Seaweed is most commonly recognized as being the green wrapping around your sushi rolls, but it has so much more to offer your body and the planet than just sushi support. Seaweed is known as the ocean’s superfood and is one of the most sustainable, nutritious and cheapest foods we can grow. It's an abundant source of minerals and has unique cleansing and detoxifying properties. Seaweed is an amazing, underutilized gift straight from the ocean.
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Once you get over the slimy texture, you’ll find that seaweed has a lot to offer nutritionally and is easy to sneak into your diet in different forms. Sea vegetables are rich in trace minerals, iodine, iron and calcium. These minerals are essential for proper brain function, metabolism and maintenance of strong bones. They also have powerful electrolytes to help keep you hydrated, contain blood-purifying chlorophyll (remember, they're still plants and require photosynthesis to develop) and polysaccharides, which detoxify your body from heavy metals and other toxic substances. They can also be great sources of protein, vitamin B-12 and omega-3 fatty acids. These properties definitely qualify seaweed as a superfood — one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet.
One of the biggest factors contributing to climate change is the carbon-dioxide emissions produced from factory farming. More than a quarter of the CO2 released into the atmosphere is absorbed directly into the ocean. Seaweed, however, has the amazing ability to absorb dissolved nitrogen, phosphorus and carbon dioxide directly from the sea. It actually needs to absorb CO2 in order to grow, making it the ideal plant to assist with our threatened ecosystems.
We need seaweed to keep our oceans clean. Fortunately, it’s a resilient plant that reproduces quickly. Seaweed farms are becoming more popular and have the capacity to grow nutrient-dense food for both humans and animals. Seaweed also has the potential to be a source of biofuel and fertilizer for crops like corn and soy. As one of the fastest-growing plants in the world, it could nourish the entire planet while leaving a negative carbon footprint — you can think of seaweed as the culinary equivalent to an electric car.
Varieties of Seaweed
Seaweed has more than 10,000 species, but here are some of the most common and easiest to incorporate into your diet:
Nori is commonly used for sushi rolls. Sourced from the waters of Japan, nori is packaged in dehydrated sheets because it’s very sensitive to moisture. You can find nori seaweed snacks and the packaged sheets at most health-food stores.
Packaged kelp noodles work well as a gluten-free, vegan and raw pasta alternative — and who doesn’t like pasta? One of the most unique ways to utilize this type of seaweed is by adding a large strip to a pot of water with beans prior to boiling to help reduce the gas-producing properties of the beans.
Spirulina and Chlorella
Although these aren’t grown in the sea per se, they’re still categorized as seaweeds. Spirulina and chlorella are blue-green algae that grow in freshwater lakes. Both are most commonly found in powder form alongside other superfoods like cacao and maca in health-food stores. They are extremely alkalizing for the body and, just like most seaweeds, used for chelation therapy to rid the body of heavy metals. They are easily blended into smoothies, ice creams and almond milks and add a nutritional boost when sprinkled on any dark leafy salad.
This seaweed is brown and a bit sweet. It’s rich in calcium and an easy way to get this mineral if you don’t want to swallow a calcium pill in supplement form or if your kidneys have trouble processing hard minerals. If you’re new to seaweed, you may want to start with arame since the flavor is so mild. It’s usually found in finely shredded strands and has a crispy texture. You can snack on it right out of the bag or throw on top of salads or stir-fry dishes.
Wakame is a wonderful seaweed for women in particular, because it’s been shown to significantly reduce bloating. It tastes a bit like spinach and is commonly used in seaweed salads. Soak it briefly first and keep in mind that it will expand about 20 times. When boiled with water, it provides a healing mineral-rich broth, one that you will find as a base for most miso soups.
Dulse is a red marine seaweed that has twice the nutritional value of kale and (allegedly) tastes like bacon when fried. This discovery has helped increase its popularity as a bacon alternative for people who are monitoring their cholesterol levels or living a vegan lifestyle. It’s a great source of protein and iron and easy to snack on or sprinkle onto salads and grains.
This variety is colorless and tasteless for the most part, so you can easily add it to various dishes simply for the nutritional value. Blend it into smoothies to strengthen connective tissues after an intense workout. It can also be used as a binder and thickening agent — particularly good for raw vegan desserts to achieve a firmer or mousse-like consistency. It’s essentially the vegan form of gelatin. Soak Irish moss for a few hours before using, and rinse in cold water to get rid of access sand and rocks.
Here are a few recipes to get you started on seaweed:
Mint Chocolate-Chip Smoothie
2 cups of almond milk
1 cup of fresh coconut meat (about 1 young Thai coconut)
1 frozen banana
4 large medjool dates
1 teaspoon of spirulina or chlorella
1 tablespoon of cacao
1 tablespoon of cacao nibs
1 teaspoon of vanilla
Handful fresh mint leaves
Sweetener of your choice to taste (we recommend dates, stevia or raw honey)
Directions: Blend everything together in a high-speed blender and enjoy!
Paleo Nori Rolls With Almond Butter Dipping Sauce
1 head of cauliflower
4 sheets of nori
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced into sticks
1 carrot, thinly sliced into sticks
1 cucumber, thinly sliced into sticks
1 zucchini, sliced into sticks
1 avocado, halved and thinly sliced
1. Pulse cauliflower in a food processor until it turns into “rice.”
2. Saute cauliflower in a pan with olive oil and sea salt for a few minutes until soft.
3. Place a piece of nori on a cutting board and cover with the cooled “rice,” leaving about an inch on one side.
4. Layer the vegetables onto the rice on the end closest to you.
5. Start wrapping the sushi roll by rolling it away from you.
6. Wet the one inch of nori that doesn’t have rice on top of it and roll the sushi on top of it to seal the roll.
7. Use a sharp knife to cut into pieces.
Almond butter dipping-sauce ingredients:
1/2 cup of almond butter, raw
2 tablespoons of coconut aminos
2 tablespoons of lime juice
2 tablespoons of maple syrup
1 garlic clove
2 inches of ginger, grated
1 teaspoon of toasted sesame oil
Blend all ingredients together and use water to thin to desired consistency.
1 tablespoon of wakame, soaked
1 tablespoon of arame, dried
1 nori sheet, chopped to top salad
Pinch of pickled ginger
1/2 daikon root, shredded
1/2 avocado, cubed
Handful of pea shoots
1/2 watermelon radish, thinly sliced into circles
1/2 carrot, shredded
1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon of black sesame seeds
2 tablespoons of whole raw almonds
2 large handfuls of mixed greens
Handful of mint and cilantro leaves
2 inches of ginger, grated or chopped finely
1 clove of garlic
1 tablespoon of coconut aminos (or tamari)
2 tablespoons of light yellow miso
2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons of toasted sesame oil
Blend all ingredients together and use water to thin to desired consistency.
Meryl Pritchard is a holistic health coach and founder of Kore Kitchen, an organic meal delivery service based in Los Angeles focusing on whole foods that are seasonal, sustainable and locally sourced. Meryl believes in living an 80/20 lifestyle: 80 percent healthy, 20 percent indulgent. She works with many of L.A.'s top entertainment industry professionals, including well-known actors and actresses. Connect with Meryl on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.