Seaweed is an often overlooked sea vegetable that packs a powerful nutritional punch. It is a good source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber and contains compounds that may help protect against cancer and other diseases. It’s also environmentally friendly, as it helps improve water quality and provides habitat for marine creatures.
Humans have been eating seaweed for centuries. Indeed, it’s a staple in many Asian cuisines. You can eat it raw, cooked, dried, or powdered; it is available in many different forms, such as sheets, flakes, or powder. You can also use it to add flavor and nutrition to various dishes, such as soups, stews, salads, and stir-fries.
But it does a whole lot more. So today, let’s unpack this humble plant and discover how it’s changing livelihoods. We’ve included a few seaweed recipes below to get you started on this superfood.
What exactly is seaweed?
Seaweed is a marine plant growing in shallow, sunny ocean areas. There are three main types of seaweed: brown, green, and red. Seaweeds are an essential source of food and shelter for marine life and play a vital role in the ocean’s ecosystem.
Brown sea weeds are the largest and most common type of seaweed. They grow in deeper water and are typically found in cold waters around the world. They can grow to over 150 feet in length.
Green weeds are smaller than brown and grow close to the shore in warm, shallow waters.
Red sea weeds are the smallest type of ocean weeds and grow in deep waters. They come in various colors, such as pink and purple.
Seaweeds are a vital source of food for many animals, including fish, shellfish, and sea urchins. They also provide shelter for fish and other marine creatures. In addition, ocean weeds help to regulate the ocean’s temperature and contribute to its oxygen levels.
With over 10,000 species, seaweed is a diverse and essential part of the marine ecosystem.
Seaweed health benefits
Seaweed is a nutritional powerhouse and a good source of vitamins and minerals, including iodine, iron, and calcium.
Its most beneficial vitamins include Vitamin B, C, E, and K. It contains protein, amino acids, omega-3 fatty acids, and polyphenols. Recent studies have shown that seaweed may contain ten times more minerals than land-based plants.
Sea kelp contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. Some studies have shown that seaweed can help to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and it may also help to prevent cancer.
Other studies have even shown that ocean weed can help improve cognitive function.
The plant is low in calories and fat and is a good fiber source. It’s gluten-free and vegan and can be eaten fresh, dried, or roasted. It can also make supplements, such as capsules or tablets.
Seaweed is generally safe to consume, but some people may be allergic to it. People with seafood allergies should avoid eating seaweed.
Seaweed in the kitchen
Before introducing it to your diet, check that it’s certified organic and tested for heavy metals. Seaweed suffers from problems afflicting fish, such as absorbing heavy metals from the ocean. Some varieties contain heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, and lead.
However, most other varieties are safe for humans to eat. Below are five various recipes using the different forms of seaweed.
1. Shrimp Burger With Wakame Slaw
There are burgers, and then there’s this shrimp burger with plenty of nutritious seaweed. The green seaweed gives it that unique crunch and a flavor boost that’ll have you going back for more.
2. Barbecued surf & turf
Summer is barbecue season. What better way to kick off than lobster and barbecue T-bone steaks topped with delicious seaweed butter?
3. Baked new potato pebbles & seaweed mayonnaise
Seaweed mayo…yes, that’s a thing now. Also, wait till you see how the potatoes are cooked in this recipe. The flavors burst to life, colored by the unique seaweed flavor in the mayo.
4. Green broccoli soup with nori sesame granola
With a bit of seaweed, your soups and salads will never taste the same again. This sweet and savory recipe elevates Japanese flavors like miso and black sesame, perfectly complementing the nori—the kind of breakfast you need.
Full recipe here. (You’ll have to scroll down the page for the English version)
5. Nori salad dressing
Seaweed is a versatile ingredient. The dressing uses dried sheets of nori seaweed, helping you get more nutrients at the dinner table with just a few spoonfuls. It can turn any boring salad into something that’ll stun your guests.
Seaweed in daily life
Besides being a popular food item, seaweed has several other uses. It is commonly used in cosmetics and skin care products due to its high nutrient content, which can help to improve skin health.
Seaweed is also used as a fertilizer for crops. It contains high levels of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. These nutrients are vital for plant growth and help improve yields. It’s usually applied to crops before planting or at the beginning of the growing season.
It can be applied in its fresh or dried form and is often mixed with other organic materials, such as compost or manure.
In fact, the weed has been used as fertilizer for centuries.
In some cultures, seaweed is even used as an ingredient in traditional medicines.
Despite its many uses, seaweed remains something of a mystery to science. Studies have shown that seaweed contains some compounds with potentially valuable medicinal properties, but more research is needed to unlock all of its secrets.
As we continue to learn more about this fascinating plant, we will find even more future uses for it.
Seaweed and the environment
Seaweed is great for the environment for the following reasons:
1. Beneficial to water systems
Although it is often associated with pollution and beach trash, seaweed plays an important role in maintaining the health of aquatic ecosystems. It absorbs excess nutrients from the water, preventing algae blooms and unwanted plant growth.
It also captures carbon from the environment and uses it to produce carbohydrates.
2. Used in regenerative aquaculture
Aquaculture is the cultivation of aquatic organisms, animals, or plants in controlled environments. It is a rapidly growing industry that provides a significant food source and other human consumption products.
Regenerative aquaculture is a type of aquaculture that mimics natural ecosystems to create a more sustainable system.
It focuses on using local resources, minimizing waste, and maximizing biomass production. The goal of regenerative aquaculture is to create a closed-loop system that does not require input from outside sources.
This type of aquaculture has the potential to provide a more environmentally friendly and economically sustainable alternative to traditional aquaculture practices.
3. Source of employment and livelihoods
4. Small marine life sanctuary
Seaweed provides food and shelter for many marine animals, including fish, crustaceans, and mollusks. It gives small sea creatures a place to hide from predators, helping restore diversity in marine life.
And the list goes on. For instance, seaweed helps to dissipate wave energy, protecting shorelines from erosion. And best of all, it requires no fertilizer or pesticides to grow in the ocean, whether naturally produced or farmed!
Seaweed might be a solution to some of our climate change-related problems. We’re yet to discover the full extent of just what we can do with it. Maybe you’ll soon be wearing seaweed-made clothes, or it might be in packaging materials.
Finally, a seaweed joke:
Friend: I’m addicted to seaweed.
Me: You need to sea kelp urgently