Agar has been used in Asian cooking for hundreds of years. Agar comes from seaweed that grows on the rocky areas of tidal waters of Japan, China and Sri Lanka. Agar is white and semi-translucent; it's void of sugar, starch, soy, corn, gluten, yeast, wheat, milk, egg, animal byproducts or preservatives, according to VegetarianLoveToKnow.com. It’s a vegetarian delight, available in dried strips, powdered form or as flakes. As with any dietary supplement, agar should be taken with the advice and supervision of your health care practitioner.
According to Michele Wanke, of VegetarianLoveToKnow.com, agar is used as a filler in paper sizing fabric as well as a clarifying agent in brewing. It’s also used as a dietary supplement to lose weight. It is commonly used as a thickener for soups, jelly and ice cream, as well as a binder in puddings and custards.
According to QuiteHealthy.com, a 1-ounce serving size, or 28 grams, of agar contains 0.9 grams of total fat, 87 calories, 22.93 grams of carbohydrate and 1.76 grams of protein. The mineral content in this serving size includes 177.19 milligrams of calcium, 318.84 mg potassium, 6.07 mg iron and 28.92 mg of sodium. Agar contains no cholesterol.
Agar acts as an appetite suppressant; it becomes gelatinous when wet, swells and gives a feeling of fullness. This suppresses your hunger, curbs your appetite and promotes weight loss. It’s a rich source of minerals. It’s a high-fiber product with a laxative effect that helps to regulate and cleanse the bowel.
A study by Hiromichi Maeda, et al evaluated the efficacy of the combination of an agar diet with a conventional Japanese diet for obese patients with glucose intolerance and type 2 diabetes. The results were published in 2005 in the Diabetes Obese Metabolism Journal. Seventy-six patients were randomly assigned a conventional diet or a conventional diet with agar for 12 weeks. Both groups' body weight, body fat, fat distribution, body mass index, glycemic control, blood pressure, insulin resistance and fat and lipids were measured before and after the experimental period.
The results revealed that the agar diet produced significant weight loss due to maintenance of reduced calorie intake and improved metabolism.
Agar is a bulk laxative that may influence dietary absorption of minerals, protein and fat, according to the Ayurvedic Medicine website. Take agar on an empty stomach with at least 8 ounces of water. Follow up with adequate fluid intake throughout the day to avoid the side effects of bowel or esophageal obstructions. Agar should not be taken during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. Discuss any medications you are taking with your doctor before taking agar.