Seaweed, or sea vegetables, are an extremely versatile and popular superfood. They’re used to wrap sushi rolls, are used as a main ingredient in many soups and stews and are a common ingredient in many dietary supplements. Many around the world love to eat them because of their taste, their versatility and because of the variety of health benefits they provide. Here are six of those benefits.
Seaweed is high in nutrition
Seaweed is a rich source of many nutrients. Seaweed is full of iodine, protein, vitamins A, C and B6, iron, zinc, calcium, potassium and phosphorus. Furthermore, seaweed is a great source of antioxidants that can defend your body against inflammation. The amount of each nutrient will vary depending on the kind of seaweed you consume, but they will all generally have excellent amounts of each of the nutrients listed.
Seaweed helps keep your thyroid functioning
Seaweed has a lot of iodine, which your thyroid needs to make hormones. For example, kombu, a type of seaweed, contains 2,524 micrograms of iodine in one gram, which is over 1,682 percent of the recommended daily intake. A healthy thyroid releases hormones that give you energy and repair your cells. This means that seaweed can keep your thyroid functioning at 100 percent.
Seaweed is good for the gut
Seaweed is a great source of fiber. This fiber is beneficial for the gut. Furthermore, there are natural sugars in seaweed known as sulfated polysaccharides that can increase the growth of good gut bacteria. Seaweed also contains fucoidans, carrageenans and agars — known prebiotics which can stimulate the growth of good gut bacteria.
Seaweed can help you lose weight
Because of the high amount of fiber and prebiotics in seaweed, eating seaweed can make you eat less because you feel full for longer periods. There are also several animals studies that show that eating seaweed can also make you lose weight. This is caused by the compound fucoxanthin, which is found in brown-colored seaweed. In several animal trials, lab mice who consumed fucoxanthin almost always lost weight. Researchers believe this is because fucoxanthin activates a protein that can metabolize fat. (Related: Brown seaweed found remarkably effective at breaking down fat cells, treating diabetes.)
Seaweed can improve your blood sugar.
A Japanese study found that the fucoxanthin in seaweed can also reduce your blood sugar levels. Fuconxanthin can reduce insulin resistance, making it easy for the body’s blood sugar to stabilize itself. A different study even found that type 2 diabetics who were directed to consume powdered seaweed supplements everyday for two months had their blood sugar levels decrease by up to 12 percent.
Seaweed lowers your risk of heart disease
Heart disease is triggered by a variety of factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, physical inactivity, obesity and smoking, among others. The fiber and antioxidant content in seaweed can lower your heart disease risk by reducing levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol and triglyceride. Several studies have also been done showing that seaweed lowers blood pressure. Furthermore, the presence of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids in seaweed are also beneficial for the heart. Lastly, seaweed also contains the carbohydrate known as fucans. Fucans are essential in preventing blood from clotting excessively, thus decreasing one’s heart disease risk.
Seaweed also has other health benefits: it can strengthen your immune system, reduce your risk of cancer, prevent skin damage and reduce your risk of bone and inflammatory diseases. With over two million metric tons of seaweed produced each year, it won’t be difficult for you to find this nutritious superfood to turn into healthy sushi or to use in other recipes.