Seaweed is a generic term for a variety of marine plants that have played a vital role in human diet, civilization, and health throughout history. Seaweeds encompass members from many taxa of algae including brown algae (Phaeophyta), green algae (Chlorophyta), and red algae (Rhodophyta). Most seaweed can be obtained along the coast, near estuaries or in shallow to deep water near coastlines and islands. Edible seaweed is either eaten raw, dried, or cooked usually by boiling and frying.
Seaweeds are rich in minerals derived from the sea. Iodine is a particularly abundant element in seaweeds. It prevents the occurrence of goiter in humans. It is responsible for thyroid maintenance, ensuring that hormone production remains unhampered. Calcium content of seaweeds is also very high. This mineral is responsible for maintaining bone health and other body functions. Iron and magnesium, two important minerals, are also found in seaweeds at significant amounts. These minerals increase red blood cell production.
Seaweeds have been known to protect against infection by viruses and bacteria. Sufficient intake of seaweed can lower inflammation in certain body regions. Seaweed has sufficient amount of potassium chloride that can alleviate the symptoms of hay fever and other allergies.
Kelps (Laminaria digitalis and others)
These cold water plants are excellent sources of iodine. They are used as food and medicine in various countries. They are good dietary sources of B vitamins, particularly folate. They contain essential minerals like iron and magnesium. They also contain compounds that ease digestion while reducing fat absorption. Their high growth rate and large size make them easily harvestable, allowing many people to enjoy their health benefits. People in Scotland, Japan, China and Korea all have kelp in their respective cuisines.
Carrageenan or Irish moss (Chondrus crispus)
This plant has been heavily utilized by the food industry due to its capability to form gels. It is a prime component of gelatinous desserts. It is a favorite in western European cuisines, being made into blancmanges. It is a primary source of retinol, as well as iodine, magnesium, calcium, iron and other ions. It is utilized throughout the history of Western Europe as a treatment for tuberculosis, common cold, and urinary disorders. It has also been used to alleviate diarrhea and treat infections.
Dulse/ Dilisk/ Sol (Palmaria palmate)
Palmaria (Rhodomyna) palmata is known as dulse in Scotland, referred to as dilisk in Ireland, and named sol in Iceland. It is widely used as edible seaweed both for human and animal consumption. It contains a significant amount of protein as well as other vitamins and minerals. Of particular note is its beta-carotene content, the precursor of vitamin A, a powerful antioxidant that keeps the skin and eyes healthy. The seaweed is also a component of several facial products that invigorate the skin and limit wrinkles.
Nori is an integral part of Eastern Asian cuisine. It is usually rolled into mats and served with rice and other ingredients to make sushi. Nori is particularly rich in potassium and vitamin A. It also contains vitamin C, magnesium, and riboflavin.
Throughout history, western and eastern cultures have recognized and enjoyed the health benefits of seaweed. Being the primary source of goiter treatments, seaweed has proven invaluable to civilization. The various health properties of seaweed are significant: it gives essential vitamins and minerals, reduces fat absorption, provides low fat, and treats human illnesses. Humans from the past until the present have availed themselves of the health benefits of seaweed. Why not join them and experience the impact of seaweed on your health.
- Chapman V.J. (1950) Seaweeds and their uses. London Methuen.
- Smith, G.M. (1944). Marine Algae of the Monterey Peninsula, California. Stanford University., 2nd Edition.