Last week we talked about apple cider vinegar, a super food that is inexpensive and versatile. This week I’d like to introduce you (or remind you if you’re already in the know) to another great food that Americans are just becoming aware of, one that comes from the ocean, has great variety, and is loaded with nutrients, vitamins, fiber and anti-oxidants.
Though they might seem exotic to many Americans, edible seaweeds are a common food around the world, particularly in coastal cultures. Seaweed has been eaten in Japan, China and Korea throughout human history, and is enjoyed in Iceland, Norway, France, Ireland, Wales, England, New Zealand, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.
It’s hard to imagine another food with as much nutritional value as seaweed. It contains high amounts of iodine, potassium (a nutrient we’re learning is especially useful to men as the age), iron, calcium, magnesium, chromium and vitamins A, B, B6, B12, and C.
Seaweed may help prevent cancer, heart disease and osteoporosis. It is also detoxifying, and helps cleanse the digestive system. It has heart-healthy fats, is especially rich in omega-3s, and its large fiber content helps with the regulation of blood sugar and cholesterol (particularly beneficial in the fight against Type 2 diabetes).
Seaweed can be an acquired taste, but many of us eat it already with sushi, and in any event it is a taste worth acquiring: of the ocean, a little like fish, a little like shrimp, a bit salty, and once you get used to it, very good.
The Most Common Varieties:
- Agar – Jelly-like, used to thicken aspics and gelatin-type desserts, used in seaweed salads. High in iodine. Comes in flakes or bar form.
- Arame – Good source of potassium, iodine, calcium and vitamin A. Used in vegetable dishes because of its mildly sweet flavor.
- Dulse – Burgundy-colored, and when dry-roasted in a skillet has a smoky flavor. Rich in potassium and Vitamins B6 and B12, and about four times the amount of iron than that in spinach.
- Hiziki – There is 10 times more calcium in a cup of cooked Hiziki than in a glass of milk. Cook it in apple juice with sweet vegetables, and the seaweed’s volume expands when soaked.
- Kelp – A good source of calcium, chromium, iodine, iron, potassium and magnesium. Eat in soups and stews.
- Kombu – Has a great flavor in broths and stews, and is a wonderful source of calcium, potassium, iron and vitamin C.
- Wakame – High levels of iodine, calcium, iron, potassium, and vitamins A and B. Used in miso soup and seaweed salad.