Health benefits of seaweed, nutrition facts and side effects

Seaweed especially wakame seaweed has been a part of the cuisine in Japan and Korea for centuries because of seaweed benefits. They form a part of the food chain in the oceans and rang in colour from red, green, and brown to black.

It helps bring a unique taste and texture to salads and soups. It is also commonly added to sushi rolls, supplements, and smoothies. In this post, we will talk about health benefits of seaweed, nutrition facts and side effects.

Health benefits of seaweed, nutrition facts and side effects

Seaweed nutrition facts

We see small amounts of calcium, magnesium, sodium, zinc, and folate in seaweed. As a standard, 1 tablespoon (7 grams) of dried spirulina seaweed has the following:

  • Calories: 20
  • Protein: 4 grams
  • Fibre: 0.3 grams
  • Thiamine: 11% of the RDI
  • Iron: 11% of the RDI
  • Riboflavin: 15% of the RDI
  • Manganese: 7% of the RDI
  • Copper: 21% of the RDI
  • Carbs: 1.7 grams
  • Fat: 0.5 gram

Though present in small quantities, these nutrients add up if taken regularly. In addition to the above, there also are small quantities of Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Vitamin K, and Vitamin E. 

Top 5 Health Benefits of Seaweeds

If you want to know that what are the health benefits of eating seaweed than you are at right place. Adding seaweed to one’s diet helps add taste and improves health. Check out the following health benefits of seaweed and add it to your diet.

1. Helps with weight loss

Is seaweed good for weight loss? Seaweed fiber helps slow the emptying of the stomach. This helps offset hunger and one is able to put off the next meal for a longer period.

This is because the stomach does not send the signal for a meal for a long time. It has fucoxanthin that could be useful for reducing body fat. This helps obese people become thin again.

It was found in a study with rats that fucoxanthin improved the expression of a protein that metabolizes fat. Including seaweed in your diet helps one reduce the waistline and body weight. This is one of the best seaweed benefits.

2. Supportive of thyroid function

The thyroid is an important gland that controls a wide range of growth-related functions. It is involved in the repair of damaged cells, helps with energy production, and controls body growth.

The hormones in the thyroid are made using iodine. When your diet does not contain enough iodine, you experience symptoms like swelling in the neck, fatigue, and weight changes. The recommended intake of iodine per day is 150 mcg.

The content of iodine depends on the type of seaweed. The amount of iodine will vary from 11-1890 mcg per gram. In Nori the content is found to be 37 mcg, Wakame has 139 mcg, and Kombu has 2523 mcg.

Kelp contains 58 times our daily requirement at 8732 mcg. The tyrosine in the seaweed acts alongside the iodine to make two key ingredients that help the thyroid work properly. Hypothyroidism is a condition where the thyroid is unable to make enough hormones to support basic functions.

3. Helps protect the body

Benefits of dried seaweed – Seaweed has a good amount of antioxidants. When your body has a lot of unstable compounds known as free radicals, it can lead to dangerous health conditions including cancer.

The carotenoid present in brown algae is found to have 35 times the amount of antioxidants present in Vitamin E. The presence of antioxidants helps reduce the levels of free radicals present and thus, protect you from danger.

Decreases cholesterol levels – Cholesterol play an important part in fat digestion and hormone production. Too much cholesterol can block arteries and lead to heart attacks. Wakame was found to decrease excess cholesterol build-up in the blood. Wakame seaweed supplement was found to decrease the LDL cholesterol in a study conducted on rats.

Low in calories – In 10 grams of seaweed, the amount of calories present is only 3.5. Eating seaweed will help satiate your hunger without adding to the calories.

4. Seaweeds are Good for diabetics

Many people suffer from the old-age disease, diabetes. This is the condition where the body is unable to balance the amount of blood sugar due to lack of hormones or insufficient action of the hormone.

Fucoxanthin is the substance found in brown algae that proves to be helpful for diabetics. In study conducted using fucoxanthin oil in increasing concentrations, it was found that the control group that took the most concentrated form of the oil had better blood sugar control.

There was a considerable improvement for those who had a genetic disposition to insulin resistance that is seen in people with type 2 diabetes.

This might be due to the fibre content in the seaweed. There is one more substance in the seaweed called alginate that helps regulate sugar spikes.

This is done by decreasing the amount of sugar absorption. Better sugar control was noticed when seaweed powder was added to the diet of rats. This is one of the effective benefits of eating seaweed.

5. Seaweed benefits are good for gut health

The bacteria in our guts help digest the food we eat and support overall health. Algae are found to be the best food item for supporting gut health.

This might be due to the high amount of fibre (23-64%) in the seaweeds. The bacteria in the gut feed on the fibre and multiply. It is estimated that you have more bacteria than human cells in your body.

Fibres resist digestion while remaining as a source of food for the bacteria.

This is an instance of good bacteria (there are bad bacteria that cause indigestion, diarrhea, and so on) that helps improve the immune system as well. 

Types of seaweeds

nori seaweeds health benefits

Seaweeds grow well in salty waters. They contain many useful ingredients that are easy for our body to break down and assimilate. Here is a look at the various types of seaweeds commonly available.

  1. Nori
  2. Blue-green Algae
  3. Wakame
  4. Dulse
  5. Kelp
  6. Kombu
  7. Spirulina

1. Nori

It is edible Japanese seaweed of the red algae species. Nori has a strong, distinct flavor and is used to wrap rolls of sushi. It is available as dried sheets and will disintegrate when it comes in contact with water. One must avoid daily consumption as Nori contains high amounts of cadmium and arsenic.

2. Blue-green Algae

Also known as cyanobacteria, blue-green algae are able to synthesize food through photosynthesis. Some of the bacteria in this group are nitrogen-fixing type and live in moist soils.

The seaweed variety has very attractive flowers but at times they might be toxic. People use blue-green algae to treat precancerous growths in the mouth. It helps increase energy and metabolism, improves the memory and the immune system.

3. Wakame

This highly edible, nutritious seaweed contains plenty of nutritious elements. It has low calories and adds vitamins and minerals to your diet.

The high iodine content supports thyroid function and helps reduce blood pressure and heart disease risks. It lowers cholesterol level and exhibits cancer-fighting properties. Diabetics with insulin resistance will benefit from taking wakame nutrition.

4. Dulse

This seaweed is high in soluble and insoluble fibre, antioxidants, Vitamin C, iron, iodine, Vitamin B12, and Vitamin K among others. This is red seaweed that is high in protein. It gives protection for a range of medical conditions from cardiovascular disease to breast cancer.

5. Kelp

This variety of brown seaweed grows in shallow waters where there is an excess of saltwater. You can find this on all the coastal fronts around the world.

It is not the typical seaweed you find in sushi rolls. It differs slightly in flavor, color, and the type and amount of nutrients. We get a compound known as sodium alginate from Kelp.

6. Kombu

Kombu in Japanese is dasima in Korean and haidai in Chinese. We get this in dried form or as a powder. Some people eat it fresh. It is one of the three ingredients needed for soup stock.

It is a good source for an amino acid named glutamic acid. You see high levels of iodine that helps normal growth and development. It helps digestion because of its high fibre content and a whole lot of enzymes.

7. Spirulina

Classified as a superfood, Spirulina is an excellent dietary supplement for vegetarians. It has a wonderful amount of nutrients such as proteins, phosphorus, carbohydrates, potassium, fats, sodium, calcium, iron, Vitamin C, and magnesium.

Spirulina is an organism that grows in both fresh and salt water. It is a type of cyanobacteria, which is a family of single-celled microbes that are often referred to as blue-green algae. 

Side effects of Using Excess Seaweed 

There is some bad effect if you consume too much seaweed.

1. Excess of iodine

Seaweed contains a high amount of iodine. This might turn dangerous but Japanese are considered among the healthiest people and it could be because of the high iodine in their diet.

The tolerable upper limit for adults is 1,100 mcg. The food usually limits the uptake of iodine. Excess iodine will cause symptoms such as tightness around the neck, thyroid dysfunction, and weight gain.

2. Presence of heavy metals

This is because seaweeds absorb minerals containing metals from the seawater. In edible seaweeds, the toxicity levels of aluminum, lead, and cadmium was found to be low. Though this is so, there remains the possibility that the toxicity could build up in the person eating the seaweeds.

3. Excess of sodium

Certain types may contain high amounts of sodium that could adversely affect those who have high blood pressure.

Final words about Seaweeds

Seaweed is a popular cuisine item that has wonderful taste-giving properties while being high in nutrition content. It helps nurture your thyroid gland that promotes the overall growth of the body.

Seaweed has vitamins and antioxidants that help in the body processes and protection from cell damage. It is also good for heart health. One only has to see that they avoid too much of seaweed intake to get all seaweed benefits.

References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3204293/
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1021949814000155#bib32

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Anoop Sharma

About Anoop Sharma

Anoop Sharma is an IT professional, freelance health writer and creator of www.medicinalplantsanduses.com. He is passionate about helping others learn about health issues and their natural remedies, yoga and healthy food.

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