The benefits of eating seaweed are many. Seaweeds are highly nutritious and have a variety of useful properties: from treating all sorts of swellings and lumps, to coughs, eczema, weight loss, and fungal infections! In this article I’ll highlight some top benefits of eating seaweed and even give you a delicious seaweed soup recipe to try.
What is eating seaweed good for? Quite a lot. To make a long story short, they are packed with vitamins and minerals and help the body cleanse itself.
First, keep in mind this underlying principle in holistic medicine: there is no such thing as a cure-all. In other words, nothing is always beneficial for everyone. Therefore you have to also know when NOT to eat seaweed – and we go over that towards the end of this article.
Benefits of Eating Seaweed #1: Softening Hardness!
In general, eating seaweeds can help treat lumps, edema, swellings, nodules, tumors and swollen lymph glands. They soften and shrink masses and pathological accumulations. This is the main property that Traditional Chinese Medicine uses seaweeds for.
In general, eating seaweeds help detoxify, remove residue, and moisten. They are good at helping the body get rid of heavy-metals. Acting as a diuretic and lymphatic cleanser, they help make the blood more alkaline, replenishing glands and nerves, the thyroid in particular.
Benefits of Eating Seaweed #2: Packed with Vitamins!
Seaweeds are a top source of minerals. In general, they contain ten to twenty times the minerals of land plants, and these minerals are in the most assimilable form by human consumption because they come in living edible plant tissue.
Seaweeds are also excellent sources of iodine, calcium, and iron:
Seaweeds Wakame, Hijiki, and Arame (available at your local Asian supermarkets) each contain more than ten times the calcium of milk and at least 4 times as much iron!
Seaweeds are also high in sodium alginate, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, sulfur, Vitamin C and Vitamin B12.
As a great source of trace minerals, seaweeds can be used in complementary treatment of obesity, goiter, hypothyroidism, anemia, emaciation, impotence, nervousness, weakened immune system, hair loss, skin issues, and more.
Benefits of Eating Seaweed #3: Fight Harmful Fungus and Bacteria
Kelp, dulse, and seaweeds in general are exceptionally good anti-fungal foods. They are rich in iodine and selenium which are two minerals known for their ability to inactivate fungi. Before anti-fungal drugs, iodine was the main effective remedy against Candida and fungal overgrowth. But be aware that seaweeds in tablet or raw form may actually contribute to Candida yeast problems because bacteria can be high. Its best to eat seaweeds cooked.
Why is this property of seaweeds important? Because the range of health problems that either start off or are compounded by excessive bad bacterial and fungi in the digestion is huge. Today’s leading edge research in medicine is just starting to acknowledge the role of fungus in problems ranging from acid reflux, allergies, ADD, gout, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, and much more.
Seaweed Benefits According to Traditional Chinese Medicine
Seaweeds have been officially used as medicinal herbs since at least 500 A.D. From the Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, seaweeds have a “cooling” nature. What this means is that it helps in cases of an infection with yellow/green phlegm or pus (which are “heat” and “dampness” signs). We also say it helps the liver with the smooth movement of bodily energy, builds the fluids of the body, and helps to regulate fluid circulation (for cases such as edema, dysuria,…)
In modern terms some of what this means is that seaweeds help with circulation, lubricate and moisten because of their mucilaginous nature. So we can say the benefits of eating seaweed include helping to lower excess cholesterol and excess fat in the blood, and help rejuvenate the lungs and gastrointestinal tract. The benefits of eating cooked seaweed are truly tremendous!
I’m sure you’re ready to feast on seaweed right now after learning all the benefits! I don’t blame you – but if you’re not accustomed to eating seaweed, work it in your diet gradually.
There’s a variety of kinds of edible seaweed. Probably the most commonly encountered seaweed is Nori– the thin sheets used to wrap sushi with. There are Nori packs you can buy that you can snack on like potato chips – it can be addicting!
Many of the other kinds of seaweed are thicker, chewier, and more nutritious. Some seaweeds can be very salty. If especially salty, soak the seaweed first and then throw out the water. Also note, the longer you soak seaweeds, the easier they are to digest.
How much seaweed should you be eating?
Used medicinally as an herb in Chinese Medicine, seaweed dosage in herb-tea form is about 5 to 15 grams a day, which is around 1/6th to 1/2 ounces. If you aren’t used to eating seaweed or anything like it, you might initially have some stomach upset to this new food in your diet. Its always best to cook it and eat in soup or porridge.
Who is seaweed NOT good for?
Although packed with nutrition, seaweed can be problematic in those with weak digestive strength. How do you know your digestion is weak? Some clues are loose stools, and chronic fatigue. These people need to be careful with their seaweed intake since seaweed is energetically cold (and digestion is a warm process). Also, consult your doctor if you are on thyroid medications.
Seaweeds also lower plasma glucose levels, so if you’re new to seaweed in your diet and you take diabetic medications, you need to be careful that your blood sugar levels don’t drop too low. The flip side of this is that if your blood sugar levels are too high, one of the benefits of eating seaweed is that it can help lower it!
Quick Seaweed Primer: 4 types to get to know
Arame – Plenty of potassium and has anti-viral properties.
Kombu – Plenty of iodine and blood anti-coagulants.
Wakame – Loaded with magnesium and calcium, improves insulin resistance and great for weight loss.
Nori – Rich in protein and fiber and contains plenty of Vitamin C, and even B12 and taurine.
Asians have long been getting the benefits of eating seaweed. So naturally, a great source of recipes for sea-veggies and seaweeds is Asian cuisine. We all know about Japanese sushi, but here is a great seaweed soup recipe from the Korean tradition to help you get the benefits of eating seaweed:
Korean Seaweed soup (miyeok guk 미역국)
– makes 2-3 servings :
- 1 oz dried seaweed (wakame)
- 4 oz beef brisket or shank, sliced (can substitute little oysters or clams, mussels, or other shellfish unless you have eczema)
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- Fresh ground black pepper
- about 4 cups water
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- salt to taste
- Soak the seaweed in water for at least 5 minutes. The seaweed will swell up. Then cut the seaweed into pieces 2-3” long.
- Heat a medium pot over medium heat, add beef, garlic, sesame oil, black pepper to taste and stir fry until beef is browned.
- Add water, soy sauce, & seaweed and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for 10-15 mins.
- Taste your creation and add salt if necessary.
- Try eating it with rice and kimchi
March 2011 Update:
In light of the Japan nuclear disaster, this is the best time to get the benefits of eating seaweed.
Adding sea veggies to your diet will help protect your thyroid and reduce your risk of cancer if you are exposed to radiation. This includes seaweeds such as kelp, wakame, dulse, sea lettuce, kombu, bladderwack, hijiki, and nori which are high in naturally occurring iodine.
Eating seaweeds may be better than supplementing with Potassium Iodide because the organic form of iodine found in seaweeds matches the way the element is stored in thyroid hormones. With eating seaweed you also get all the rest of the complimentary nutrients.
Keep in mind that increasing your iodine intake will only protect your thyroid, the rest of your body is still at risk from the radiation. Also keep in mind that if you aren’t used to eating seaweed, eating too much might lead to nausea, …one source mentions a dosage of about 1000 micrograms a day.
An extra note: avoid those bright green pre-made seaweed salads that you find at Whole Foods and many sushi places. They usually contain artificial food colorants, as well as high fructose corn syrup.