Funny, most of us don’t think twice about enjoying land veggies – you know, the colorful plants that comprise salads and sides. Yet the thought of chowing down on a plant whose habitat is seawater just doesn’t seem appealing to many people.
But, science and nutritionists are agreeing that seaweeds are as packed with nutritive value as land counterparts. For centuries, people living in coastal regions in Asia (and throughout the globe) have been enjoying dishes featuring a variety of healthy seaweeds. In North America, their descendants have brought these edible traditions with them. Sea-veggies such as nori, wakame, and dulse, a variety of kelp — a word that means “brown seaweed”– are widely known; these (in dried forms) are becoming more commonly found in modern supermarkets and they are indeed appearing in more recipes. Fun fact: dried dulse has more iron than 100 grams of sirloin, and this is great news for women who require higher levels of iron during their childbearing/menstrual years.
According to a detailed report, “A guide to the seaweed industry,” by the Fisheries and Aquaculture Department of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (www.fao.org), the northern East Coast of the US and Canada are hosting more companies that are devoted to cultivating their seaweeds in tanks to increase availability for the growing markets. Other nations such as Ireland are also cultivating more seaweeds as well.
Seaweeds constitute a thriving plant community and grow in three groups of colors – green, red and brown. Because these macro-algae have no roots, they can grow easily in controlled water environments, typically off ropes suspended in water. They grow through ingesting saltwater nutrients and absorbing sunlight. The Seaweed Industry Association notes that of all the species of seaweed, approximately up to 400 are edible for humans. They also are rich sources of vitamins, minerals (notably calcium, iodine and iron), fiber, and some contain omega-3 EFAs.
Seaweeds are also abundant in glutamate, which is the natural form of MSG (a synthetic flavor booster), and in cooking, glutamate increases the umami flavoring.
The editors at www.globaleat.net (an educational blog about culinary and healthy foods from around the world) offer some terrific suggestions for enjoying the benefits of fresh (not dried) seaweeds as part of a healthy diet.
- Rinse in water then either stir-fry or boil them.
- Finely chop for a tasty addition to salads, stews, casseroles, or sprinkle on top of pizza. add
- Marinate seaweeds in vinegar or tamari (Japanese soy sauce); you can also use a dash of sesame oil.
- Nori can be used similarly to lettuce — as a wrap or in a salad.
- Want a crisp snack? Brush pieces of nori with olive oil, then bake at 275 for between 15 and 20 minutes – enjoy!
Now, if eating seaweeds is still just not your style, you may certainly obtain the benefits via supplementation. As an example, try Fucosea, from Herbsea. Visit www.herbsea.com.