For thousands of years, the sea has played a huge role in sustaining ancient cultures in coastal areas. The tradition continues today, with seafood being the main attraction in areas like Japan, Norway, Asia, and coastal Mediterranean cities.
As Paleo-eaters, we already know the importance of eating wild fish a few times a week for a good dose of omega-3. However, fish isn’t the only important “seafood” we should be paying attention to.
Enter seaweed, the supper-veggie of the sea.
Why You Should Add Seaweed to Your Diet
The ocean is one giant mineral bath, filled with trace minerals our bodies need (even more so now that soils are being depleted due to overfarming). Seaweed sits in this bath, soaking up large amounts of these minerals.
Studies show that seaweed contains a greater amount of minerals than land vegetables, as well as many potent antioxidants like beta-carotene. (1) By making it a regular addition to your diet, you can correct any unknown mineral deficiencies you might have, as well as improving your skin and hair health.
Below you’ll discover the benefits of common seaweed varieties, along with foods to pair it with, and recipe suggestions to incorporate seaweed into your diet.
Cooking with Seaweed: Varieties, Benefits, and Recipe Suggestions
Benefits: Kelp has been consumed widely in Asian centuries for centuries, and is now one of the most popular seaweed varieties eaten in the West. It is rich in iodine, which supports a healthy thyroid, and can help improve blood glucose levels – excellent news for diabetics. (2)
In addition, kelp also contains fucoidan, a nutrient that has been shown to effectively kill cancer cells. (3)
How to Cook + Recipe Suggestions: Kelp can be purchased like salt, where it is chopped into tiny flakes, or “granules,” that you can sprinkle on almost anything. Think salads, soups, and even stirred into salad dressings. Kelp noodles can also be purchased and swapped for regular pasta, as they absorb the flavor of any dish. You can also add kelp flakes to smoothies containing fruit, as the sweetness will mask any taste.
Benefits: Dulse is a red seaweed that grows off the coasts of the Pacific Northwest, Nova Scotia, Ireland, Maine, and Spain. Along with boasting a high content of potassium, iodine, and iron, dulse also contains a good amount of omega-3 fatty acids, the kind normally only existing in fish. (6) Omega-3s help improve brain and cardiovascular health, as well as lower inflammation. (7)
Mineral Content: One tablespoon of dulse will get you 500% of your daily value of iodine, 9% copper, and 3% potassium, zinc, and phosphorus.
How to Cook + Recipe Suggestions: Dulse tastes great with olive oil, making it an excellent addition to a homemade salad dressing. You can also fry up dulse strips like bacon in a frying pan and layer it in salads. It can also be eaten raw as a chip-like snack (add some spices) or cooked in soups.
Benefits: Kombu is another type of kelp seaweed that can help prevent cancer and tumor growth, as well as ease and prevent rheumatoid arthritis due to its fucoidan content. (8, 9) Like other varieties, kombu is rich in iodine and other minerals like magnesium.
Mineral Content: 100 grams of kombu contains roughly 17% of your daily value of calcium, well over 100% of your daily iodine, 16% iron, 30% magnesium, plus fair amounts of manganese, copper and zinc. (10, 11)
How to Cook + Recipe Suggestions: Kombu comes in sheets and is usually pretty stiff straight out of the package. Before cooking with it, you’ll want to rehydrate it by placing it in water for a few minutes, or try cooking it in a soup. Traditionally, kombu broth is served by itself, but it also goes well with spicy soups and salads. It also works well in a seasoned stir-fry once it’s been rehydrated.
Benefits: Nori (also called Laver) is the popular seaweed that is used to wrap sushi, and is common in Asian cuisine. Along with containing large amounts of magnesium, iodine, and selenium, nori also contains B vitamins (even B12), which help support your energy levels. (12) In addition, studies show evidence that nori can help stop the spread of metastatic tumors and cancer cells. (13)
Nori is also rich in protein and amino acids, including alanine, glutamic acid, and taurine. (14) Taurine in particular is excellent for heart health, with studies showing it helps lower blood pressure and improve hypertension and diabetic cardiomyopathy. (15)
Mineral Content: 100 grams of nori contains approximately 28% of your daily value for calcium, 85% of your magnesium, and close to 100% of your iodine. It also contains decent amounts of zinc, selenium, and potassium. (16)
How to Cook + Recipe Suggestions: Nori can be purchased as a “sheet” and used as a wrap: simply load it with your favorite veggies and some tuna or shrimp. You can also add it to soups that feature strong spices, or chop it up into a sushi salad featuring your favorite fish, greens, and coconut aminos. You can also buy nori snacks at most health food stores (they taste salty and crunchy – perfect for chip cravings!).
Benefits: Wakame is a brown seaweed common in Chinese and Korean dishes. It has many of the same benefits as kelp and kombu, containing impressive amounts of iodine and other trace minerals. Studies show its fucoxanthin content also helps prevent diabetes and reverse insulin resistance, as well as prevent obesity. (17)
Mineral Content: 1/4 cup of wakame contains roughly 4% of your daily value of calcium, 6% of your magnesium, and 14% of your manganese, as well as trace amounts of copper, phosphorus, and iron. (18)
How to Cook + Recipe Suggestions: Pair silky wakame with crunchy ingredients like chopped cucumbers, toasted sesame seeds and toasted peanuts in salads. It also works well in seafood stews and chowders. Just note that wakame is often found in its dried form, so you’ll need to rehydrate in water before cooking with it.