Water from the sea has nearly the same proportion of minerals as the human body and foods grown in the sea, including seaweed, carry an abundant supply of the minerals your body needs.
Take seaweed, a sea vegetable, for example. Seaweed contains vitamins A, B-12, C, D, E and K, Omega 3s, Amino Acids, Enzymes, Potassium, Magnesium, Zinc, Lignans, Iodine, Essential Fatty Acids, Nucleic acids (RNA, DNA), and phytochemicals, such as Carotenoids. Seaweed is extraordinary.
Seaweed, when eaten even minimally it helps to rid the body of toxins and restores pH balance.
The Benefits of Adding Seaweed to Your Diet
Seaweed is the richest form of plant life, containing fiber and minerals, on earth. The minerals in seaweed are already chelated (pronounced key-lated), which means they are easily absorbed by the body. In fact, many of the nutrients and trace minerals found in seaweed are those you will not find in a land diet, even if you take vitamins and supplements.
Only 1-2 teaspoons of sea vegetables in your diet every day is sufficient to reap a world of benefits, such as reduced toxicity, fewer body aches, softer skin, and a more alert mind.
Land plants (and humans, animals, birds and insects that eat them) become polluted with acid rain and fertilizers. They don't grow the way they should, become sick and are attacked by insects and illnesses. Not so with sea vegetables. Seaweed, unlike land food and some seafood, absorb very few toxins.
Seaweed is a high fiber vegetable. No more worrying about whether you are getting your fiber in each day. In fact, seaweed offers a source of fiber that is physio-chemically different from land plants because it does come from water, which by the way, makes up about 72% of our body. An intake of high fiber reduces the chances of cancer, high blood pressure, bowel problems, arthritis and diabetes.
Many people crave salt. This is a sign of Potassium deficiency. Potassium is necessary for proper nerve function, hormone balancing and muscle functioning. However the salt that is found in the typical foods we eat is sodium chloride, which is very bad for us and should be avoided. The salt contained in sea vegetables is potassium chloride, which is exactly what we need. Potassium chloride reduces cravings for salty foods.
Dietary seaweed modifies estrogen and phytoestrogens, helping to balance hormones and eliminating menopausal and andropausal (male menopause) symptoms.
Seaweed helps with thyroid dysfunction, chronic fatigue, lethargy, depression, circulatory conditions, cancer prevention, phobias, anxiety, diseases of the joints, digestive issues, muscle problems, sleep apnea, muscle myalgia and more.
The Medicinal Benefits of Seaweed
Seaweed balances pH!
Seaweed is a moisturizer.
The fatty acids in Seaweed are anti-aging products.
Kelp renews skin cells on the scalp and stimulates hair growth.
Seaweed contains iodine which helps dry skin, eczema, and hypothyroidism.
A bit of seaweed placed under a under a bandage can help to stop bleeding.
Seaweed contains anti-inflammatory compounds that fight arthritic type pain.
Seaweed can heal leg ulcers.
Seaweed grains help to wash away cellulite.
Brown seaweed found off the coast of Brittany diminishes acne and accompanying redness.
Also see Sea Salts for how to incorporate seaweed into the bath for skin therapies.
Types of Sea Vegetables to Choose From
There are several types of sea vegetables, including Irish moss, that grow naturally in different depths of the sea. Seaweed gets its color from the rays of the sun. In fact, the color of seaweed is determined by the depth of the water it grows in. It usually grows somewhere between the high tide and low tide marks of an ocean shore.
Seaweed can be purchased as flakes, leaves, sheets, powder or leaves. It can be used as a source of salt, for seasoning, for fermenting, as a medicine, as well as a nutritive.
Seaweed varies in tastes ranging from nutty to tangy. Most seaweed has a very strong flavor so it is used minimally.
Arame is light, lacy and wiry. It is less salty and more mild and sweet than other sea vegetables and can be steamed, sauteed and added to soups and salads quite easily.
Bladder Wrack is similar to Wakame (see below).
Dulce is reddish brown in color and is soft and chewy. It contains less Iodine than Kelp, but each serving contains a daily requirement of B-12, Iron and Potassium. It can be added to a recipe without softening or cooking first. Just rinse quickly under cool running water and then cut it with a rocking motion with your knife. It is great in soups along with Kombu and Wakame.
Hijiki is a Brown Algae Seaweed usually found in the Far East. It looks like wiry pasta strands. It contains the highest amount of Calcium. It is not to be eaten raw, as it is too rough. It is traditionally dried, steamed and then dried again for best flavor. You can place Hijiki in a strainer to rinse before placing in a bowl of warm water to soften (5 minutes or so). Strain and rinse again. Then, chop in whatever size you like. It is very strong and good sprinkled in Chinese cabbage salads (tossed with soy sauce) or in stir fry.
Irish Moss is a Red Algae Seaweed that is popular in breads such a Laverbread. Some people snack on it raw.
Kelp Brown Algae Seaweed makes up 10% of the Japanese diet. It has a higher Potassium content than other seaweeds and is rich in Iodine. It grows along the Atlantic and Pacific coastlines. It is light brown to dark green in color and is usually dried and sold in whole or granulated forms to sprinkle on food. Kelp is the primary seaweed used for people with slow thyroids. A jar of Kelp flakes can be mixed with other seasonings, such a garlic, parsley, onion powder and pepper to use as an added nutrient to your food.
Kombu is a Brown Algae Seaweed popularly consumed in China. It is extremely dark in color and is the only seaweed that produces stock (a vegetable broth) by immersing it in water. This stock is called Dashi. Kombu is one of the best sea vegetables to eat. Rinse under running water for a bit, then place in warm water for about 12 minutes to soften. Chop into desired pieces. You may add Kombu to the bottom of a pot of rice for flavoring rice, in Sushi, as a side salad or in bean dishes to prevent gas. Keep in mind that Kombu takes about 20 minutes to cook and about 10 minutes longer to cook than other sea vegetables, so add it to the pot first.
Nori is a Red Algae Seaweed is grown in Japan rather than collected in the wild sea and is high in protein and vitamin A. It is used to cover rice or oniguri, but is mostly used as a wrap that covers Sushi. It is a purplish black color that turns a green phosphorescent color when it is toasted. It is sold in pretoasted strips for snacking and can be crumbled up to use in soup or salad. To toast your own Nori, place it in a preheated oven (350 degrees) for 1-2 minutes until it turns green.
Wakame is Kelp seaweed, similar to Kombu, and is more like spinach. However, it has the highest amount of sodium (salt). Rinse under cool running water for a bit and then soak in warm water for about 4-7 minutes until soft. It will turn silky green. Chop and add to your recipe. It is often used in salads and soups, especially Miso soup, and for use as a topping. Cook for only 10 minutes.
If you are taking thyroid medication or have been diagnosed with thyroid disease or imbalance do not eat whole seaweed or take seaweed supplements without talking to your doctor first. Seaweed contains Iodine, especially Dulce, Wakame, and Kelp seaweeds. Kelp contains 415 micrograms of Iodine per 1/4 cup serving. Even without thyroid problems, I suggest eating seaweed in moderation, especially Kelp. Excessive iodine can cause thyroid problems.
I think it is worth mentioning that certain foods, such as kale, soybeans, turnips, spinach, rutabagas, radishes, mustard greens, cauliflower, cassava root, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, peanuts, pine nuts, millet, canola, strawberries, peaches, and pears contain goitrogens, which can inhibit dietary Iodine. If you have Iodine deficiency you won't want to eat these foods raw. Instead, eat them cooked. Cooking destroys nearly all goitrogens.
I suggest severely limiting or eliminating your consumption of Soy. It contains isoflavones, which trigger thyroid antibodies and cause inflammation. Soy also contains components that can block your thyroid hormone production and thyroid medication from working, especially when Soy is eaten raw. The only Soy exception would be Soy Lecithin, which is made from the fat in Soy.
The Iodine Patch Test
Iodine can be applied to the skin to determine whether you are iodine deficient. Go to the store and buy a bottle of Iodine in the first aid isle (about $3). Get the orange kind, not the clear. At home, paint a half-dollar size of iodine on your belly, inner thigh or inner forearm (wherever clothes won't cause a lot of friction) and over the next 24 hours watch for changes in color. You'll want to note how long it takes to disappear. Less than 24 hours is a sign of Iodine deficiency.
You can do this just once or you can do it two more times after the Iodine disappears. For example, the Iodine disappears the first time after 12 hours. Apply it again to see how long it takes the second time. If it still takes under 24 hours to disappear, you can do it one more time (a third time) to see how long it takes. Each time it should take longer for the iodine to disappear. You can repeat this test once per month to check for deficiencies. Although some people use the Iodine Patch to supplement their iodine, it can be dangerous.
Note: Iodine deficiencies should always be dealt with through your diet and only after being properly tested. If the Iodine Patch Test reveals a deficiency, please see your doctor to have your thyroid checked. Iodine supplements will work only for Primary Hypothyroidism. However, most of the time people with low thyroid symptoms (weight gain, fatigue, brain fog, high cholesterol, hair loss, muscle aches and pain) do not have Primary Hypothyroidism. They have Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, which is an autoimmune disorder where the immune system attacks the thyroid gland. You do not want to supplement with Iodine when you have Hashimoto's Thyroiditis. It will make symptoms worse.
Sea Vegetables vs. Sea Supplements
I do not usually recommend taking sea supplements, unless there's a very specific purpose, such as taking Red Marine Algae for putting Herpes Simplex Virus in remission, simply because mineral and fiber content, as well as dosages are often not listed on the bottle. Unless these ingredients are listed it is impossible to tell the quality of the product. Not knowing the existence or the amount of iodine included in each capsule can pose a health risk to those individuals who are sensitive to iodine.
Many sea supplements are treated to reduce their strength in flavor and odor, which may remove some of the healing qualities of sea vegetables as well.
If you do use sea vegetable supplements make sure they are harvested from unpolluted waters. Spirulina, Sea Kelp and Klamath Lake Blue Green Algae are determined to be completely safe.
How to Store & Prepare Seaweed
Store dried seaweed in tightly sealed containers at room temperature in a cupboard or semi-dried in a tightly concealed container in the fridge or freezer. Either should last several months.
All species of seaweed can be simmered gently in salted water or sautéed with a bit of olive oil. For recipes requiring the liquid used after soaking seaweed, use no more water than what is needed for your recipe.
Seaweed is fat free and very low calorie. Use in soups and chowders, stir fry, omelets (instead of spinach), casseroles, rice and pasta dishes.
Asian markets typically have a variety of seaweed to choose from. Other cultures that also use seaweed as a staple in their diet are Scotland, Ireland, Iceland, Denmark, Hawaii, the South Pacific Islands and all Mediterranean cultures. All of these countries have food markets in which to purchase seaweed.
Sea vegetables are sold in different forms (powder, flakes, sheets, etc.). You may also purchase seaweed online. In stores make sure your seaweed is sold in air-tight packages and avoid buying any fresh, out of package) seaweed that is excessively moist.
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