Seaweed may not seem like a traditional food to incorporate into your diet, but it contains a wealth of vitamins and minerals. The seaweed typically seen wrapping sushi rolls is called nori. The high nutritional value and low fat content of this and other sea vegetables make them worth looking into to add to your meals.
Iodine is an important mineral for health, and seaweed contains large amounts of iodine. This mineral is essential for healthy thyroid functioning. Iodine deficiency is the most common cause of preventable brain damage, notes the Linus Pauling Institute. Brown algae has the highest iodine content, but red and green algae contain more than enough iodine for the recommended daily allowance. According to the Institute for Traditional Medicine, adults should consume 150 micrograms per day; 1 g of brown algae has 500 to 8,000 micrograms of iodine, and 1 g of green or red algae can provide 100 to 300 micrograms.
Calcium keeps the heart, muscles, nerves and body systems working properly and helps build strong bones and teeth. Seaweed is a plant source rich in calcium, with approximately 70 mg of calcium in 1 g of dried seaweed. Adults ages 19 to 50 need 1,000 mg daily, and those over 50 need about 1,500 mg of calcium daily, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Adding seaweed to your diet can help you add to your daily calcium totals.
Some types of seaweed, especially nori, contain a range of B vitamins. Nori is one of the few plant sources of vitamin B-12, which is necessary for red blood cell formation, DNA synthesis and proper neurological functioning. The other B vitamins are important for promoting healthy growth and development, helping turn food into energy, producing blood cells, breaking down protein and helping the body produce and maintain DNA.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Seaweed, especially algae, is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s must be obtained through the diet because the human body does not produce them. Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation, aid in cognitive and behavioral functioning and reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol and blood pressure.
- Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University: Iodine
- Institute for Traditional Medicine: The Nutritional and Medicinal Value of Seaweeds Used in Chinese Medicine
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Calcium
- National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin B12
- Bastyr University: "Seaweed a Versatile Addition to Any Diet"
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Omega-3 Fatty Acids