The Health Benefits Of Cooking With Seaweed

Sure, it’s slimy and slippery – but while seaweed may not look appetizing, it can actually be a delicious and incredibly nutritious part of your diet. Cooking with seaweed is one of the top food trends, and with good reason. It’s loaded with nutrients and is much more versatile than you’d think. Give algae another look and read on to learn about cooking with seaweed.

Health benefits

Seaweed is so good for you it qualifies as a superfood, reported Greatist. It contains moderate levels of vitamins A and C, but its real selling point is that it’s full of iodine, a nutrient that most types of food lack. Iodine provides essential support to the thyroid, which helps regulate hormone levels, prevent cholesterol build up and reduce fatigue. Iodine deficiencies are linked with thyroid issues, a condition that the Cleveland Clinic reported around 20 million Americans live with.

Seaweed is also high in calcium and cancer-fighting antioxidants, and may help detoxify pollutants and waste in the body, Food Matters noted.

Seaweed – it’s what’s for dinner!

Types of seaweed

There are many different types of seaweed. The most popular type for eating is brown seaweed, which includes the wakame and kelp, Greatist explained. Red seaweed is the second most popular variety, which includes sushi staple nori, and dulse. There are also several popular varieties of green seaweed. Typically, you’ll find seaweed sold in a health or specialty food store, and it is usually dehydrated before being packaged. The different types of seaweed can be cooked and enjoyed in different ways.

How to cook with seaweed

Seaweed is most frequently used in soups, salads, stir-fries and noodle dishes. Try adding kelp to a bowl of ramen and cooked vegetables, or incorporating wakame into a miso soup. Nori, which is typically used for wrapping and generally found in the grocery store toasted, can be eaten like a chip or topped with dips or diced vegetables, noted the Huffington Post. Dulse are dark red flakes that can be tossed on stir-fries and soups.

It’s easy to find high-quality seaweed recipes online. Bon Appetit has a wealth of recipes including Swordfish with Seaweed Salsa Verde, Wakame-Cucumber Salad and Scallops with Nori Brown Butter and Dill.

“Seaweed produces a strong umami flavor.”

Balancing flavors

As it turns out, there’s more going on underneath the surface when it comes to cooking with seaweed. The flavor of seaweed can be classified as “umami,” which is the name for one of the five tastes that the taste buds can sense – the others are salt, bitter, sour and sweet. The Science of Cooking explains that monosodium glutamate, also known as MSG, is what produces the taste of umami. In turn, umami enhances the other flavors present in a food, most powerfully when sodium is present. Ever notice how tomatoes have a more robust taste after adding salt? That’s because of the glutamate in the food interacting with the sodium. The result is a richer, more satisfying flavor. Seaweed has high glutamate levels, so it can produce a strong umami flavor.

Considerations

Cooking with seaweed is an exciting way to spice up your diet and incorporate important nutrients into your meals. However, there are some considerations to keep in mind. While seaweed contains iodine, which is a beneficial nutrient, it consequently contains very high levels of sodium. Livestrong.com noted that one sheet of roasted nori contains 11 milligrams of sodium, and many types contain added salt, bumping this number up even higher. Seaweed dishes are also frequently enjoyed with soy sauce, further raising the sodium content. As many Americans already consume more than their recommended daily value of sodium in one day, this can be problematic. As a result, it’s important to monitor seaweed and overall sodium intake.

Just a small serving of seaweed also contains high levels of vitamin K, and excessive vitamin K consumption has been seen to interact with blood thinning medications, according to Livestrong.com. Seaweed also contains high levels of DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid, which may interact with blood pressure medications. If you’re taking these medications, or are pregnant or nursing, check with your doctor before adding seaweed to your diet.

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