When you think of healthy snacks, seaweed may not be the first thing that pops into your mind. However, seaweed, which refers to a variety of algae grown in bodies of water, is highly nutritious, delicious, and versatile. Whether you’re simply snacking on some nori or enjoying a seaweed salad for lunch, this food can be a great addition to your diet and offer a range of health benefits.
To learn all about this surprisingly nutrient-packed food, we spoke to nutritionist Lisa Richards, creator of The Candida Diet, dietitian Trista Best of Balance One Supplements, and registered nurse Krista Elkins from Health Canal. With their expert insight, we put together a list of 8 incredible benefits of eating seaweed. Find it all below!
8 Benefits Of Eating Seaweed
Below, we'll dive into just a few of the best health benefits of eating seaweed on a regular basis.
1. Offers antioxidants to fight disease
If you want to protect yourself from disease, one of the best things to do is up your intake of antioxidants–and as it turns out, seaweed is a great source. “Seaweed is rich in antioxidants, making it useful for protecting against and reversing oxidative damage to the cells,” Richards explains. “This characteristic of seaweed makes it a great addition to a health regimen that is focused on fighting chronic disease.” Nice! Specific diseases antioxidants help fight include heart disease, cancer, and more. Overall, they protect your body from free radicals, which can lead to aging and illness–so adding antioxidants to your diet with nutrient-rich foods like seaweed is never a bad idea.
2. Decreases diabetes risks
Diabetes is a serious health risk for Americans. Luckily, there are ways to prevent it by lowering your blood sugar. In fact, eating seaweed might be one great way to keep your blood sugar levels at bay. “Fucoxanthin and alginate are compounds in seaweed that have been studied and have been showing beneficial results in lowering a person’s blood sugar, thereby reducing their risk of diabetes,” Elkins tells us. Best agrees, noting that “some promising studies show certain nutrients in kelp can help lower the risk of diabetes by lowering blood glucose.” She goes on to say that not only can this help decrease the risk of diabetes, but it “can also improve the health status of those with existing diabetes by balancing glucose levels”
3. Helps gut health
Gut health is all the rage these days–and for good reason! Our gut plays a role in practically every area of our wellbeing, from digestion to mental health. There are many changes you can make to improve gut health, and Richards says eating nutrient-rich foods like seaweed is one of them. “Gut health is linked to overall health and seaweed contains many nutrients to support good gut health,” she says. One such nutrient is none other than the ever-important fiber. “The fiber found in seaweed acts as a prebiotic which feeds the good bacteria in the gut allowing it to thrive,” she explains. And when balance is restored to your gut microbiome, you’ll be well on your way to a healthier body. Score!
4. Helps with weight loss
Eating high levels of fiber can do more for your body than just improve digestion. As it turns out, eating ample amounts of this essential nutrient can do wonders for your body, especially if you’re trying to lose weight, which is part of the reason why seaweed makes a great addition to any weight loss diet. As Richards explains, “The fiber content in seaweed may also help with weight loss by reducing cravings and the potential for overeating.” But it isn’t just the fiber in seaweed that can help you reach your goal weight. She tells us that “it also contains a compound called fucoxanthin which some studies suggest may reduce body fat.”
5. Improves heart health
The high fiber content of seaweed offers yet another health benefit, too: it may lower your cholesterol and protect you from heart disease. According to Medical News Today, soluble fibers are able to bind to the bile acids and salts in your body and, in turn, lower cholesterol by using it to replace these elements. Healthline also notes that regularly eating seaweed may help prevent blood clotting (another major cause of heart disease) thanks to carbohydrates called fucans. One study even showed that seaweed may even be as effective at preventing clots as certain drugs. Additionally, as mentioned before, seaweed offers a great amount of heart-healthy antioxidants.
6. Improves thyroid function
Thanks to the high iodine content of many types of seaweed (especially kelp), regularly eating this food could also help improve your thyroid function, according to Healthline. What does your thyroid do, exactly? This important gland affects a range of factors like energy and cell repair; if your thyroid isn’t functioning properly, you may run into unwanted weight gain, fatigue, and more. Ensuring you’re consuming enough sources of iodine is one great way to keep things running smoothly and avoid these issues. Luckily, seaweed absorbs iodine from the ocean, so incorporating it into your diet can make meeting your recommended daily intake a breeze!
7. Strengthens Immunity
According to Healthline, seaweed may also help give your immune system a boost and protect you from certain infections. Although not much research has been done on this subject yet, certain studies look promising. The possible benefits stem from certain plant compounds found in seaweed that may have antioxidant, anti-allergenic, disease-fighting properties that can help keep your cells protected from viruses. Additionally, the gut-healthy benefits offered by seaweed can help to improve immune function, since our guts play a major role in our immune system. Seaweed also contains vitamin C, zinc, iron, and manganese, all of which are known to boost immunity.
8. Build stronger bones
Milk and dairy products aren’t the only source of calcium! Best tells us that certain types of seaweed, such as kelp, can be a great food when it comes to getting the necessary vitamins and minerals that promote stronger bones. “Kelp provides a rich source of bone-building minerals including calcium, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus,” she says. In addition to these minerals, kelp is rich in Vitamin K, which she notes “is a unique vitamin that is necessary for bone health.” In addition to building stronger muscles, Vitamin K “decreases the risk of fractures in those with pre-existing osteoporosis.” One more of the helpful compounds in seaweed is fucoidan, a sulfated polysaccharide, which Best tells us “boosts osteoblast development,” a.k.a. the cells that build bones. So, you may be able to trade your daily glass of milk for some seaweed!
How to prepare/eat seaweed
So, now that you know all the incredible benefits of seaweed, how can you start reaping them? Luckily, there are so many ways to fit seaweed into your diet, especially when it comes to Asian cuisine. You may choose to eat some simple roasted, salted seaweed as a crunchy snack; you can add it to miso soup; you can add seaweed snacks to a range of dishes such as grain and noodle bowls. And, of course, eating sushi is always a great way to fit in some seaweed, along with other tasty veggies. When in doubt, do some research on recipes–but there’s really no wrong way to eat it!
The bottom line
Overall, seaweed is a delicious, surprisingly nutrient-rich food with a plethora of health benefits. Whether you’re looking for a way to keep your heart healthy, boost your immunity, or just enjoy a salty snack without putting on some extra pounds, adding it to your diet is always a great idea.