The idea of eating seaweed might not sound tempting, but you should give it a try! Seaweed is a unique superfood, packed with a diverse array of nutrients your body needs to function at it’s best.

Edible seaweeds, or sea vegetables – a more consumer friendly name – are photosynthetic marine algae. There are four different classifications: red (nori, dulse), brown (wakame, kombu), green (sea lettuce) and single-celled (chlorella and spirulina).

Sea vegetables are most frequently used in Asian cuisine, especially in Japan, Korea and China, where they are consumed fairly regularly in salads, to flavor soups, and wrap sushi. Sea vegetables are also found in the traditional diets of British Isles, where seaweed is baked into shortcakes and fried with seafood. Most likely, sea vegetables were once a significant part of the diet of any culture that lived near the sea.

Today, most people don’t eat sea vegetables outside of the occasional sushi dinner, but we’re missing out! Here’s a look at why sea vegetables have earned superfood status:

  • Contains more iodine than any other food source. The mineral iodine plays a critical role in thyroid health, a gland that releases hormones that regulate metabolism. Our thyroid impacts every single one of our body’s vital functions including breathing, heart rate, weight control, and the nervous system. An over or underactive thyroid can lead to anxiety, depression, difficulty sleeping, dry skin and hair loss, among other symptoms.
  • Powerful anti-inflammatory benefits. Sea vegetables contain specific antioxidants shown to block inflammatory pathways. They also contain a nice dose of anti-inflammatory omega 3 fats, including EPA and DHA, the most beneficial type for health.
  • A rich source of antioxidants, including fucoxanthin. It is thought that plentiful intake of sea vegetables may be one of the factors behind the lower incidence of hormone dependent cancers in Asian countries.
  • Contains alginate, a polysaccharide that forms a gum-like consistency when it binds with water. Studies suggest the alginate in sea vegetables may strengthen gut mucus and promote healthier gut bacteria. Alginates also bind to heavy metals, making sea vegetables useful for detoxification.

There are many ways to work sea vegetables into your diet, even if you’re not the most adventurous eater. Try blending a very small amount of spirulina into a smoothie, add kombu to soup broth, or stir rehydrated wakame into sautéed greens.

One of my favorite easy ways to enjoy sea vegetables is with toasted nori snacks, which you can find in a variety of flavors at Earth Fare. Because the snacks aren’t filling enough to stand as a snack on their own, I like to fill mine with vegetables and whatever protein source I have on hand to add bulk. Sometimes I’ll add a slice of avocado or a tablespoon of cooked quinoa too!

Smoked Trout Nori Bites
Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 1 packaged toasted nori snacks
  • Shredded carrots
  • Julienned or sliced cucumber
  • Your choice of protein: cubes of baked or marinated tofu, chunks of smoked trout or salmon, halved cooked shrimp, shelled edamame, hummus, leftover rotisserie chicken
  • Sriracha or peanut sauce, for serving

Directions

  1. Lay nori snacks flat on a plate or serving dish. Top with a small amount of carrots and cucumber. Top with your choice of protein. Dollop with sriracha or peanut sauce.
  2. To eat, wrap the ends around the filling and enjoy!
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About the Author

Rachael Hartley, RD, LD, CDE, CLT

Rachael Hartley is a private practice dietitian and food and wellness blogger at Avocado a Day Nutrition. She believes loving every bite of food is central to living a happy and healthy life. Through her practice and blog, Rachael inspires clients and readers to rediscover the joy of eating with nourishment, not deprivation, and to nurture a healthy relationship with food. Follow along on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.