How and where on earth can we start trying to condense the extensive and fascinating health benefits of seaweeds into just a few mouthfuls, pulling together a mountain of scientific research, medical literature, age old cultures & traditions, treatments & therapies without being too wordy?!
A QUICK OVERVIEW OF THE BASICS
Seaweeds are the most powerful food that we have on this planet. It contains all the minerals that our body needs and has the highest number of vitamins, minerals and trace elements of any other food group. Unsurprisingly, it has played a vital part in the diets of a large number of cultures, including the Inuit, Japanese, Incas and the Irish. Did you know that the Inuit get all their vitamin C from seaweeds?
Seaweeds contain unique compounds that help the body remain healthy. Plus, they taste amazing and has wonderfully unique cooking properties too!
For thousands of years seaweeds have been a food source for civilizations around the world. While it was widely known that seaweeds have great nutritional value, the health and medicinal benefits of various seaweeds have been recognised as well. The Scottish crofters for instance, used to feed their sheep with Sweet Kombu as it made the meat sweeter, while in Ireland Dulse was sold as a cure for hangovers, and all along the Mediterranean certain seaweeds were used as a medicine to treat parasitic worms. In the Far East seaweed has been used extensively and the Chinese have long known that some species such as Laminaria and Saccharina are able to treat certain diseases. More recently, the health benefits of seaweeds have been investigated with renewed interest, and more methodically.
HYPE OR ARE SEAWEEDS REALLY THAT SPECIAL?
No. Seaweeds live in a very complex environment and are exposed to extreme and rapidly changing environmental conditions, including great changes in salinity, desiccation, exposure to high UV-radiation, temperature and nutrients. To survive and adapt to these conditions they have developed special mechanisms that are unique or are present at much higher concentrations than in any other plant or animal 1. These mechanisms include chemical components which cannot be found in other organisms and many of these prove to be very valuable for human health.
A wide range of benefits, from reducing the risk of disease to improving the state of health or wellbeing have been attributed to various seaweed species. Here is a list of some of the health properties of seaweed.
- more vitamins, minerals and proteins than any land vegetable
- Many Vitamin B’s including Vitamin B12 (particularly useful for vegetarians and vegans)
- important quantities of iodine
- many essential amino-acids (proteins) and fatty acids
- essential glyconutrients (essential for the immune system)
- a perfect Potassium – Sodium ratio (2.4:1)
- natural antibiotics, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and anti-parasitic substances
- myostatine (counteracts deformities in muscle development)
- easily absorbable calcium
- large amounts of fibre
- very little fat, but the fat it contains is high in unsaturated and omega-3 fat
(The above list is adapted from www.zeewierwijzer.nl/zeewier-voeding/nutritionele-voordelen.html)
Together with its low fat content (a few % only) and relatively high unsaturated fat percentage seaweeds make for very healthy food which, when consumed regularly, can greatly enhance a balanced diet.
Browse Our Seaweeds