Seaweed is not a single vegetable, but a large group of plants with a wide range of flavors and textures. These sea vegetables also happen to be exceptionally rich in vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. In fact, they contain all 56 minerals!
Because they are so nutrient dense, seaweeds have a long tradition in Japan as a medicinal therapy, utilized in treating cancer, lowering blood pressure, thinning the blood, preventing ulcers, and protecting against radioactive damage. In particular, seaweed contains a substance called sodium alginate that helps our bodies eliminate radioactive strontium, which is a breakdown product of uranium that we are constantly exposed to from sunlight, X-rays and microwaves.
Seaweed health benefits also include iodine—an element that is necessary for the production of thyroid hormones and protects the thyroid from radioactive carcinogens, supports the adrenal glands, helps with digestion and improves immunity. In addition, seaweed is high in calcium, a mineral known for its bone-building and blood-pressure-lowering benefits.
Serving Up Seaweed Health Benefits
Common edible seaweeds include nori, wakame, dombhu, arame, dulse, hijiki, kelp, alaria, kombu and agar.
Virtually all of the seaweed you will find in stores is dehydrated. Your local grocery store may carry a few types of seaweed in the international foods section, although you'll probably find a larger selection at health-food stores or a natural-foods grocery. If you're lucky enough to have an Asian grocery store or market close to you, you'll find the greatest variety and the lowest prices.
Another option is to buy online. Organic seaweeds are available from such sites as Marine Coast Sea Vegetables (www.seaveg.com).
Soups and salads are probably the two most popular ways for eating seaweed. But also consider stir-frying or sautéing seaweed and including it as part of other multi-veggie dishes. Regardless of how you enjoy it, please note that some kinds of seaweed can be high in sodium. So for those who have a history of congestive heart failure or high blood pressure, I recommend only eating seaweed about once a week.