By Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN
What It Is
The generic term "seaweed" is used for a bunch of sea vegetables that are classified by their color, shape, taste and texture. In the States, the edible preparations we most commonly see are nori, hijiki, wakame, arame and kombu, which made their way here from Japan. Eat up -- there’s good reason to munch on this seaworthy stuff.
The Dirty Deets
With seaweed nutrition, we’re not limited to the comfortable ground of carbs, fiber, fat and protein. We get to plunge deep with this one. Two tablespoons of seaweed has no calories. There’s no fat, no protein and only a couple grams of carbohydrates. How can something with so much nothing be good for you?
- Almost all of the minerals found in the ocean are found in seaweed. The mineral profile in seaweed is one of the most diverse you can find. Minerals are essential to our well-being, and sprinkling a few flakes of seaweed on your food can really help you get ‘em in.
- Research shows that chomping on seaweed is an effective tool for preventing breast cancer and lowering PMS symptoms. It has anti-inflammatory properties to fight arthritis, celiac disease, asthma and obesity, and it is also a rich source of antioxidants. Most of us have a family history of at least one of these issues, so give sea veggies a chance.
- Think you can eat seaweed by the fistful? Think again. The high concentration of the mineral iodine can be damaging to your thyroid. Before you give yourself free rein, remember to use in moderation. It is, after all, possible to have too much of a good thing.
How To Chow Down
Seaweed is a versatile ingredient. You can warm to the idea of adding it to your food by sneaking it into a soup or using it as an additive if having it as a feature of your dish is just too daunting. What I mean is, there's room for seaweed in your burger if the thought of eating a seaweed-rich salad gives you the willies. Here are some tricks to try.
- If you're looking to ditch the salt shaker and add a ton of flavor, try seaweed flakes. A little shaker of seaweed and sesame seeds, this magical seasoning is perfect on top of rice, stirred into soups or used as an ingredient in savory baking. A little shimmy-shake over your grilled or broiled fish really brings out the flavor.
- Not just for sushi, you’ll find sheets of nori seaweed at regular markets, Asian food stores and health food stores. Use these as little wrappers for rice, fish or veggies; make a hand roll by placing your filling on one side of the sheet of nori and rolling it into a cone. I like to wrap turkey in a sheet of nori as a fast, mineral-loaded “wrap.” You can also make a nori omelet. Line a tortilla with a piece of nori before filling it with your fixins, or cut it into your miso or noodle soup for kicks and giggles.
- Seaweed salad is a Japanese staple and will likely be a welcome alternative to your usual method of eating greens. The texture is substantial, and it's a great vehicle for all of your favorite Japanese flavors, including ginger, soy, sesame and green onions. There is amazing flavor in this seemingly simple bowl of greens!
In The Know
It’s time to go outside of your typical grocery list and start digging into some sea greens. So turn down those potato chips for some seaweed snacks and embrace munching on Asian fare, American-style.