Sea Vegetable Health Benefits  

Pack These in your Emergency Supplies, Too

Sea vegetable health benefits have been available to, and widely used by, coastal living populations for thousands of years. Mainly in and around Japan, Korea and China down to southeastern Asia but New Zealanders, South American people and the Celtic peoples, too, counted on sea vegetable health benefits for basic survival.

Maybe it's time you gave them a try, too!

Sea vegetables are not, botanically speaking, really vegetables. They are algae but they can be eaten as or with vegetables.  Some, like sea lettuce, are green and leafy, and like other vegetables, some are brown and red.  They are often referred to as sea weeds and just like many land growing weeds, they pack a powerful healing punch, yet many people are still unaware of the sea vegetables health benefits and pass them by.

Sea vegetables are amazing foods. In Japan, they are a staple food that is fried, steamed, boiled, and toasted.  A natural food source, sea vegetables are eaten by coastal-dwelling people all over the world.

Practitioners of a macrobiotic diet - a Japanese-based, vegetarian diet and overall lifestyle that has been reported to alleviate cancer - incorporate large amounts of sea vegetables into their dishes, often serving them in some form for every meal.  

No matter which form or genus of algae, sea vegetable health benefits have been an important part of world cultures.

What are some sea vegetable health benefits?

What are some sea vegetable health benefits that make these ocean-dwelling plants so healthful?

1. Iodine:

All types of sea vegetables contain iodine, although some contain more than others. Iodine is an essential nutrient that supports thyroid function. In fact, people who experience a sluggish thyroid often find the problem corrected when they ingest kelp tablets.

Kelp is a kind of sea vegetable that is especially high in iodine.

Arame is also high in iodine.

2. Calcium:

Japanese women, who eat very few dairy products, do not suffer osteoporosis any more frequently than dairy-consuming westerners do. The secret may lie in the calcium-rich sea vegetables so common in the Japanese diet.

Hijiki, a rather strong-flavored, high fibered sea vegetable, is mineral rich  and has the most calcium of the common sea vegetables.

Wakame, Arame, and Kombu are also good sources of calcium as well as other  sea vegetable health benefits.

3. Protein:

Vegetable protein is considered healthier than animal protein, and easier to digest.

Nori, the seaweed wrap that is used to make sushi,  has the highest protein content of the common sea vegetables.

4. Vitamin C:

Vitamin C is an important nutrient; it supports the immune system and acts as a natural antihistamine. Its antioxidant activities help protect against cancer. Vitamin being present in seaweeds along with iron may make the iron more readily absorbable, too.

Kombu and Dulse are two types of sea vegetable that contain significant amounts of vitamin C.

5. Essential Fatty Acids:

Essential fatty acids - so called because the body cannot manufacture them and they must be obtained via diet - are anti-inflammatory and may guard against cancer.

Dulse, a purplish sea vegetable that is popular dried and sprinkled on food like salt, has a healthy ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids.

6. Fucoidan:

Found in brown sea vegetables, fucoidan (sulfated polysaccharides) are starch like molecules that has been shown to shrink tumors and act as an anti-inflammatory.

Fucoidans are under study for their anti-inflammatory benefits and how that can be used to benefit those with osteoarthritis. These sulfated polysaccharides in sea vegetables also have anti-viral activity plus anticoagulant properties for cardiovascular benefits. 

Arame, a brown algae is a good source of fucoidan.

7. Other Benefits:

  • one of the broadest ranges of minerals of any food, many of the minerals found in blood
  • vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids)
  • copper 
  • pantothenic acid
  • potassium
  • iron
  • zinc
  • vitamin B6
  • niacin
  • phosphorus
  • vitamin B1.
  • Anti cancer benefits, especially colon cancer and breast cancer, under study
  • May help control blood sugar for diabetics, under study


"During the period 2000-2005, government-related agencies in England, New Zealand, and Canada issued public health recommendations advising against consumption of hijiki sea vegetable unless verified as containing very low levels of inorganic arsenic. Based on these reports, we recommend avoidance of hijiki as a sea vegetable unless available in the form of certified organic hijiki."

See Sea Vegetables, Individual Concerns, The George Mateljan Foundation

Read more on sea vegetable health benefits there, too.

Incorporating Sea Vegetable Health Benefits Into Your Diet

The sea vegetable usually used in miso soup is Wakame, which is also available at health food stores. Sea vegetables generally need to be soaked prior to cooking, and the same goes for Wakame. You will only need a couple of strips for two servings of soup.

Miso Soup


1 or 2 green onions or scallions
1 large carrot
1 Daikon radish
2 Tablespoons miso paste


  1. Soak the strips in water for at least half an hour.
  2. In the meantime, chop 2 tablespoons of green onion (scallions) and shred/grate carrots to make 1/4 cup.
  3. Chop a Daikon radish into matchsticks, about 1/3 cup.
  4. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil and add the vegetables.
  5. Chop and add the soaked Wakame.
  6. Simmer 20 minutes.
  7. Remove from heat and stir in 2 tablespoons of miso paste.

Another popular and easy way to incorporate sea vegetables into your diet is to use them as a condiment or eat them for a crispy snack.

They can also be added to soups, salads, and stews, sauces and casseroles

Sea vegetables come in various forms, including flakes and powder making it easier to access the sea vegetable health benefits on  a daily basis. Simply keep a container of flakes on your table and use it to replace salt or to sprinkle on soups and salads.

For fun, look for  the 3 colors of algae for variety when you go shopping and find ways to use them all:

Green: Sea Lettuce
Brown: kombu/kelp, wakame, arame, and hijiki
Red: Nori, agar-agar, and dulse

Storage Tips:

Keep dry in moisture proof food storage containers, sea vegetables will keep for a long time. Always follow manufacturer's directions for storage.

More sea vegetable health benefits are yours when you take advantage of their health value and light weight and add them to your Bug-out-bags or emergency survival kits. They can be soaked and used or eaten dry for convenience while you are hiking or camping. Since they are power packed with nutrients, they are a valuable addition in situations where your health is stressed.


John Masefield may have been writing about his love of sailing on the sea when he wrote about going down to the sea in his famous poem, Sea Fever, but we have borrowed his phrase to mean eating sea vegetables!

Enjoy your version of "going down to the sea" and if you share ours, we thank you. Sharing is much appreciated.

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