If “facts about seaweed” were a category at your favorite trivia night, how well would you do? Maybe you’ve never given any thought to interesting facts about seaweed, but there is much to learn.
When it comes to marine plants, can they really offer significant health benefits? If you want to know more, where do you begin? Seaweed is becoming more and more popular as researchers and foodies scour the world’s oceans in search of potent vitamins and minerals.
There are plenty of interesting facts about seaweed that many people don’t know. One healthy type of seaweed (or algae) is consumed by humans on a daily basis.
There Are Many Species Of Seaweed In The World’s Oceans: Fresh Seaweed And Seaweed Farming
Believe it or not, there are more than 30,000 known species of algae. But how many of these species are good candidates for plants as food? Read on to find out. The scientific study of different types of algae is called phycology.1 From kelp forests in the oceans to actual seaweed farming, there are different species of seaweed all over the planet.
Sea plants have been farmed due to how useful they are as a crop for a long time. Turns out, people in Japan, China, and South Korea have been harvesting seaweed as food and for other beneficial uses for centuries.2
Seaweed farming has been a relatively reliable source of income for people in over 30 countries. Macroalgae (like red algae, brown algae, and green algae) is quite productive as you can actually harvest it after only 6 weeks of growth. Basically, seaweed farmers grow seaweed along underwater lines fastened near their shores. Once collected, they dry the seaweed on mats or sand.3
When researching where to purchase your seaweed, do your due diligence. You want to make sure your preferred brand of seaweed is harvested far from polluted rivers. This will help ensure your seaweed isn’t spoiled by deposits of heavy metals.
What Type Of Algae Is Safe For Humans To Consume?
Now, there are several species of seaweed that are safe for humans to consume. Once these plants from the ocean are dried, these plants become useful and safe food that can serve many culinary purposes.
Over ⅓ of the seaweed farmed throughout the world is edible macroalgae known as kombu. China tends to farm the most edible seaweed.4
Japanese seaweed farmers cultivate plenty of nori. That’s the kind of seaweed you often see sushi rolled up in. Nori is a red algae (also called pyropia).5
In South Korea, over half of seaweed farming efforts harvest brown algae known as wakame.6 These are all safe to eat (and rather flavorful). Though these species of seaweed taste good, are they good for you?
Is Seaweed A Healthy Food? What Are The Overall Health Benefits Of Consuming More Seaweed?
These nutritious plants from the ocean, also called sea vegetables, are chock full of beneficial nutrients. As mentioned above, seaweeds come in many colors: brown algae, red algae, and green algae are just a few. Furthermore, seaweeds often vary in texture and shape.
Almost all species of seaweed contain a healthy supply of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals like:
- Vitamin K
- Folic acid7
- Fatty acids8
Plus, seaweed is low in sugar and fat. The nutrients and minerals in seaweed are believed to help your body defend itself against various illnesses and health concerns. The Japanese tend to consume a great deal of seaweed and their population boasts a surprisingly high life expectancy. Immune support, and heart health support are just a few of the potential benefits of a diet high in seaweed.9
In fact, in a relatively recent report covering 100 studies on the potential benefits of dietary seaweed, it was also noted that seaweed might support healthy blood pressure levels.10
Another known fact is that seaweed contains the amino acid, glutamate, which supports brain health. Scientists suggest that the high glutamate content of various seaweeds is what gives them their delicious umami flavor profile.11,12
Interesting Ways To Use Seaweed At Home: Soup, Salad, Sushi Rolls, And More
One of the tastiest ways to utilize seaweed is to make a seaweed wrap (or sandwich). Try taking a sheet of nori and wrapping it around a few avocado slices. You won’t even need to add salt or pepper to your avocado because the nori sheet will provide that savory umami flavor.
When it comes to brown algae, many people do cook with and consume sargassum. You can eat it fresh, of course, or better yet… cook it in either coconut milk or lemon juice. You can nosh on sargassum alone, or add it to your favorite wild-caught fish dishes.
Another great way to put these nutritious sea plants to use is to sprinkle them over your favorite soups. You can cut up a sheet of nori into tiny squares. Whether you add them to a soup or even a light salad, your taste buds will appreciate the depth of taste and your body will appreciate the proposed health benefits.
Another great (and surprising) use for seaweed: kick your pesto recipe up a notch.
Dr. Gundry’s Nori Seaweed Umami Pesto
What You’ll Need:
- 1 ½ cup dried nori
- 1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan
- 1 tsp fresh lemon juice (if desired)
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
- 2 cloves garlic
- Sea salt, to taste
What To Do:
Cover your dried nori (or wakame) with water for 20 minutes to let it rebuild.
Next, add your damp nori to the food processor. Combine it with your pine nuts, garlic, and grated parmesan. Pulse until blended, then add your lemon juice and olive oil. Pulse lightly for a thicker and chunkier pesto. Blend well for a thinner sauce or dressing. Enjoy!
Interesting Facts About Seaweed
In the end, seaweed can enhance the flavor and benefit of a healthy plant-based diet. Not only can seaweed provide variety and nutritional value, eating it could potentially help the environment. Why?
The digestion and decomposition of seaweed can release the sea plants’ stored carbon back into the atmosphere. Once it is released back to the air (or ocean) it reacts with oxygen and becomes useful carbon dioxide.13
So enjoy seaweed knowing you’re doing something good for your body — and the world at large.