Since I spent this summer in South Korea I couldn’t miss the opportunity to talk about a superfood that’s present in virtually every dish there. The star of this post is very common in Asian countries but it has made its way into the hearts of many people from all over the world in the form of sushi. Yes, I’m talking about seaweed. Although located at the bottom of the ocean’s food chain, this weird looking plant is mighty powerful. Seaweeds can be found throughout the world’s oceans and seas and none is known to be poisonous1. A member of the algae family, edible seaweed typically comes in three varieties: brown, red, and green. The most commonly eaten are the brown varieties such as kelp and wakame, followed by red seaweed, which includes nori 2. While you’re thinking why nori sounds so familiar it’s because this is the kind used for making sushi. You’re welcome. 😉
Seaweeds are filled with antioxidants, calcium and a broad range of vitamins; however, serving sizes are often not large enough to get a decent boost in these nutrient levels 3. Normally in restaurants serving Asian Cuisine you can find it wrapped around rice in sushi form, in miso soup form or even in kelp salad form called kombu (昆布) in Japanese.
Fun Fact: While seaweed-based cuisine has a proud history in many Asian countries, Japan has made it into an art form, employing over twenty different species in their fare.
Seaweed’s most popular attribute is containing a great amount of an indispensable nutrient called iodine. Having healthy levels of iodine in your body is very important for your thyroid amongst other things. Before you look on WebMD what this means I can help you a little bit. The thyroid is a gland located in the front of your neck. This gland releases hormones that influence your metabolism, body temperature and growth and development4. Sounds pretty important, right? Well, a malfunctioning thyroid can cause symptoms such as fatigue, muscle weakness and high cholesterol (to name a few). In severe or untreated cases, it can lead to serious medical conditions like goiters (a swelling of the thyroid gland), heart palpitations and impaired memory2. That escalated quickly. Without going any further, I’m not here to talk about the problem but rather talk about the solution. Where was I? Right! Iodine. It’s good for you.
Still not convinced about trying seaweed? What if I told you they’re packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which may prevent sudden heart attacks and strokes?5
Seaweed is also full of minerals such as:
Calcium & Magnesium: improves bone mineral density.
Iron: helps transport oxygen through your blood.
Zinc: helps hormone production which improves athletic performance.
Potassium: lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Iodine: body tissues of your brain, skin and stomach need it for proper functioning.
As always, too much of anything can have its drawbacks. Some types of seaweed can have ridiculously high amounts of potassium and/or iodine. It was found in a study that 10 grams (roughly two tablespoons) of dulse, a type of red seaweed, has 34 times the amount of potassium in an equally sized serving of banana; a high enough dosage to cause heart palpitations among people with kidney problems2. Also consuming large amounts of iodine can also have its own side effects. Moderation is key. Nonetheless, nori is one of the lowest in iodine content which means you can eat a few rolls of sushi a week. That’s what I call a happy ending.
While I was in South Korea, a really good friend of mine introduced me to my new guilty pleasure for life: Kimmari (김말이 튀김). It’s a really simple but all the more delicious fried food. Simply put is: seasoned glass noodles wrapped in seaweed, dipped in tempura and fried (*heavy breathing*). At first glance it looks like a type of sausage but it’s completely vegan. You can find a different version of this RECIPE at Icookfirst; so you can also try this guilty pleasure once in a while at home.
~Oh-so-delicious Kimmari! (김말이 튀김)
Who knew eating seaweed could have so many benefits? Now that you know just a little bit of the many things this superfood has to offer, will you include it in your meals more often? Don’t knock it until you try it. If this post motivated you to try seaweed for the first time let me know in the comment section. Also if it made you fall even more in love with seaweed share your love commenting which is your favorite recipe or dish that has seaweed. Have a great day! 🙂