Western cultures are only recently beginning to enjoy the taste and nutritional value of sea vegetables, often referred to as seaweed, that have been a staple of the Japanese diet for centuries. Sea vegetables are neither plants nor animals but classified in a group known as algae and are found growing in both marine salt waters as well as fresh water sources.
Archaeological evidence suggests that Japanese cultures have been consuming sea vegetables for more than 10,000 years. In ancient Chinese cultures, sea vegetables were relegated for honored guests and royalty. Globally, many countries near coastal waters also have incorporated sea vegetables; they include Scotland, Ireland, Norway, Iceland, New Zealand, the Pacific Islands and coastal South American counties.
You may wonder what is so special nutritionally about these sea vegetables that they have survived the test of time and been incorporated in so many cultures. Interestingly enough, they offer the broadest range of minerals of any food, containing virtually all the minerals found in the ocean-the same minerals that are found in human blood. Sea vegetables are a very good source of the B-vitamins, particularly folate-important cancer protective nutrient as well as a regulatory constituent in controlling key inflammatory factors. In addition, sea vegetables contain lignans, plant compounds which help with detoxifying processes in the body.
The major impact of sea vegetables I see, relates to its ability to support thyroid function. In Tignum’s nutrition module we emphasize how to use foods to impact our vitality and optimal energy. The thyroid is vital for regulating metabolism in every cell and plays a role in virtually all physiological functions thus consuming foods to support this vital organ will optimize energy in the body. Even the slightest imbalance in thyroid function can impact your resilience and performance.
Research has also shown that sea vegetables can be key to reducing inflammation in the body which can be quite key in lowering your risk for many degenerative disease conditions. Interestingly enough, the mineral profile is ideal to also help restore normal sleep patterns especially women who are experiencing symptoms of menopause.
Get to know your sea veggies: There are thousands of types of sea vegetables that are classified into categories by color, known either as brown, red or green sea vegetables. The following are some of the most popular types:
Nori: dark purple-black color that turns phosphorescent green when toasted, famous for its role in making sushi rolls.
Kelp: light brown to dark green in color.
Hijiki: looks like small strands of black wiry pasta, has a strong flavor.
Kombu: very dark in color and generally sold in strips or sheets, oftentimes used as a flavoring for soups.
Wakame: similar to kombu, most commonly used to make Japanese miso soup.
Arame: this lacy, wiry sea vegetable is sweeter and milder in taste than many others
Dulse: soft, chewy texture and a reddish-brown color.
Next week take the opportunity to think different about your resilience and vitality, think like a Sustainable High Performer and choose to try a sea vegetable to support your metabolism!
By Patti Milligan
Diretor of Nutrition