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Seaweed, known to scientists as macroalgae, is a type of algae that grows in the ocean. Not only is seaweed a source of sustenance for sea life, but it’s also a popular food for humans, especially in Japanese cuisine where it’s primarily used in sushi preparations. Other seaweed preparations include its use in soups, snacks, supplements, salads, and smoothies. Not only is seaweed a delicious addition to your diet, but it’s also a highly nutritious one with many surprising health benefits. Take a look at some of the ways incorporating seaweed into your diet might improve your health
Important Note: The health benefits of eating seaweed that are noted herein are representative of the most current scientific research at the time of this publication.
Supports Thyroid Health
Seaweed contains important chemical elements that are essential to the thyroid’s production of particular hormones. These hormones help the body produce energy and mitigate damaged cells. Specifically, seaweed is rife with iodine and tyrosine, both of which contribute to the functionality of the thyroid. For starters, without adequate iodine intake, you could experience weight gain, fatigue, and inflammation. Notably, a single serving of seaweed contains up to 2,000% of the daily recommended value of iodine. Moreover, seaweed contains high concentrations of tyrosine which works in conjunction with iodine to make necessary thyroid hormones.
General Consensus: 5/5 and here is why. The iodine and tyrosine content of seaweed is an excellent contributor to thyroid health.
Seaweed contains high levels of many important nutrients which is why you might consider adding it to your diet. While there are a few different seaweed varieties, each of which has its own nutritional makeup, some of the nutrients are standard among all varieties. Whether consuming whole sheets of dried seaweed, a serving of seaweed salad, or sprinkling some seaweed dust atop your food, this food is both tasty and nutritious. For starters, one serving of seaweed contains 20%, 14%, and 11% of the daily recommended intake of riboflavin, thiamin, and iron respectively. Additionally, it contains 6% of the daily recommended intake of manganese as well as a whopping 47% of the daily recommended value of copper. Furthermore, seaweed is also a respectable source of vitamins A, C, E, and K in addition to folate, zinc, and sodium. Furthermore, seaweed contains the essential proteins spirulina and chlorella which deliver all of your daily required amino acids. Lastly, seaweed is also a laudable source of omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, and calcium as well as the ever-important B family of vitamins.
General Consensus: 5/5 and here is why. Undoubtedly, seaweed is chock full of many essential nutrients. Just a few servings of seaweed per week can remarkably increase your nutrient intake.
Packed With Powerful Antioxidants
Seaweed is also packed with powerful antioxidants that play an integral role in fending off diseases. Of note, antioxidants fight off harmful free radicals that could lead to chronic illnesses such as heart disease, some cancers, and diabetes. Seaweed contains many antioxidative properties including vitamins A, C, and E as well as flavonoids and carotenoids. These useful plant compounds protect your cells from damage caused by the oxidation of free radicals. Specifically, the carotenoid and fucoxanthin content found in seaweed are some of the most powerful antioxidants, surpassing the abilities of vitamins A and E which are some of the most commonly ingested plant compounds. Together, the antioxidants in seaweed work to combat harmful free radicals that might otherwise lead to disease.
General Consensus: 5/5 and here is why. The antioxidants in seaweed are some of the most powerful plant compounds with significant implications for the reduced risk of particular chronic illnesses.
Good for Gut Health
One surprising benefit of consuming seaweed is that it’s good for gut health. It’s no great mystery that an imbalance in your gut’s good and bad bacteria can easily lead to many health complications. Significantly, seaweed is a great source of fiber which is promotive to gut health. In fact, dried seaweed contains higher concentrations of fiber than any other fruit or vegetable. Moreover, seaweed is rife with sulfated polysaccharides which are connected to the proliferation of the good kind of bacteria in your gut. These healthy sugars are also responsible for the improved growth of the short-chain fatty acids which lead to healthy cell growth in your gut.
General Consensus: 5/5 and here is why. The fiber content combined with the sulfated polysaccharides found in seaweed work in unison to create optimal gut health.
Supports Weight Loss and Management
Another great benefit of incorporating seaweed into your diet is that it’s supportive of weight loss and management. To begin, as previously noted, seaweed contains high concentrations of fiber which is well known for increasing satiety; this, in all likelihood, reduces your consumption of unnecessary calories. Another interesting fact about seaweed is that it has “anti-obesity” effects; essentially, the fucoxanthin contained in seaweed has been observed in some studies to reduce body fat. Other studies have also shown that the fucoxanthin in seaweed lowers blood sugar levels, an effect that limits weight gain. Finally, a serving of seaweed contains just 20 calories which further contributes to weight loss and management.
General Consensus: 4/5 and here is why. While the low-calorie, high fiber content is obviously supportive of weight loss, the claims made about fucoxanthin’s effects on managing weight are only supported by animal studies; human studies are warranted.
Lowers Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
Some studies have indicated that eating seaweed may reduce your blood pressure which is a leading contributor to cardiovascular disease. One 8-week animal study concluded that rats consuming a high-cholesterol diet experienced a 40% reduction in bad cholesterol levels when fed a regular diet of dried seaweed. Another precursor to cardiovascular disease is improper blood clotting; a carbohydrate called fucan, that’s found in seaweed, is known to aid in proper blood clotting. Lastly, researchers are in the early stages of examining the peptides in seaweed as beneficial to heart health. Preliminary studies suggest that the peptides may block the systemic circuit that leads to an increase in blood pressure levels.
General Consensus: 3/5 and here is why. Although the studies concerning seaweed and hearth health are either in their infancy or solely concentrate on animal studies, this line of inquiry is a promising one; more research is indicated, however.
Aids in the Management of Blood Sugar Levels
A final benefit to adding seaweed to your diet is that it may help you to manage your blood sugar levels in an all-natural way. As of late, seaweed has become a hot research topic as a method for supporting individuals with a diabetes or pre-diabetes diagnosis. As previously noted, the fucoxanthin in seaweed has been shown in some studies to lower a high blood sugar altogether. Similar studies also showed that individuals with a predisposition to insulin resistance experienced mediated blood sugar levels when eating seaweed. Lastly, another marker in seaweed, a substance called alginate, was shown to lower blood sugar levels in animals when fed a serving of seaweed.
General Consensus: 3/5 and here is why. While some early test results indicate that the fucoxanthin and alginate content in seaweed is beneficial to blood sugar levels, further human studies are warranted.
Unlikely Benefits: Further Research Needed
May Reduce Your Risk for Cancer
General Consensus: 2/5 and here is why. While it’s true that seaweed is a good source of lignan enterolactone, which is said to have anticancer effects, there are only a few studies linking seaweed to the inhibition of cancer.
Could Boost Immunity
General Consensus: 2/5 and here is why. Although a few anecdotal observations suggest that eating seaweed may have a positive effect on immunity, there are very few scientific studies that make this connection; further research is needed.