackerel, catfish, and so many more kinds of fish come to mind. But what about the other highly nutritious food from the sea?
Seaweed–yes, the kind your children collect at the shore each summer on a family vacation–isn’t just for slinging or gilding that masterful sandcastle! A long time staple of Asian diets, this hearty marine vegetable is brimming with vitamins, minerals, protein, and antioxidants; its textures and tastes running the gamut from soft to chewy, mild to briny. With names like alaria, arame, kombu, nori, and wakame, to name just a few, seaweed packs a low fat, low calorie, high fiber nutritional punch that is unsurpassed by many, if not most, foods.
In fact a 2010 study revealed that algae–another form of seaweed from the Latin alga– can reduce the rate of fat absorption by 75 percent, based on its repressive effect on an enzyme called lipase. Dulse, yet another form of seaweed found in northern coastal regions and also known as sea lettuce, has been cited for its high potassium and iodine levels, the latter of which helps regulate thyroid function. Available in flake form or long strips, dulse’s salty taste and crunchy texture (some say it is similar to potato chips) makes it ideal crumbled into soups and stews and over salads.
Noted by some experts for its healing properties, seaweed has been used as an intrinsic ingredient in alternative cancer and cardiovascular disease prevention, infection control, hormone support, as a degenerative disease fighter and more.
For the most part, in dried or dehydrated form seaweed can be purchased at health and natural food stores or in special sections of some grocery stores, or online from companies such as Maine Seaweed Company — www.theseaweedman.com. Ideas for consumption, including flavorful snacks and use in main dishes, are generally found on the packaging, wherever you purchase it. The aforementioned website (and blog) contains a host of recipe recommendations and steps, as well as seaweed harvesting videos.
Though there are other kinds of seaweed on the market, the following partial list may help you make appropriate choices when selecting the right seaweed for your taste, purpose, and diet:
Alaria: High in iron and vitamins A and B12, as well as a good source of chlorophyll, alaria is often defined as a cousin to Japanese wakame. It can be marinated, steamed or blanched, or roasted and eaten as chips. In powder form, it’s a healthy addition to blender drinks.
Arame: This long, thin, sweet-tasting seaweed is loaded with potassium, coveted by athletes for preventing muscle cramps. Its mild flavor makes it adaptable for use in appetizers, casseroles, soups, pilafs, and other dishes.
Dulse: Reddish purple or deep rose in color, high protein dulse has been an important source of fiber in Icelandic diets for centuries, often eaten with butter. It is known for its nutritive and medicinal properties in Iceland, Ireland, Atlantic Canada and the U.S.
Kombu: Known for its fucoidan component, an anticoagulant phytochemical, leafy kombu, a form of kelp, is also rich in iodine to aid in thyroid function and metabolism.
Nori: Chock full of protein and mild in taste, one sheet has as much fiber as a cup of raw spinach and more Omega-3 fatty acids than a the same amount of avocado. It contains vitamins B and C, as well as taurine, a catalyst in controlling cholesterol.
Wakame: Packed with calcium and magnesium, salty-sweet wakame is also characterized as a diuretic–better than the excessive amounts of caffeine some people drink to reduce bloating. Fucoxanthin, its pigment, has been cited for improving insulin resistance and reportedly burns fatty tissue.