A rich source of all the trace minerals we need to sustain life, the valuing of seaweed nutrition is missing from our western culture. People from coastal Asian cultures know the importance of edible seaweed as a natural health supplement and staple of their diet, and as an island country with so much accessible coastline and a huge fishing industry, it makes little sense that we’ve largely ignored our abundant sea vegetables for so long (especially as we have harvested other supplements from the ocean such as fish oil or coral calcium).
Most seaweed is consumed in dried form, with salt or spices added to give it a little kick. Some people develop a strong taste for the nori variety, crunching on it often and enjoying these fantastic benefits:
- Cancer-fighting phytochemicals and anti-oxidants that boost the immune system
- More vitamins and minerals than any other plant species
- Rich in vitamin A, which help complexion and eyesight
- Rich in B vitamins that help to regulate one’s mood
- A rich source of amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein
- Very low calorie yet filling
- Healthy amounts of iodine, which can help to stunt tumor growth and ensure healthy functioning of the brain and thyroid gland
- Lots of magnesium that keeps blood pressure down
- A great source of fiber, thus it helps to control appetite as you feel full on few calories
However, before you go out and fill your buggy with dried sea vegetable squares, be aware that this wondrous natural food is fairly high in sodium, so portion sizes need to be moderate. It is also recommended that organic sea vegetables be purchased due to the possible presence of toxins like arsenic in some brands.
Seaweed has gotten so popular that it has ditched its original name, going be the less pejorative title of “sea vegetables” now. Asian stores and health food stores stock it in crunchy and squishy forms. If you buy a large quantity of the dried form to get a better price, you will not have to worry about moulding or deterioration—it stores for weeks with no hazards. The most popular varieties of seaweed are Wakame, Nori, Irish Moss, Kelp, Kombu, Dulse, Hijiki and Arame.
The dried varieties can be eaten with salt, wasabi powder, brushed with sesame oil or just about anything that you find enhances the flavour. You can also crumble a sheet of the dried sea vegetables into a recipe that can absorb it with no problem, such as fried rice or soup, especially miso soup. Another option is breaking the dried sheets into a form of chips to add to your sushi bowl or salad or purchasing it in flake form to shake over salads and other dishes.
The squishy, natural form of sea vegetables can be incorporated with other veggies in stir-fry recipes of all types. It will add a different texture and interesting taste to dishes that you have perhaps become bored with.
Of course, you can always shock your family by serving sea vegetables as a side dish in either form. Don’t tell the kids what it is. Let them decide if they want to wolf down a packet of dried squares rather than the fattening potato chips that they consume by the bag. Your little trick could launch them on a lifetime of consuming this super-food regularly.
Another obvious way to sneak seaweed into your children’s mouths is through the regular consumption of sushi. Even people who don’t like raw meat or seafood in general can usually find a type of sushi that they enjoy with the explosion of varieties of sushi now available. Each of those delicious concoctions comes wrapped in sea vegetables. Let your child enjoy that California Roll while you sit in delight, knowing that s/he is starting a lifelong habit of eating well.