I have to admit the thought of eating a plate of slimy green stuff from the ocean just does not usually get people jumping for joy and anticipation! Except for the occasional seaweed salad or sushi at a Japanese restaurant, the exposure to sea vegetables for the average Westerner is quite small.
Too bad! Sea vegetables are amongst the most nutritionally powerful foods on the planet. And with a bit of creativity and experimentation, wonderfully delicious dishes can be prepared from them! They are simple to prepare and serve and can add fun and diversity to your daily culinary repertoire.
Most Americans do get a bit of sea vegetation on a regular basis, as food manufacturers often use processed sea vegetables in the form of sodium alginate and carageenen as thickeners and stabilizers in a variety of common food products such as ice cream, instant pudding, almond milk, and toothpaste and are not of significant nutritional value.
However, served as part of main meals and in salads, soups and wraps, sea vegetables offer an abundance of otherwise hard to get nutrients. Sea vegetables are very rich in nutrients and phytochemicals. They are loaded with chlorophyll, fiber, and minerals, including significant amounts of sodium, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, iodine and many other trace minerals naturally found in the ocean.
When reconstituted, sea vegetables expand three to seven times their original volume, so small amounts go a long way.
Available in dried form year-round, most sea vegetables are re-hydrated before adding to dishes. Some, like kelp, dulse, nori and sea palm are delicate enough to eat dry. Others, like arame, wakame and hijiki become more tender and appealing when they soaked in water to soften. Irish moss can be soaked and used as a thickener in puddings, pies and gravies.
Still others like Kombu are usually not eaten by themselves, because they are tougher, but are either ground and used as a seasoning or used whole as a flavoring in soups and stews.
To make a basic sea vegetable salad, simply soak the sea vegetables in water to soften. Drain, reserving the soak water for future use. I usually do equal amounts of sea and land vegetation, like carrots or cucumbers. Kale, collard greens and cabbage make great additions as well. Combine the sea vegetable with the land vegetable and pour a sauce or marinade over them. Let it stand at least 15 minutes to absorb flavor. One of my favorite marinades contains ginger, garlic, sesame oil, lime juice, cayenne and salt.
While there are thousands of different types of sea vegetables, a small handful are most commonly used. The sweet, mild flavors of arame, dulse and bullwhip kelp make them perfect choices for the novice.
Minerals, Trace Elements, Vitamins and Fats in Sea Vegetables
Sea vegetables provide all 56 minerals and trace elements required for the human body’s physiological functions in quantities greatly exceeding those of land plants. According to Dr. Ryan Drum, noted herbalist and sea vegetable gatherer, and an international expert on sea vegetables, 3-5 pounds of sea vegetables will fully mineralize an adult human for one year! He claims his personal consumption to be about 10 pounds a year.
Healing Properties of Sea Vegetables
Sea vegetables have been studied and used in clinical practice and shown to have many health benefits. For example, the effects of regular Kombu consumption can be resolution of coronary artery disease, healthier liver function, higher metabolic rate, faster food transit time, lower LDL cholesterol, and higher HDL cholesterol blood levels. What follows is a summary of some of the healing effects that have been attributed to sea vegetables.
Sea vegetables are powerfully antiviral and anti-parasitic. Various red algae, dried, powdered and encapsulated have been used as effective genital herpes and shingles suppressants.
Hijiki and Sargassum, brown algae, seem to improve lung capacity. 3-5 grams of powdered kelp daily has been effective in treating asthma. Irish Moss gel is an effective long-term treatment for damaged lungs, especially after pneumonia, smoking, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis.
Tropical species of red seaweed are used to prepare a male virility drink in the Caribbean.
Dr. Ryan Drum uses a broth of powdered Sargassum unpasteurized 3 year old Barley Miso paste for cancer, radiation, chemotherapy, post-surgical, and whole body impact trauma patients. Pre surgical treatment with 3-5 grams of brown seaweed containing Fucoidan significantly reduces blood loss and shock risk afterwards.
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Insomnia, Depression, Hostility and Schizophrenia have improved greatly with regular daily consumption of 3-5 grams of powdered kelp.
Regular consumption of Kombu tends to result in lowered blood pressure and decrease in arterial plaque.
Regular dietary consumption of Wakame and other brown algae may prevent breast cancer. One of the constituents of brown algae, Fucoidan, shows strong antitumor activity by enhancement of inflammatory responses.
Fucus species of brown seaweeds, also known as Bladderwrack, have been used as treatment for thyroid disorders because they contain DIT, a weakly active thyroid hormone. Two DIT molecules combine to produce T4, Thyroxin.
3-5 grams daily of powdered Fucus, results in similar effects to thyroid medication. Up to 10% of the iodine found in brown seaweeds, especially laminaria species of Kombu and Sargassum has been found to be in the preformed thyroid hormones, T4 and T3.
This is exciting news for those who have been on synthetic thyroid hormone and told that they needed to stay on it for life. Daily consumption of sea vegetables has the potential to restore thyroid functioning.
-Male Pattern Baldness:
Daily Nori consumption is recommended in Japan as a preventative for male pattern baldness.
Used topically, extended soaks with powdered Fucus (bladder wrack) can be very helpful to improve joint pain.
Other conditions that have been found to respond favorably with the use of sea vegetables are anemia, arthritis, diabetes, chronic fatigue, yeast infections, ulcers, and prostate problems.
A 1/3 cup (1/4 oz.) serving of Dulse or Kelp provides up to 30% of the RDA for iron, which is 4 times the amount of iron in a serving of spinach.
Magnesium is twice as abundant in Kelp and Alaria as in collard greens. Sea vegetables contain the following essential nutrients in a chelated, colloidal, optimally balanced, bioavailable form: Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, Sodium, Iron, Chromium, Copper, Lithium, Manganese, Selenium, Vanadium, Sulfur, and Iodine. Sea vegetables are the best natural food sources of iodine.
According to Dr. Drum, since no land plants are reliable sources of dietary iodine, you’d have to eat about 40 lb. of fresh vegetables and/or fruits to get as much iodine as you would from 1 gram of whole leaf kelp!
Sea vegetables also contain significand amounts of vitamins, especially the B vitamins.
And finally, while low in fat, sea vegetables have significant amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids, containin and ideal ratio of Omega-6 and Omega-3.