You know about the seaweed that keeps your sushi together, but it's not the only sea plant in the ocean that has major health benefits. (Don't forget, it's also The Most Surprising Source of Protein!) Other varieties include dulse, nori, wakame, agar agar, arame, sea palm, spirulina, and kombu. Edible seaweeds have long been a staple in Asian cultures, and they still play a role in the local dietary guidelines, explains Lindsey Toth, R.D., a Chicago-based nutritionist. "Sea veggies are a nice source of chlorophyll and dietary fiber, plus they have a pleasant salty flavor which comes from a balanced combination of sodium, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, and other trace minerals naturally found in the ocean," adds Molly Siegler, the global food editor at Whole Foods Market.
Why You Should Eat Sea Veggies
Now, big-name brands are getting in on the ocean action, with companies like Naked Juice, which Toth works with, incorporating the superfood into new products. Dulse, a type of red seaweed that includes high levels of the micro-minerals copper, magnesium, and iodine, made it's way into a new blend from Naked Juice called Sea Greens Juice Smoothie. "One bottle of the juice actually contains 60 percent of your recommended daily intake for iodine, which is critical for a healthy thyroid, the gland that controls your body's metabolism and is also responsible for proper bone and brain development during pregnancy and infancy," says Toth. Iodine is found in many types of fish, dairy products, and iodized salt, but if you follow a mostly plant-based diet, sea veggies are a great source of the essential mineral.
Where to Buy Sea Veggies
It's much easier to find sea veggies than it used to be, explains Toth, partially because they are being harvested in the U.S. now, making them more accessible and less expensive. Sea veggies are not usually found raw but dried, and you can look for them in the international food aisle of your grocery store, recommends Siegler. Drying the seaweed after harvesting helps to preserve the nutrients. When it's time to eat, either rehydrate it with water or use the dried form as is. You can also find kelp noodles and some rehydrated varieties of sea greens in the cold dairy section, says Siegler.
How to Eat Sea Veggies
Once you've got your greens home, they're so versatile to use that you can throw them into almost any dish, as you probably do with spinach. Most sea veggies have a deep savory flavor, called umami, so they also work to satisfy cravings for something rich, quelling the need to reach for less healthy indulgent foods. (Try these other 12 Healthy Umami-Flavored Foods too.) Use rehydrated arame in a breakfast quiche, sprinkle powdered dulse on popcorn, and toss nori chips with roasted nuts and seeds, suggests Siegler. Sea palm—which look like mini palm trees—is great sauteed or added to soups and salads, while the super tender wakame is a perfect addition to a stir-fry, she says. Dulse is also a great choice as it can be eaten straight from the bag like jerky, or pan-fried for a bacon-like experience. Yep, bacon. That's definitely a "veggie" you can get behind.