Nori is a type of edible seaweed that is made from various types of red algae. You may be familiar with nori because it's commonly used in Japanese cuisine. Like other forms of seaweed, nori has a unique umami flavor. However, unlike other types of dehydrated seaweed, nori is typically consumed dry.
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Nori Nutrition and Foods
Until recently, nori referred to food made from seaweed of the Porphyra variety, like laver. These days, there are so many different types of seaweed that nori has been reclassified and can now refer to a range of different plants from the Pyropia and Porphyra families. Nori doesn't have to be rehydrated like other types of dried seaweed, such as wakame and kombu, that are commonly consumed in soups and salads.
Nori is known for being a good source of nutrients and is consumed all over the world. Nori's nutrition data makes it particularly popular in Asia and Australasia. You'll likely be most familiar with nori as it's used as a key ingredient in sushi. You may also find it as a component of salads or as a garnish. It's also often made into crispy snacks.
On the calorie counter, a standard serving of nori when made into any of these foods will often differ. However, even small amounts of nori contain tiny amounts (one to four percent) of most essential vitamins and minerals. Each ounce of laver seaweed has the nutritional value of:
- 29 percent of the daily value (DV) for vitamin A
- 7 percent of the DV for riboflavin (vitamin B2)
- 10 percent of the DV for folate (vitamin B9
- 18 percent of the DV for vitamin C
- 14 percent of the DV for manganese
At fewer than 10 calories per ounce, nori's calories are very low.
Read more: 10 Healthy Snacks You Can Make at the Office
A Plant With Animal Nutrients
Nori's nutrition is actually comparable to that of many animal products. You can find several different nutrients in nori that aren't commonly found in other fruits, vegetables or grains. Nori is unique because:
- It is known to be a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for your brain, immune system and cardiovascular health. Healthy omega-3 fats like DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), DPA (docosapentaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) are easy to obtain from fish and shellfish. Nori and other forms of seaweed are unique as they're one of the only vegan sources of EPA. However, they contain no DHA or DPA.
- It's known to be a good source of iron compared to most other plants. Iron can be found in animals and plants, with the richest sources coming from lean meat and seafood products. It can be difficult for the body to absorb the iron in certain plants, like spinach, despite their high iron content. This is not the case for seaweed like nori, though.
- Heat often causes nutrients in foods to degrade during the cooking process. A 2015 study in the Journal of Bioscience, Biotechnology and Biochemistry showed that the iron in nori actually increases slightly after toasting this plant. While this increase is fairly small, what's important is that the valuable nutrients found in nori are unaffected by the cooking process.
- Iodine can be found in dairy, seafood, eggs and other animal products. It's also present in many types of seaweed in large amounts. Compared to other marine plants, nori is comparatively low in iodine. The iodine in nori sheets is much less than that in other types of seaweed: Each gram of nori has 24.6 percent of the DV for iodine, while other types of seaweed, like wakame, have 93 percent of the DV and kombu has 1,682 percent of the DV.
- It contains vitamin B12, a nutrient that helps keep the body's nerve and blood cells healthy. Vitamin B12 is typically found in animal products, but certain marine plants, like green laver and purple laver, are rich in this nutrient as well. Nori is typically made from red algae, a type of laver. It has from 2.8 to 60.2 micrograms of vitamin B12 for every hundred grams of the food. However, you should be aware that the vitamin B12 levels in laver and other types of algae can be influenced by heat during cooking and even the seasonings.
As nori is so rich in nutrients that are often found in animal products, its consumption is particularly helpful for people who are following a vegan or vegetarian diet. In fact, it has been shown to help prevent vitamin deficiency in people who don't consume animal products (and consequently tend to consume limited amounts of these nutrients).
Benefits of Eating Nori
Nori has benefits that go beyond its nutritional content. A 2014 review in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics showed that eating nori can help remove toxins (like dioxins) from your body. These toxins are organic pollutants that can find their way into your body through the foods you eat and leave your body via your gastrointestinal system.
Nori and other types of seaweed contain a variety of healthy proteins that are beneficial for your health. The proteins in nori have:
- Anti-inflammatory effects and can modulate the immune system
- Anti-aging compounds
- Antimicrobial properties
- Antioxidants such as beta-carotene
- Positive effects on the cardiovascular system
In fact, nori and other types of algae are considered so beneficial that they're not only recommended for humans but used to nourish different types of farm animals. Algae has become increasingly popular as a type of feed for fish and other marine creatures.
Feeding fish algae can help increase their own nutritive value, like increasing omega-3 fatty acid content. This is one of the reasons farmed fish may have higher omega-3 levels than wild-caught fish, which have traditionally been thought to be richer in nutrients.
- The Pharma Innovation Journal: A Study on the Rich Compounds and Potential Benefits of Algae: A Review
- Environmental Toxicology and Pharmacology: Potential Anti-Inflammatory Natural Products From Marine Algae
- Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics: Detox Diets for Toxin Elimination and Weight Management: A Critical Review of the Evidence
- Experimental Biology and Medicine: Vitamin B12 Sources and Microbial Interaction
- Nutrients: Vitamin B12-Containing Plant Food Sources for Vegetarians
- NIH: Vitamin B12 Fact Sheet for Health Professionals
- Journal of Food and Drug Analysis: Analysis of Iodine Content in Seaweed by GC-ECD and Estimation of Iodine Intake
- British Dietetic Association: Food Fact Sheet: Iodine
- Journal of Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry: The Iron Content and Ferritin Contribution in Fresh, Dried, and Toasted Nori, Pyropia Yezoensis
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Seaweed, Wakame, Raw
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Health and Disease and in Growth and Development
- Lipid Technology: Dietary Sources, Current Intakes, and Nutritional Role of Omega-3 Docosapentaenoic Acid
- National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements: Omega-3 Fatty Acids Fact Sheet for Health Professionals
- SELFNutritionData: Seaweed, Laver, Raw
- National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research: What Are You Eating? NZ Scientists Reclassify Nori – The Seaweed Used to Make Sushi
- PLOS | ONE: Algae in Fish Feed: Performances and Fatty Acid Metabolism in Juvenile Atlantic Salmon
- National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements: Iron Fact Sheet for Health Professionals