Think you’ve got your leafy greens intake on lock? Here’s another category to add to your repertoire – sea vegetables.
Sea vegetables, also known as seaweed, have been a staple of Japanese and Chinese cuisine for thousands of years, but they’re just starting to catch on in the U.S. For good reason – they’re heavy on nutrition, light on calories and their health benefits are deserving of superfood status.
What are sea vegetables?
Sea vegetables are exactly what they sound like: edible plants that come from the sea. If you eat sushi, you’re already eating sea vegetables – they’re floating in your miso soup and holding your salmon avocado roll together.
What are some common sea vegetables?
You can find all, or most, of these at Whole Foods and other health food stores. When buying, I recommend avoiding seaweed from Japan, opting instead for Korean seaweed or Atlantic seaweed. My preferred brand is Maine Coast Sea Vegetables because they’re organic.
Why should you be eating sea vegetables?
In short, because they’re jam-packed with vitamins and minerals! Need more? Below are some of their stand-out health benefits:
- They keep your thyroid happy. Every single cell of your body needs thyroid hormones to function optimally. When they get out of whack, it can affect all aspects of your health including your metabolism, sex drive, immune system, mood and digestion. Sea veggies are a great source of iodine which your body requires to produce thyroid hormones. Sea vegetables are an awesome source of iodine.
- They help us detox heavy metals. In the ocean, one of the primary jobs of sea vegetables is to absorb various heavy metals and other toxins and render them harmless by deactivating their destructive properties. When humans consume sea vegetables, the veggies activate the same filtration process for our bodies, helping up push poisons out of our bodies.
- They can reduce your PMS symptoms. Some studies have suggested that seaweed may be helpful for regulating estrogen, which can help mitigate PMS symptoms and possibly reduce breast cancer risk.
- They give your skin a glow. Sea veggies’ high antioxidant status means they protect against free radical damage from the environment which can diminish your natural glow. Plus, they’re a rich source of iron which supports healthy blood flow and circulation throughout the body, giving you that rosy hue.
- They’re super sustainable. Seaweed grows incredibly quickly. It can reach anywhere from 20 to 100 feet in length depending on the species and consumes few, if any, natural resources. The seeds attach to rocks on the ocean floor, and the seedlings take off from there, cleaning the surrounding waters as they grow.
How can you add them to your diet?
It’s simple! Here are some ideas:
- Add a strip of kombu to the water when cooking beans from scratch
- Make lunch wraps with toasted nori sheets
- Munch on seaweed for a snack (I like these)
- Add wakame to homemade miso soup
- Sprinkle dulse flakes over cooked veggies, grains or popcorn
- Make a kelp noodle bowl – recipe below!
Can anyone eat sea vegetables?
For most people, adding seaweed to their diet in moderation is great. The main consideration is the fact that seaweed is a concentrated source of iodine. High iodine intake combined a selenium deficiency can be a trigger for autoimmune thyroid disease. For people who have Hashimoto’s, it can cause a flare in symptoms. If you have hypothyroidism or autoimmune thyroid disease, check with your healthcare provider before ramping up your consumption of sea vegetables, just to be safe!
Kelp Noodle Salad with Creamy Sesame Citrus Sauce
Yield 4 servings
- 1 (12-oz) package kelp noodles
- ¼ cup cilantro, chopped
- 1 cup baby spinach leaves, chopped
- 1 watermelon radish (or 4 Easter egg radishes), sliced thinly
- ½ avocado, cubed
- 1 tbsp Gomasio
- 1 tbsp dulse flakes
Sesame Citrus Sauce
- Drain and rinse the kelp noodles and add to a large bowl. Add the cilantro and spinach to the bowl.
- Add all the sauce ingredients to a blender. Blend until smooth.
- Toss salad with the sauce.
- Add the avocado and radish, toss again lightly.
- Sprinkle with gomasio and dulse flakes, then garnish with a spring of cilantro to serve.