Why you should eat more seaweed
Seaweed is an extremely nutritious vegetable that's often overlooked as a meal option. Find out how to sneak it into your diet more often
Yes, that’s what we said: eat more seaweed. For many—probably most North Americans—sea vegetables or seaweed just isn’t on the menu. Perhaps the only time many of us eat the healthy stuff is when we have sushi, where it’s in miso soup, wrapped around maki and tossed with a sweet vinaigrette in bright green wakame salad. But, take a look around the world, and for millions of folks—especially coastal peoples—sea vegetables are and always have been a major part of the diet.
The nutrition in seaweed
As dark, leafy veggies go, seaweed is about as nutrient-dense as it gets. Eat about a gram of seaweed and your daily iodine needs are taken care of. Iodine is one of those micronutrients that’s hard to come by in foods, and that’s why it’s added to ‘iodized’ table salt: to help bolster the population’s thyroid and brain health. But more and more folks are eschewing good old table salt for all those designer salts, and that’s just more reason to reach for some seaweed.
Seaweed packs super-high amounts of calcium—higher than broccoli—and in terms of protein, it’s almost as rich as legumes. There’s also a good amount of vitamins B-12 and A and it’s a great source of fibre. But not just any old fibre. Seaweed is mostly soluble fibre, the kind that turns into a gel, slowing down the digestive process, thus inhibiting the absorption of sugars and cholesterol.
Now you might be thinking, “This all sounds great, but I haven’t got the foggiest idea what to do with it!” Fair enough. Unless you were raised in Japan or in a small, coastal, fishing village here in Canada, how would you?
Well, we’ve got 10 ways to use seaweed and get it into your daily diet—incognito if necessary!
First, go shopping. Explore the Asian markets and familiarize yourself with the different types of sea veggies on the shelves. Next, buy a selection of seaweed, bring them home and start tasting. They should taste briny, almost fishy and each will be a bit different in taste and texture, from chewy to papery. Some will be dried and require re-hydration and some will be fresh and found in the fridge or freezer. No Asian markets near you? No worries! Most grocery stores and health food shops carry nori—for homemade sushi—at the very least.
How to cook and eat seaweed
1. Slip a sheet of nori into a wrap before you roll. Cut nori to size and layer inside sandwiches and burgers.
2. Tear or cut nori into salads, soups or stir-fries. If your family objects, make the pieces tiny—they’ll never even notice!
3. Make maki rolls and little individual hand rolls with any filling you like, inside a nori cone.
4. Drain and mash a can of salmon with cooled, cooked brown rice, mayonnaise, green onion and celery, and roll up inside a sheet of nori.
5. Cheat a little and treat the whole family to delicious—though admittedly not as nutritious—seaweed chips. This salty, crispy, delicious snack can be found in Asian markets.
6. Finely chop or snip dried seaweed into mashed potatoes, pasta dishes, stews and casseroles.
7. Pulverize dried seaweed in a food processor and sprinkle over almost anything! Spirulina is in fact seaweed and it’s delicious in a smoothie. Try keeping the seaweed powder on the dining table, just as you would the salt and pepper. If it’s right there, folks are more likely to eat it!
8. Stop by the local sushi joint and pick up some wakame salad to serve with dinner or better yet, learn to make your own.
9. Fresh, leafy seaweed can be chopped and quietly added to kale or collards.
10. And of course, because of seaweed’s natural, slight fishiness, it’s perfect in fish chowders, fish casseroles and seafood pastas.
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Web exclusive, January 2012