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Why you should be eating more seaweed

Good Health Choices logoGood Health Choices 13/09/2017 Now To Love

Growing like a weed beneath the ocean and on rocks all around New Zealand coastlines is one of the world’s most sustainable, nutritious food sources.

Seaweed has been used for centuries in Asian cultures, not only for its unique salty, umami flavour but also because it is full of health benefits.

In fact, just one serving of seaweed can provide our bodies with many key nutrients our modern-day diets severely lack.

Seaweed is a good natural source of iodine – a critical nutrient that’s of particular importance for maintaining the health of the thyroid and hormones.

Yet due to lifestyle and environmental factors, it is one of the most depleted nutrients in our diet today.

Eating seaweed regularly is a way of ensuring you are getting iodine into your body. Seaweed is also an excellent source of potassium, magnesium, calcium and iron – as well as vitamins, antioxidants, phytonutrients, omega-3 fats and fibre.

Given that different seaweeds grow in different oceans, its uses vary with available species and climate. In broad terms, there are three types of seaweed – brown (such as kelp), red (such as dulse, agar and karengo) and green (such as sea lettuce).

Each species has many different – and equally important – nutritional benefits. Plus learning to cook with seaweed is a way to bring a whole new level of flavour to your food.

© Provided by Bauer Media Pty Ltd

Seaweed varieties

The seaweed most abundant in New Zealand is kelp and the best known varieties include bull kelp (Durvillia), macrocystis kelp (or South Island kelp) and Ecklonia radiata (or North Island kelp).

Kelp is particularly beneficial, not only for the essential minerals, vitamins and trace elements it contains, but also because of its natural glutamic salts. Glutamine is one of the 20 amino acids encoded by the standard genetic code and is known to be superb brain food.

Kelp © Provided by Bauer Media Pty Ltd Kelp

Kelp

Brown seaweeds are also typically rich in iodine – which is why they are often known as the King of Seaweed. Given this fact, eating kelp can help nourish the thyroid gland and brain.

However, if you do have thyroid issues, you may wish to consult your healthcare practitioner as to what’s best for you. Eating this type of seaweed is also an awesome way to help detoxify the body from heavy metals and environmental toxins.

In Okinawa, Japan – home to some of the world’s oldest humans – there is a tradition of eating kombu (dried kelp) that goes back several centuries. Traditional Okinawa cuisine relies heavily on kombu as a part of the diet, with the area using more kombu per household than any other region of Japan.

Its natural glutamic salt is also the source of the umami flavour – the cornerstone of dashi; a delicious, classic Japanese seaweed stock used in everything from miso soup to salad dressings.

Which seaweed to choose

Along with kelp, other popular brown seaweeds you can buy from your local Asian supermarket include wakame and sea spaghetti. Try substituting kelp noodles for pasta.

Red seaweeds, meanwhile, are the oldest group of algae, with more than 7000 species worldwide. Their distinctive colour pigments allow them to survive at great depths, and the most popular red species include karengo (such as nori or laver), dulse, agar and sea chicory.

Karengo is a nutritious species of nori found in New Zealand and is excellent served in a salad.

Dulse © Provided by Bauer Media Pty Ltd Dulse

Dulse

Red seaweed is also very high in dietary fibre, has excellent anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties and, when eaten regularly, can help improve the body’s resistance to stress.

Unlike red seaweeds – which occupy the deep – green seaweeds grow closest to the shore and are related to land plants.

Sea lettuce © Provided by Bauer Media Pty Ltd Sea lettuce

Sea lettuce

Known as ‘emeralds of the sea’, green seaweeds have more minerals than many land-grown vegetables and have a large amount of digestible vegetable protein.

These green seaweeds – such as sea lettuce – are a good way to improve digestion and reduce sugar absorption.

Not only is seaweed good for the body, mind and soul, but eating it is also a big win for the planet. That’s because it is available wild all year round, naturally regenerates and is able to be cultivated safely and sustainably.

Given it tastes delicious, is genuinely good for you and has been in existence for three and a half billion years, it’s time to give seaweed a place on your plate.

Seaweed salad recipe

© Provided by Bauer Media Pty Ltd

- 50g dried seaweed, such as wakame

- 1 tbsp awase miso

- 1 tbsp soy sauce

- 1 tbsp mirin

- 1 tbsp white roasted sesame seeds

-- 1 tbsp sesame oil

- 1 tsp rice vinegar

- 1 tsp yuzu juice

- 1 red chilli, finely sliced

- Pinch of sea salt

1. Rehydrate the seaweed by placing in a bowl of water for 20 minutes.

2. While the seaweed is soaking, prepare the dressing by combining the miso, soy sauce, mirin, sesame seeds, sesame oil, rice vinegar, yuzu juice, chilli and salt in a bowl. Whisk to combine.

3. Drain the seaweed after rehydrating. Slice into bite-sized pieces, if using whole seaweed pieces. Arrange in a bowl and pour over the dressing. Toss to coat, and sprinkle additional sesame seeds on top. Chill before serving.

Words: Kylie Bailey

Looking for a food that’s super-nutritious and sustainable to boot? Look no further than seaweed.: Why you should be eating more seaweed © Provided by Bauer Media Pty Ltd Why you should be eating more seaweed

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