Healthy Eating: Under the sea

Loaded with vitamins and minerals, seaweed is a nutritional powerhouse; find out what health benefits await at the bottom of the ocean.

sushi (photo credit: courtesy/onami)
(photo credit: courtesy/onami)
The character Sebastian from Disney classic The Little Mermaid may have had a point – under the sea, it may be better – especially when it comes to getting green veggies. When it comes to vegetables, the likes of cucumber, peppers, broccoli and other land-based produce typically come to mind; but does seaweed?
Unfortunately, when it comes to filling our plates with greens many of us forget about plants that grow beneath the deep blue ocean. This is a real shame, as “darling, it’s better, down where it’s wetter” under the sea.
Take a dive under the waves and find out what healthy treasures are growing out at sea: 
Considered the spinach of the sea, Wakame (like popeye’s favorite) is a low calorie, nutrient-dense food. Loaded with vitamins and minerals, Wakame, is an excellent source of the B vitamins, which are essential for cellular metabolism and for providing your body with energy.
This brown seaweed is also abundant in calcium and magnesium, two minerals necessary for strong bones and normal muscle function (making it a great alternative for those of us who don’t like milk). And if that wasn’t enough, it’s considered a great source of iron, a nutrient that many women get too little of.
However, that’s far from all. Have you ever gotten, or at least heard of a seaweed wrap? Aside from leaving your skin silky smooth, this wrap helps to remove toxins from the skin. Some studies indicate that eating seaweed may have a similar effect on the entire body.
Wakame contains align (sodium alginate), which helps to detoxify the body from radioactive particles or heavy metals. While this is probably not a concern unless you happen to live near a melted-down nuclear power plant, studies have found that this compound can help to eliminate toxins present in cigarette smoke. Algin has also been found to help relieve arthritis symptoms and improve digestion. 
Finally, Wakame is also a rich source of iodine, a crucial nutrient for proper thyroid function. However watch out, as too much iodine can lead to unwanted side effects. As table salt contains iodine, it is important to balance your intake of kelp and salt.
Kombu, another popular type of kelp, is loaded with many of the same nutrients as Wakame. It’s particularly high in calcium, iron as well as Vitamin C; however, this kelp has one added advantage… it contains fucoidan. Aside from being a tricky word to pronounce, this phytochemical may help to prevent the formation of blood clots.
Studies have also found that this seaweed may help to reduce hypertension as well as blood cholesterol by boosting the levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol and lowering LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Finally, more and more people have begun to associate seaweed as a diet food. Some rumors (and even studies) have tied it with weight loss as a compound in this sea plant. Whether or not this is actually true, Kombu seaweed is packed with fiber - one ounce provides seven grams of fiber to be exact – which is tied to weight loss as it helps you stay, and feel, full longer.
So what’s the deal with Nori? Or better yet, what is Nori? Well the good news is that if you eat sushi than you have already eaten, and most likely are a fan, of Nori. Used to wrap sushi, Nori is also loaded with essential B vitamins and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, iodine and iron. In fact, 100 grams of Nori contain approximately 88 percent of our recommended daily intake of iron, making it an extremely rich source of this much-needed mineral, particularly for women who generally have low levels of iron.
If that wasn’t enough, Nori is loaded with omega-3 fatty acid. In fact, just one sheet of Nori has the same amount of this essential fatty acid as two whole avocadoes. Best known for its cholesterol lowering and anti-inflammatory benefits, this good fat is also great for the skin as it helps to create a natural oil barrier on your skin, helping to reduce acne and dry skin.
Finally, preliminary studies have found that regular consumption of this seaweed is linked to a lower risk of breast cancer. While the studies have still proven inconclusive, one thing is certain, Nori is extremely high in fiber, which has been linked to a decreased rate of colon cancer.