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Does Brown Seaweed Cause Weight Loss?

author image Jessica Hendricks
Jessica Hendricks has worked as a professional journalist for CBS and ABC News in the areas of health, fitness and nutrition. Passionate about wine, she has also worked for several food and drink publications. She holds three master's degrees in Eastern European culture, journalism and nutrition and dietetics.
Does Brown Seaweed Cause Weight Loss?
A bowl of seaweed salad on a table. Photo Credit: vi-mart/iStock/Getty Images

Seaweed, a type of sea vegetable, is eaten around the world. Common in Asian cuisine as well as along the coasts of North America and Europe, dried or fresh seaweed is available in health food stores and Asian grocery stores. There are many types of brown seaweed, some of which you can safely eat and incorporate into a weight-loss diet.

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Definition of Brown Seaweed

Most of the brown seaweed you'll come across in the grocery store is kelp, one of the most commonly consumed seaweeds. Brown seaweeds look very plantlike, are larger in size than red or green seaweeds and are so named because of their color. They don't have any roots but have large edible leaves. Kelp is eaten as a sea vegetable in Asian and health-food diets, but it's also the starting ingredient for food thickeners and other additives.

Low in Calories

Kelp is naturally low in calories, with a 2-tablespoon serving containing only 4 calories per serving, 0.17 gram of protein and 0.1 gram of fiber. Brown seaweed can be used in place of beef to create nutritious flavorful stocks or to add bulk to vegetable soups. For example, if you used 1/2 cup of kelp in place of 1/2 cup of pasta in a vegetable soup once a week for a year, you'd save enough calories to lose 1 pound a year, even without any other changes to your diet and exercise program.

Fucoxanthin and Weight Loss

Brown seaweeds, such as kelp, naturally contain fucoxanthin, which might be associated with lower body weight and fat loss. A 2010 issue of “Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism” included a human study on obese women that found that consuming fucoxanthin from brown seaweed, in tandem with pomegranate seed oil, led to lower body weight among the test subjects. The test subjects who consumed the seaweed and oil mixture also experienced a decrease in overall waist circumference, liver fat content, body fat content and triglyceride levels. It also led to improved liver function. While the results were promising, this study did not investigate the effect of fucoxanthin alone, so it's not a proven weight-loss aid.

Eating Kelp

While kelp extracts can be found in a range of processed foods, you can also prepare it at home to be eaten whole. The most common form of kelp available is kombu. Often sold as a flat, dried sheet with a dark green and brownish color, kombu is used as a primary ingredient to make miso soup, and it can also be used to make fresh salads. Dried kelp is also ground into a powder to make kelp noodles, which contain the full nutritional value and benefits of whole kelp. Kelp noodles are commonly used in Korean cooking and have a light taste and springy texture. They can be used in place of regular wheat or rice noodles in dishes.

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