The other day as I walked through Whole Foods, I felt like I was in an aquarium. Everywhere I looked I saw seaweed! Seaweed snacks are the new coconut water, and varieties like wakame are popular in prepared dishes such as chilled seaweed salad.
It seems that sea veggies are a hot new superfood, with reported benefits ranging from heart protection to weight loss. Currently researchers are studying potentially protective compounds in eight species of seaweed from Ireland and Canada that may help reduce blood clots and hardening of the arteries, two major risk factors for heart disease. Another recent report published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry reviewed almost 100 previous studies and concluded that some seaweed proteins work just like blood pressure meds. And in animal research a component in brown seaweed was shown to help rats burn more body fat.
Research aside, sea vegetables, including kelp, nori, hijiki, wakame and others are rich sources of iodine and one of the few sources of this important mineral— just a quarter of a cup packs a whopping 275 percent of the daily value. Too little iodine can trigger hypo or hyperthyroidism, fatigue, weight gain, and depression. And they're also a good source of magnesium, which can improve sleep and alleviate hot flashes in women going through menopause.
To reap the benefits try out a dried seaweed snack, such as Annie Chun's. The sesame variety is made from just seaweed, canola oil, sesame oil and salt (so no artificial extras), and 10 sheets contain just 30 calories and 70 mg of sodium. Plus they're portable, and you can crumble them as a topping for a garden salad or stir fry.
Other fun ways to eat more seaweed include:
- Make a wakame, cucumber side dish dressed with brown rice vinegar and fresh grated ginger
- Whip up a seaweed pizza ‚brush extra-virgin olive oil or sesame oil on a whole grain flatbread crust and top with garlic, onions, fresh sliced tomato and nori
- Start your day with seaweed - add julienned nori, sesame seeds, green onions, shredded carrots and sliced mushrooms to one whole organic egg and two whites or scrambled organic tofu
- Make a side of seaweed salad a staple in every sushi order
Cynthia Sass is a registered dietitian with master's degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV she's a SHAPE contributing editor and nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays. Her latest New York Times best seller is Cinch! Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.