It’s not just for wrapping around rice anymore. (Corbis)
You should be getting more seaweed in your diet. That’s the takeaway from a new scientific article published in the journal Phycologia, that says it doesn’t take a lot to reap the benefits.
In the article, researchers from the University of Southern Denmark say that adding seaweed to processed foods like frozen pizzas, hot dogs, and dried pasta could help reduce instances of heart disease.
They also argue that swapping salty-tasting seaweed for traditional sodium salt can help lower blood pressure, and that dried and granulated seaweed can be swapped for some flour used to make dry pasta, bread, and snack bars.
It sounds a little extreme, but experts say they’re on to something.
“Seaweed is very good for you — it has the full mineral profile,” Toronto-based nutritionist Theresa Albert, author of “Ace Your Health,” tells Yahoo Health.
Among the nutrients included in seaweed: Vitamins A and C, potassium, magnesium, and iodine, which helps with your thyroid function. And they can have a big impact on your health.
“There have been some studies that link consumption of this ‘superfood’ to reducing the risk of breast cancer, decreasing inflammation, preventing obesity, improving fertility — the list goes on,” certified dietitian-nutritionist Lisa Moskovitz, RD, CEO of NY Nutrition Group, tells Yahoo Health.
The paper’s lead author Ole G. Mouritsen, PhD, says in a press release that it doesn’t take a lot of seaweed to reap the benefits: He recommends eating up to 10 grams (less than a tablespoon) of dried seaweed a day.
There are several different types of seaweed that you can eat, but their nutritional makeup is similar. Dried versions include nori and kelp, powdered versions include spirulina, and fresh versions include wakame or kelp.
Substituting seaweed for salt sounds unusual, but Albert says it’s actually pretty common in Japan where it’s not unusual to see a salt shaker on a table filled with sesame seeds and dried nori (the most commonly used form of seaweed).
Swapping dried nori for regular table salt can do two things, she says: It can increase your intake of minerals like magnesium and potassium and reduce the amount of sodium you’re putting into your body (which, when eaten in excess, can increase your risk of developing heart disease and high blood pressure.)
While you can make it a habit to order seaweed salads when you eat at certain restaurants, Moskovitz says you can also eat seaweed at home roasted, chopped up in salads, blended into smoothies, or cooked into vegetable soups.
There are a lot of packaged seaweed snacks on the market, but Albert notes that they can often contain additives, artificial flavorings, or unhealthy fats that you want to steer clear of. “Is it better than chips? Yes, if it’s the best you can do,” she says.
While it’s beneficial to eat seaweed, New York City registered dietitian Jessica Cording points out that too much of anything is bad. “For people who need to watch their intake of potassium salts, iodine, iron, and fiber, they may need to keep their intake on the lower end,” she tells Yahoo Health.
Albert recommends that most people look into increasing their seaweed intake (often found at health food stores and even some larger chain grocery stores): “It fills in a lot of the gaps that we’re missing from other foods.”