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Sea Vegetables: The Overlooked Power Greens

By John Fairchild

It’s common knowledge that vegetables, especially dark greens, are healthy for everyone. Not everyone knows that sea vegetables should be included in a healthy diet. Sea vegetables like kelp and seaweed are loaded with nutrients and are a source of many essential vitamins. Kelp, sometimes called kombu, is among the more widely available seaweed varieties you can purchase at health food stores, Asian grocery stores, and some chain grocery stores. Kelp is a type of seaweed found in oceans across the world. Seaweed comes in many varieties and is an excellent source of many minerals, including iodine.

Adequate amounts of iodine are essential for a healthy thyroid and during pregnancy. Iodine deficiency can lead to hypothyroidism and cause goiters. The only sources of iodine are dietary, and seaweed is an extremely good source. Just one-eighth of a cup of kelp provides all the iodine you need in a day, but iodine needs should be balanced and excessive iodine can be dangerous. The Institute of Medicine recommends 150 mg per day. If you have thyroid problems, it’s best to check with your doctor before increasing it in your diet. Many types of seaweed have been found to contain cancer-fighting and anti-microbial agents, and can also have anti-inflammatory properties.

Popular Types:

Dulse is a seaweed – a large category of plants and algae that also includes species such as nori and kelp. Dulse provides a vast wealth of fiber, protein, vitamins, trace minerals, healthy fats, and antioxidants. Once harvested, Dulce is dried immediately for maximum freshness before it’s packaged.

Cooking tip: When you pan-fry Dulce, it takes on smoky and savory characteristic resembling bacon.
Wakame is often served in miso soup. Wakame is known as the spinach of sea vegetables. Throw a small amount of dried wakame into a hot liquid for a minute or two and it’s ready to eat. Wakame has the most calcium of sea vegetables. A compound in wakame known as fucoxanthin can help the body burn fatty tissue. Wakame is a rich source of EPA (an omega-3 fatty acid), sodium, calcium, iodine, thiamine and niacin.

Kombu (kelp) – Kombu is packaged in flat sheets. Kombu is a power house of minerals and vitamins. Kombu is sold dried or pickled in vinegar. It may also be eaten fresh in sashimi. Kombu is used extensively in Japanese cuisines as one of the three main ingredients needed to make soup stock. It is often included when cooking beans, increasing nutrient density and improving their digestibility. Kombu tea is a beverage brewed from dried and powdered kombu.

Nori – Similar to tortillas, nori softens and becomes very flexible, allowing you to make a healthier wrap.
You can use the nori straight from the package or slightly toast them quickly over an open flame on the stove. Nori contains a significant amount of bioactive vitamin B12.

Cooking tip: Make homemade vegetable sushi rolls by wrapping rice and your favorite raw or cooked vegetables in sheets of nori. Slice nori into small strips and sprinkle on top of salads or place in soups. The highest protein containing sea vegetable, nori makes a tasty and crispy snack when baked.

If you are not into the creativity of menu planning with sea vegetables, you may reap similar benefits in supplement form (Spirulina, blue-green algae). Blue-green algae, also known as Cyanobacteria, are a group of photosynthetic bacteria. Blue-green algae are most often blue-green in color, but can also be blue, green, reddish-purple, or brown. All seaweeds are basically algae.

Kelp and spirulina both grow in water and absorb nutrients from their environment. Spirulina, a microscopic blue-green algae that grows in warm alkaline water in some regions, is richer in nutrients and higher in protein than kelp. Spirulina also provides more vitamins than kelp. A serving of spirulina is a rich source of B vitamins, providing more than one-fifth of your daily requirement of riboflavin along with thiamina and niacin. B vitamins work together to produce red blood cells. They also help muscle activity and are a catalyst in releasing energy from the carbohydrates in your food.

If you are trying to boost your protein intake, spirulina, which is about sixty-two percent protein, is the better choice. While a serving of kelp has less than point two grams of protein, the same serving size of dried spirulina provides four grams of protein.

Because of its anti-carcinogenic properties, Spirulina was also used to treat radiation sickness in people who were affected by the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident. It has been shown to lower blood pressure and reduce cholesterol, which are two highly prevalent health concerns. It is rich in vitamins, minerals, beta-carotene, essential fatty acids, antioxidants, protein and essential amino acids.

Spirulina is used as a treatment for a range of metabolic and heart health issues, including weight loss, diabetes and high cholesterol. People also recommend Spirulina as an aid for anxiety, stress, depression and ADHD. Supplementation may also aid in reducing premenstrual symptoms.

When purchasing any vitamin or dietary supplement, please refer to your health care professional. Also, it is extremely important to buy products from reputable companies that have strict guidelines on the analysis of their raw products and the final product assures its identity, strength, composition and purity that appear on its label.

For more information on Spirulina, visit http://nutriagehealth.com/collections/general-health/products/spirulina-500mg

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A board-certified dietary supplement nutritionist, John Fairchild is president of Nutriage Health, at nutriagehealth.com and https://www.facebook.com/Nutriagehealth. E-mail him at john@nutriagehealth.com.

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