The Surprising Health Benefits of Seaweed And Kelp
Seaweed is a super-food that often gets ignored for trendier, buzzier foods. But, the reality is that seaweed can be one of the most beneficial additions you could make to your diet. This sleeper super-food is jam-packed with nutrients that your body needs to thrive and has been enjoyed by many cultures for thousands of years. So, is seaweed good for you?
The benefits of seaweed are widespread. Seaweed is packed full of vitamins and minerals that are beneficial for your body. It also contains many amino acids, the building blocks for protein. Some research also suggests that seaweed can help suppress your appetite.
If you want to know more about seaweed benefits and how to get more seaweed into your diet, keep on reading. We’re going to tell you all about the different types of seaweed, how to work it into your diet, and what makes seaweed good for you.
What Is The Difference Between Kelp And Seaweed?
If you are wondering “are kelp and seaweed the same thing?” We have the answer for you! Seaweed is an umbrella term for many different types of plants that grow in the ocean, whereas kelp is a more specific term that refers to a particular type of seaweed.
Kelp seaweed is the largest subgroup of seaweed. It is a brown seaweed, kelp may differ in actual color, however. Kelp affixes itself to a particular spot in a marine environment and grows into thick forests.
So, the main difference in kelp vs seaweed is that kelp is a more specific classification of seaweed. Kelp is edible, whereas only certain types of seaweed are. Edible seaweed is some of the most nutritious plants our world has to offer, which we will discuss more in-depth below.
The Different Types of Seaweed
There are many different species of seaweed, some that humans likely haven’t even identified, yet! However, all species are categorized into three different categories. These are based on color.
The three categories are green, red, and brown seaweed. While the actual visible colors of the seaweed may vary, these classifications are based on the amount of light the seaweed needs in order to photosynthesize. These categorizations will change the behavior and nutritional content of the seaweed, based on the different growing conditions
When you see the term “Hawaiian Seaweed,” it is usually referring to seaweed that is harvested in Hawaii. However, there are over 100 different types of seaweed, also known as “Limu” in Polynesian cultures, that have their own Hawaiian names and are used in different applications throughout Hawaiian culture.
Hawaiians have been eating and using seaweed for generations as it is so abundant in their natural environment. When you are purchasing Hawaiian seaweed, you know you are buying high-quality seaweed that is grown in volcanic sand and is thereby full of plenty of nutrients and minerals to keep your body healthy. Hawaiians arguably eat more seaweed than any other culture on earth, so it is a good idea to get your seaweed from the people who know it best!
Spirulina is an algae that is similar to seaweed, but it isn’t a type of seaweed. This is because spirulina grows in freshwater environments. However, spirulina is a nutritious supplement that can be a great addition to your diet. Many people like to add spirulina to their green smoothies.
The powdered spirulina that you can buy online or at your local health food store is grown commercially in controlled environments. Because freshwater environments are not always the cleanest and are hard to regulate, spirulina is grown in contained environments, sometimes in pods, so that you can be sure you are getting a high-quality product when you purchase powder or capsules.
As we mentioned before, kelp is a type of brown seaweed that grows in thick forests from the ocean floor. There are many different species of kelp, but they are generally characterized by their flat, long, “leaves” and how they grow from the bottom of the ocean floor straight towards the top.
Kelp is one of the most often used seaweeds in cuisine. It is used dried and fresh. It contains many vitamins and minerals. It is even thought to help control the appetite and thereby help people lose weight. If you see brown seaweed powder while you are shopping, it will be made of a type of kelp.
Organic seaweed is grown without the use of heavy fertilizers or pesticides. There are some risks of a person who eats seaweed every day building up toxic levels of metal in their blood, which we will discuss more in-depth later on in this article.
Because of this risk, it is important to buy organic seaweed that is coming from a high-quality source. This will help minimize the amounts of heavy metals, as this is one of the regulations companies who produce seaweed products deal with when getting their products certified organic.
Ocean seaweed is a little bit redundant, as seaweed is all grown in the ocean. There are some types of algae that are not grown in the ocean that are similar to seaweed, but they are not seaweed themselves.
If you see a product that is labeled ocean seaweed, it may mean that it is being harvested from the wild. “Ocean seaweed” is not a regulated term, so you might want to research that product and ensure that it is the right product for you and is coming from a high-quality source.
The Different Types of Seaweed Products
Now that you know more about some of the different types of seaweed you will see available for purchase, let’s talk about the different products that you can integrate into your diet. There are many different types of seaweed foodstuffs available, and they are all used in different ways to make delicious and nutritious meals.
Dried seaweed is usually made of kelp seaweed, and it will be labeled as either nori or kelp when you are shopping for it at the grocery store. Dried seaweed is used in Japanese dishes such as sushi as long strips that have been slightly re-hydrated, but it is also eaten as a snack or crushed and used as a topping on dishes such as the Hawaiian Poké bowl.
Dried seaweed is great for you when eaten in moderation. Health studies show that the Japanese are one of the healthiest cultures in the world. However, kelp is high in iodine and sodium. While these minerals are safe in moderation, you do not want to eat too much of them or you could build up toxic levels in your blood.
Dried seaweed contains many vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that are great for your body. Dried seaweed is also said to help curb the appetite, which may help some people on their weight loss journey.
Fresh seaweed is also very popular in many Asian and Polynesian recipes. There are no types of seaweed that are deadly, though some should be avoided as they can cause intestinal distress. You will see fresh seaweed available at many Asian groceries and specialty shops. You may even spot people foraging for seaweed, even in the United States, particularly on the West Coast where there are many varieties similar to what is used in Asian dishes.
One of the most popular types of fresh seaweed is Wakame. Wakame is used to make traditional Japanese seaweed salad. Wakame is so popular that you will often find it pre-dressed and prepared as a seaweed salad even in traditional groceries in the United States.
Other types of fresh seaweed are often used to make soups and broths. Others are used as a briny substitute for olives, due to their air-filled bladders that make a pleasant “popping” sensation when you bite down. Fresh seaweed is great to use in all different types of snacks, soups, stir-fry, and salads.
Here are some of the fresh seaweed varieties you are most likely to come across:
This is a brown seaweed that is a part of the larger Kelp family that we have discussed here. It looks like long grass and is great to use fresh with mushrooms in soups and stir-frys.
Agar is a red seaweed that is used as a thickener and texture stabilizer in many foods you eat today, such as ice cream and different varieties of milk alternatives, such as almond milk. It is often used as a gelatin substitute for vegans.
Dulse has a very briny flavor that can be a bit overpowering for some people. However, pan-fried Dulse is said to actually taste like bacon, so it may be a great alternative for vegans and vegetarians when they are craving a crispy, salty treat.
- Sea Lettuce
Sea lettuce is a type of green seaweed that is often eaten raw. This plentiful seaweed is often collected by seaweed foragers.
- Irish Moss
Irish moss is used as a thickener in many recipes and is full of vitamins and minerals. It is used frequently in smoothies and soups. It is generally not eaten on its own like some other varieties of fresh seaweed.
Kombu is usually sold dried, but it is possible to find fresh Kombu as well. It is sold mainly as a flavoring, to give dishes a more savory flavor, also known as umami.
Nori is sold both to roll sushi with as well as flavored and sold in packs as an alternative to potato chips and other crispy snacks.
Wakame is usually sold fresh in order to make bright and crunchy seaweed salads.
The Different Types of Seaweed Supplements
Now that you have learned about the different types of seaweed that you can buy or forage for yourself, let’s talk about seaweed supplements.
Seaweed supplements are a great way to reap the benefits of seaweed without having to prepare dishes that include seaweed all the time. For many people, it can be hard to source fresh seaweed or they do not know how to properly cook with it. For others, they may not enjoy the taste of seaweed and do not wish to eat it.
If one of those descriptions applies to you, but you would still like to get the benefits from the natural vitamins and minerals present in seaweed, then a seaweed supplement may be the best choice for you. There are a few different options when it comes to purchasing seaweed supplements, which we will discuss below.
There are many seaweed powder benefits. Seaweed powder is dried seaweed that has been pre-crushed to a powder. You can use this powder in green smoothies, or even in soups.
When shopping for seaweed powder, you should look for organic seaweed powder. The organic powder will help ensure that the product you’re buying doesn’t have too-high levels of iodine and sodium, and will also help to make sure that your seaweed powder does not have pesticides and fertilizers in it, which can be toxic if ingested at levels that are too high for the human body.
If you are interested in making seaweed powder, you will need to either buy dried seaweed or dehydrate fresh seaweed before crushing it into a powder. You can turn it into a powder by using a food processor or a mortar and pestle.
If you do not know what you would put seaweed powder into and are worried about eating too much seaweed, then seaweed capsules are a great choice for you. Not only do you not need to integrate the powder into anything else, but you can also ingest precise amounts of seaweed by taking the standardized capsules, and still reap the same health benefits for your body.
There are other seaweed capsules benefits, as well. When you are taking a daily seaweed capsule, you will be able to see precise nutritional information on the label. Because of this, you will be able to regulate exactly how much iodine, sodium, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants you are consuming.
All of these components of seaweed are great for your health, including iodine, but even vitamins at high levels are not good for the human body. So, seaweed capsules are a great way of ensuring that you are getting just enough of these nutrients for your body and not overdoing it.
Often called seaweed kelp extract, this extract is actually not made as a supplement, although some people market it as such. We actually do not suggest taking seaweed extract as a supplement.
Instead, seaweed extract is actually a great natural fertilizer and is used in organic horticulture. It is also a natural pesticide. If you are growing plants, either indoors or outdoors, seaweed extract is a great product to use to keep pests at bay and to help your plants grow quickly while staying healthy and strong.
Who knew that seaweed at so many amazing applications to make our lives even easier and that our plants can benefit from it? If you are looking for an organic way to feed and protect your plants, seaweed extract just may be the product that you were looking for.
The Health Benefits of Eating Seaweed
You now know all about the different types of seaweed, the different ways to eat seaweed, and the different seaweed supplements you can take. While we have mentioned that seaweed is great for your health, you likely want to know a little bit more about what you can expect from taking seaweed supplements or working seaweed into your diet more regularly. Below, we have all you need to know about the health benefits of seaweed.
There is a lot of vitamin in seaweed. There are also many minerals that are healthy for our bodies. These vitamins and minerals include:
- Vitamin A (Beta Carotene)
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin B-12
These vitamins and minerals are important for a healthy, functioning body. For instance, iodine is important for regulating the function of the thyroid gland. Potassium is important for muscle control, and Vitamin C is important to maintain your eyesight.
One of the best things about seaweed is that it contains vitamin B-12. B-12 is an important vitamin for our health and energy levels. B-12 is one of the most difficult vitamins for vegans and vegetarians to get enough of, and seaweed is one of the only non-animal products to contain enough B-12 for humans to survive on. Land-based plants contain many of the same vitamins and minerals, but they do not contain B-12.
Other Healthy Components of Seaweed
However, there are other reasons you should eat seaweed or take seaweed supplements outside of just vitamins and minerals. Seaweed is also a great source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and fiber.
As we all know, protein makes up the building blocks of the human body, and it is important that we ingest enough of it. Seaweed, particularly Nori, contains plenty of protein and yet is still low in calorie and excess carbohydrates.
Seaweed also contains a lot of omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for brain function and development, particularly in children. For this reason, many parents give their children seaweed snacks to munch on instead of potato chips, which don’t have a lot of nutritional value.
Antioxidants are important for the body because they help us heal from exposure to free radicals. Free radicals oxidize the body and the blood, which can cause issues like cancer down the line. While we can never avoid the free radicals that exist in our world due to pollution, or the ones that exist in most of the food we eat, antioxidants help limit the damage that they cause to our body, which helps us stay healthy.
Fiber is also important for maintaining a healthy body. Fiber is found in seaweed and land-based plants, and it helps to regulate our digestive system. Our bodies cannot metabolize fiber, so it is passed through our stool intact. However, fiber absorbs water, which makes our stool more soft and slippery, and it then passes through our digestive tract much more easily.
When you are getting enough fiber in your diet, you will help your body avoid problems such as diverticulitis, constipation, and irritable bowel syndrome.
Weight Loss and Appetite Control
Many people claim that adding seaweed to their diet helps them lose weight. Seaweed contains fucoxanthin, which helps to stimulate the metabolism, one of the ways it assists in weight loss. It is also very low in calories but contains plenty of filling fiber and protein, which helps to control your appetite and keep you from over-eating.
If you are on a weight loss journey, incorporating seaweed into your diet along with maintaining a healthy diet and getting regular exercise can help you achieve your weight loss goals. However, it is important not to only eat seaweed, as you don’t want to overdo it on some of the vitamins and minerals contained within it.
The Health Concerns of Eating Seaweed
As we have mentioned, you don’t want to eat too much seaweed every day, as you may build up toxic levels of minerals such as iodine. You may be wondering how much iodine is in seaweed, but that is going to depend entirely on the species of seaweed and the preparation of the seaweed.
In general, you should only eat seaweed or take a seaweed supplement, not both. You should also only incorporate seaweed into one meal a day in a larger quantity, or two meals a day in smaller quantities if you are using it as a flavoring or topping for instance.
As long as you regulate the amount of seaweed that you are consuming, you will not have to worry about health concerns. If you experience any kind of discomfort or change in health after integrating seaweed into your diet, cease consuming it, and speak to your doctor. There is no type of seaweed that is deadly to the human body, but you always want to make sure you are listening to your body and checking in with your doctor if something doesn’t feel right.
The Best Seaweed Supplements To Start Taking Every Day
Now that you know about the health benefits of seaweed, we are going to give you a few of our favorite seaweed supplements that you can start taking every day quickly and easily in order to reap all the wonderful benefits this gift from nature has to offer.
Seatrition Daily Ocean Blend
This blend is a great way to get all the different vitamins and minerals from all three classifications of seaweed. This blend contains green, red, and brown seaweeds, including kelp, to ensure that you are able to reap the benefits from all the different varieties.
There are 12 different types of seaweed contained in Seatrition Daily Ocean Blend that have been dried, ground, and blended into a powerful supplement that can help your health, immune system, hair, skin, and nails get the vitamins and minerals they need to function at their best.
BioFinest Kelp Seaweed Powder
This seaweed powder is dried kelp that has been ground to a fine powder. It comes packed with plenty of antioxidants to help protect your body from free radicals. It also contains all the fiber of fresh seaweed, so it can be a great supplement to add to your smoothies to help aid in weight loss.
If you don’t like the texture of your chunky kale smoothies every morning, you should try BioFinest Kelp Seaweed Powder instead. It comes with more calcium than Kale, and is easier on the body to digest, and comes with much more protein.
Nutrex Pure Hawaiian Spirulina
This spirulina powder is grown in a controlled environment in Kona, Hawaii, and comes packed with plenty of vitamins and minerals in order to support your daily bodily functions and to keep you healthy and alert.
This blue-green microalga is one of the most nutrient-dense and low-calorie supplements you can integrate into your daily routine. Most consumers like to integrate spirulina into their smoothies, but it can be put into just about anything.
Unlike ocean seaweeds, spirulina does not have the salty, briny flavor, so you will be able to integrate it into all different types of dishes without ever even noticing that it is there.
You now have all the information you need to be able to differentiate between the different types of seaweed and seaweed products on the market today, as well as what you need to know in order to ingest seaweed in a safe and responsible manner.
Seaweed is one of nature’s best-kept secrets. It is dense in nutrients that our bodies need to thrive. No wonder cultures around the world have been eating seaweed for thousands of years. If you are looking for an easy way to improve your health while sticking to a natural diet, particularly if you are vegetarian or vegan, seaweed is a great addition that you should invest in right away.
To make it easy for yourself, pick any of the three products we have discussed above, and start reaping the amazing health benefits of seaweed sooner rather than later.