The third item in our series “Scary Foods to Make Yourself Eat” is seaweed. Sometimes referred to as a sea vegetable but technically classified as algae, these green, red and orange plants of the oceans have 10-20 times the mineral content of their land-based cousins. As an excellent source of calcium, iron, iodine, magnesium and vitamin K, adding seaweed to the diet supports vibrant and strong hair, skin and nails. Seaweed is cooling, cleansing and alkalizing, helping to reduce inflammation in the body, eradicate toxins and support bone health. Its high concentration of mucilaginous fiber soothes the digestive tract, promotes balanced gut bacteria and supports weight loss efforts.
All that said, seaweed can be quite a foreign food to most Americans. Traditional in Japanese cuisine, most Americans’ exposure to seaweed involves that dark wrapping around our sushi rolls (nori) that we try our best to ignore, or the clump of nearly black slippery greens (wakame) that get left at the bottom of many bowls of miso soup.
Typically purchased dried and then reconstituted in water (or added to soup) before eating, some seaweed varieties that can be easily found at health foods stores include: arame, agar, dulse, kelp, kombu, nori, hiziki and wakame. Look for “wild” and “hand harvested” on the package to ensure a quality product that has not be grown in a tank. Some reputable brands include Eden, Erewhon and Maine Seaweed Co.
The applications of seaweed are vast. Agar can be used as a thickening/gelling agent in place of gelatin. Kombu acts as a tenderizer and nutrient. Add some to soups, stocks or beans while cooking to enhance digestibility. Hiziki and arame are easy to prepare and great added to salads.
For those who wish to test the seaweed waters more slowly, your local health food store has some great offerings. SeaSnax are seasoned chip-like snacks made of nori that many people find “strangely addictive.” Sea Seasonings are ground/flaked seaweed (usually dulse or kelp) shakers perfect for sprinkling seaweed on cooked foods as a nutrient and mineral rich flavor enhancer in place of table salt.
Read this for more on seaweed and what to do with it.
Don’t miss previous installments of the “Scary Foods to Make Yourself Eat” series, including sardines and dandelion greens.
Photo Credit: http://www.naturalcookstudio.com/2009/02/seaweed/