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Should you add kelp to your diet?

Tribune Content Agency 11/9/2022 Lori Zanteson, Environmental Nutrition
Don’ t be afraid of seaweed kelp; this sea-based plant is full of nutrition. © Dreamstime/TNS Don’ t be afraid of seaweed kelp; this sea-based plant is full of nutrition.

The wave of seaweed in the food world is making a delicious and nutritious splash. Beyond sushi roll wrappers, there is a sea of innovative products from snacks, such as roasted seaweed, kelp popcorn, and jerky to kelp burgers, noodles, condiments and seasonings. There are upward of 30 varieties of seaweed that are found growing naturally in the oceans, but the most familiar are kelp, such as giant kelp and bongo kelp, and kombu, which is commonly consumed in Japanese cuisine.

Kelp is a large, brown seaweed that grows in shallow coastal areas. The popularity of seaweed has spurred the growth of seaweed farming, a sustainable practice because seaweed is fast growing, and it helps improve water quality. It’s able to use carbon dioxide to grow, which helps balance nutrient levels in surrounding waters, creating favorable conditions for commercially important fish.

Kelp is a rich source of many key nutrients, including iron, calcium, magnesium, B vitamins, vitamin K, dietary fiber and protein. Because seaweeds actively absorb minerals from the water, they typically have far more minerals than what might be found in plants grown in soil. Kelp is one of the best natural sources of iodine, which plays a role in metabolism, producing thyroid hormones, and helping support a healthy pregnancy. The human body is not able to manufacture iodine on its own, so it’s important to get it through the diet.

The nutritional composition of seaweeds supports a healthy diet as well as providing several health benefits. Research suggests kelp may potentially help protect against cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure and brain degenerative disease, such as Alzheimer’s disease. Seaweeds have also been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, important to fight off harmful free radicals that threaten healthy cells. Kelp is indeed nutrient-dense and low in fat and calories, but results from studies suggesting that kelp may help with weight loss and obesity are inconsistent and future research is needed.

Fresh, frozen, dried, powdered or manufactured in food products, seaweed is becoming readily available. Adding it to your diet can be as simple as swapping your usual pasta with kelp noodles, like in an Asian inspired seaweed salad or pad Thai, snacking on crunchy sheets of roasted seaweed, using dashi (a broth made from seaweed) as the base for soups and sauces, and trying one of many seaweed seasonings, like furikake, to bring that sought after savory umami boost to sides, salads or any dish.

(Reprinted with permission from Environmental Nutrition, a monthly publication of Belvoir Media Group, LLC. 800-829-5384.

©2022 Belvoir Media Group. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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