We know that when we say seaweed, the first thing that comes to mind is probably the gross-looking, slimy stuff that washes up on the beach or gets tangled up around your ankles when you go for a swim in something other than a pool. Not immediately appetizing. But don’t worry, we’re not asking you to go to your nearest beach, gather up whatever green stuff has washed ashore, sort out the sand dollars or assorted trash and put it on your plate. Far from it. Seaweed is a staple of many East Asian cuisines and its myriad health benefits are often credited with being part of the reason why those who frequently eat it, particularly the Japanese, are so healthy and live so long.
Here’s where you can breathe a sigh of relief: seaweed intended for eating and used in many Asian dishes bears no resemblance to the stuff that lives on the bottom of the lake where you vacationed as a kid. Most seaweed actually has a mild, salty flavor and can be used as a topping on salads and pizza, eaten as a snack or put in soups. And you only need a little bit of this vitamin-rich super food to get all the benefits. There are three main varieties of seaweed, brown, green and red, but they have many of the same benefits.
Why You Should Eat It
Seaweed has vitamins A and C, as well as calcium, but the real benefit comes from its high iodine content. Iodine is extremely difficult to find in other foods but is essential for thyroid heath. Your thyroid is the gland in your neck that produces and regulates your hormones. When you become iodine deficient and your thyroid doesn’t function properly, you can experience fatigue and muscle weakness and it can lead to a spike in your cholesterol levels.
If left untreated, it can cause serious problems including memory loss, heart palpitations, swelling of the thyroid, chronic fatigue, depression, poor immune system, difficulty losing weight and more. In other words, definitely not something you want to mess with. Most salt has iodine added to it to counter iodine deficiency (that’s why it says iodized salt on the package). However, if you eat or are trying to eat a low-sodium diet, it could potentially lead to iodine deficiency down the road.
On top of thyroid health, seaweed also helps reduce the risk of certain cancers (especially breast cancer), is packed with antioxidants, reduces inflammation and helps balance estrogen levels in the body, which is essential if you want to help protect those gains you’ve been working on.
How to Eat It
There are many different ways to enjoy the benefits of seaweed, including in supplement form. Yes, that’s right. For those of you who just can’t stand the idea of eating seaweed, you can take a seaweed supplement. For those of you not afraid of eating it, you can add almost any form to salads or try making homemade sushi with nori (a type of seaweed) sheets. You can buy seaweed noodles, often labeled as kelp noodles, and put them in soups or make a noodle dish with them. You can also simmer it down to incorporate it into soup, or throw it on top of a homemade pizza for some extra saltiness.
Where to Find It
If you live in a decently sized city or a city with a large Asian population, you will have no trouble at all finding different kinds of seaweed to add into meal prep rotation. Asian grocery stores will have multiple varieties for you to choose from, and many natural and organic grocers, like Whole Foods, also carry multiple varieties of seaweed.
We hope this information helps keep you happy and healthy on your way to making gains.