Super healthy seaweed, one of the world’s healthiest foods, is a staple food in much of the world, mostly by people who live near shorelines and can harvest it readily. While they are not, technically, a vegetable, seaweeds are often called sea vegetables.
They are an integral part of Japanese cooking. Cultures around the world, in fact, partake of various forms of sea vegetables. Practitioners of macrobiotics rely on seaweed as a staple food. It can be found in Asian food stores and many natural food stores now also carry full lines of these super healthy seaweeds or sea vegetables. If you can, choose to purchase wild, sustainably harvested products. Many though are cultivated and have been for hundreds of years. They are all low calorie and bursting with minerals.
Most, but not all, sea vegetables are naturally high in iodine which aids with normal functioning of the nervous system, thyroid function, cognitive function, and aids skin health. It also helps in the maintenance of metabolism and the normal growth of children.
There are quite a few different types of these sea-dwelling, edible plants, all of which have great nutritional value and since they are usually purchased dried, they make a good addition to your pantry or survival kits.
Here are some of the more common of the super healthy seaweeds, and the nutrients present in them.
This dark sea vegetable has a large leaf which is shredded before drying and packaging. Arame, with its mild taste is easy to use if you’ve never tried seaweed before. Soak the dry shreds in water until they have softened and add to your favorite salad dressing.
This super healthy seaweed contains calcium, iron, vitamin A, niacin (vitamin B12), and significant iodine.
Also high in iodine, kombu comes in strips and is often cooked with beans to increase their digestibility, but you may recognize it more as the thick wide strips of seaweed that is found in miso soup. It is also used to flavor other soups and broths, known as Dashi. Kombu has the greatest amount of umami, sometimes referred to as the 5th taste sensation, compared to all sea vegetables.
It can be found cultivated or wild harvest. Quality kombu is tender, making it desirable to be eaten as a vegetable on its own.
This super healthy seaweed also contains calcium (though not as much as arame), iron, vitamins A and C, and niacin. High in iodine and rich in the amino acid glutamate.
Want to learn how to make Dashi? You'll find super Information and instructions for using Kombu to make Dashi here.
This strong-flavored seaweed comes as short black strings. Use them in sautes with bright colored vegetables or add to tofu, seed or protein dishes.
Soak for 10 minutes until it triples in size, drain, rinse and cook for 10 minutes. Season to your taste and add to recipes..
Hijiki, has an abundance of minerals with the highest amount of calcium of all the common seaweeds; reportedly even more than it’s equal weight of cow’s milk. It does not contain any vitamin C, but it does have varying proportions of the same nutrients noted above and is thought by some to be responsible for the thick, lustrous hair of many of the Japanese people.
This is popular in traditional Japanese miso. The light flavor and delicate appearance are best if you add the dried flakes at the end of cooking clear soups. Use them also in stir fries and even salads, soaking before use.
This super healthy seaweed is a kind of kelp and is quite high in calcium and niacin.
You might recognize this deep green seaweed if you eat sushi. Toasted sheets of pressed nori are wrapped around sweet sushi rice and various fillings or even eaten straight from the pack as a snack.
It is usually cultivated, not wild harvest.
This sea vegetable has the highest protein, vitamin A and niacin content of any of the super healthy seaweeds on our list. It is also high in fiber.
Popular dried and eaten as a salty snack, this purplish seaweed is sometimes ground to a powder or crumbled and used as a condiment. Wash and soak it for use in soups and salads.
It is lower in calcium and iron than other seaweeds, and contains no vitamin A or niacin. It is, however, high in vitamin C, protein, and iodine. Dulse also has a healthy ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Tasteless and odorless, agar-agar is distinctive among the sea vegetables. It is used as a substitute for gelatin when making desserts or jellied salads. It is also used in ice cream and other dairy products to give them a cohesive, thick consistency.
It has the lowest nutritional content of the sea vegetables listed here, except with regard to calcium. It has more of that mineral than nori.
Other sea vegetables include Sea Lettuce, Bladderwrack, Rockweed and Irish Moss.
The consumption of super healthy seaweeds, or sea vegetables, has, according to macrobiotic cook and author Wendy Esko, been proven to help reverse cardiovascular diseases, shrink tumors, and even eliminate the ill effects of radiation exposure.
Brown seaweeds such as arame contain a carbohydrate called fucoidan, which studies have shown has, among other properties, anti-tumor and anti-inflammatory action. And sea vegetables do contain soluble fiber, so the good effect on cardiovascular health is understandable.
Seaweeds can take some getting used to, but starting with small amounts of the milder varieties - such as arame and kombu - can help make the transition easier. But they do come with super healthy benefits.
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