Are you looking for creative ways to include vegetables in your diet? What about sea vegetables? While the suggestion may sound foreign to many people, the consumption of sea vegetables or seaweed has been around for generations. It has been used in the Japanese cuisines for over 10,000 years. The Chinese considered it a delicacy and regions surrounding coastal areas have also utilized seaweed in their diet including Scotland, Norway, Iceland, New Zealand and various coastal South American countries.
If you go to an Asian grocery store, you may find different types of seaweed: nori, wakame, hijki, kombu, arame and dulse. You can also find them online or in specialty stores. For a start, sea vegetables are classified as algae. They can be brown, red or green. If you’re a little confused, here’s a little guide:
- Nori: Most people are familiar with this as it is used to make sushi rolls. It is generally dark purple to black in color and it turns green when toasted.
- Wakame: Dark green in color, comes in sheets or strips. Some say that it looks and tastes like slippery spinach. Soak wakame seaweed in water for at least 15 minutes prior to using. Dried flakes may be added directly to food. Most commonly added to miso soup.
- Kombu: Dark green and thick sea vegetable. Due to its high levels of glutamates, notably monosodium glutamate (MSG), it is often used to flavor soups and stews. Dashi comes to mind.
- Arame: Milder and sweeter than most seaweed, Arame looks lacy and wiry.
- Dulse: Soft and chewy, dulse is reddish-brown in color and may be used without first soaking it.
- Hijiki: Black and wiry, it resembles worm but this particular seaweed boasts high levels of iron. Caution: strong flavor.
Now that you’re briefly introduced to the various types of sea vegetables, you may still be wondering about the need to include these in your diet. For those unaccustomed to the taste, it may taste grass-like with a marine smell. Taste and smell aside, seaweed is highly versatile and offers a number of health benefits. If you know how to prepare it right, it may even taste scrumptious.
High Mineral and Nutrients:
Collectively, their nutritional profile is impressive. They contain measurable amounts of calcium, iron, iodine, copper, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, zinc and a group of phytonutrients known as sulfated polysaccharides, noted for its anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and pro-cardiovascular benefits. Like a nutritional superstar, they don’t stop at that. They are also high in vitamin K, B-vitamins, folate.
Some scientific research shows that seaweed contains algiic acid, which can bind itself to heavy metals in the intestines. That renders the heavy metals indigestible and causes them to be eliminated from the body.
If you look at hair products, they’re likely to contain biotin. Why not allow the natural biotin in seaweed to give you luscious looking hair. Is it possible at all? While research is inconclusive, there is some evidence that suggests eating seaweed can encourage hair growth due to the high mineral content found.
Other health benefits include regulating hormones, assisting metabolism and fighting cancer, amongst others.
You can include seaweed in your diet in a number of ways–use them in main dishes, as a condiment, in soups, in salads and as a snack. Here’s a wakame salad I make on a regular basis as it is easy and delicious.
- 1 small cucumber, seeded and slice thinly
- 1 red bell pepper, sliced thinly
- 2 or 3 stalks of scallion or cilantro, chopped finely
- 1 tbs of freshly chopped ginger
- ½ cup of wakame seaweed flakes (no need to soak)
- A handful of toasted sesame seeds
Put all the above ingredients in a large bowl and toss with the dressing below
- 2 tsp of light soya sauce or tamari
- 2 tsp of sugar or honey powder
- 1 ½ tbs of rice vinegar
- 1 ½ tbs of sesame oil
- Salt and pepper to taste.
Whisk all the ingredients together before adding.
Allow salad to stand for 15 minutes (preferably in the fridge) before serving.