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Eat This Now: Seaweed

Have you ever gotten your leg tangled in seaweed at the beach? The thought of adding it your salad probably never crossed your mind. But the seaweed family is quite complex, extending far beyond the algae you may have encountered on vacation.

Seaweed is part of the Protista kingdom, and its edible members are known as sea vegetables. Sea vegetables have been an enduring staple ingredient in Asian diets, and they are gaining popularity in Western countries — a good thing, since the extensive health benefits of seaweed have quickly earned these veggies superfood status.

Beauty and Health Benefits of Seaweed

Environmental toxins and endocrine disruptors are all around us, but sea vegetables come to the rescue by helping draw harmful chemicals and heavy metals out of the body. They also alkalize the blood, which helps balance your body’s pH levels.

Sea vegetables contain a wide variety of essential minerals, including calcium, copper, magnesium, and iron. But perhaps their most important contribution is a healthy dose of iodine, which is crucial for thyroid function and breast health. (Those with thyroid diseases or concerns should speak with a functional medicine doctor before taking sea vegetables to discuss potential contraindications.)

In addition to benefiting your inner wellness, mineral-rich sea vegetables in your diet will also improve the appearance and condition of your skin, hair, and nails. More specifically, they may help:

  • Clear and protect the skin
  • Add thickness and shine to hair
  • Strengthen nails
  • Slow cell degeneration (that is, delay the aging process!)

seaweed salad Japanese food

7 Sea Vegetables and How to Enjoy Them

Incorporating sea vegetables into your diet isn’t as complicated as it may seem. And you certainly don’t have to hit the shoreline to harvest them. Here are seven sea vegetable superstars you can easily find at the grocery store.

Nori

What it is: The thin wrap used in sushi rolls.
How to use it: Toast nori or buy it pretoasted. Use it to wrap vegan sushi rolls filled with cooked rice, raw vegetables, and sliced avocado. Serve with tamari or a homemade dip. If you have a potato chip craving, you can also buy crispy, salty nori snacks for a satisfying nosh.

Wakame

What it is: A diverse culinary ingredient added to soups, most commonly traditional miso soup.
How to use it: In macrobiotic cooking, miso soup is often enjoyed in the morning to get the body ready for the day. Try homemade miso soup recipes prepared with wakame and tofu for a nutrient-dense and protein-packed meal. You can also rehydrate wakame by placing it in water to soften. Drain, chop, and add it to salads and grain dishes.

Arame

What it is: Similar to wakame, it comes in thin strips.
How to use it: Swap arame for wakame in miso soup recipes for a slight change in flavor and texture. Rehydrate dried arame and drain well. Saute if desired. Add whole strips to salads and stir-fries.

Hijiki

What it is: Another salad-friendly seaweed.
How to use it: Rehydrate hijiki in water, rinse, and drain. In a pan, saute ingredients like carrots, mushrooms, and tofu. Add the hijiki to the pan to warm through. Toss veggies and hijiki with a soy-based dressing. Intrigued? Do an Internet search for traditional Japanese salad recipes to get complete ingredients and instructions.

Agar-Agar

What it is: A vegan alternative to gelatin in pudding and custard recipes.
How to use it: Seaweed — in dessert? Yes! It’s flavorless and odorless, but combines with liquid to create a gel-like consistency that can be used to make puddings, custards, and gummy candies. Search for agar-agar online to find delicious, naturally sweetened dessert recipes.

Kelp Noodles

What it is: A healthy, low-carb, and gluten-free noodle alternative made from nutrient-rich seaweed.
How to use it: Look for quality kelp noodle brands that are free from additives. Soak in water to soften the texture and strain. Add to salads, stir-fries, and broths, or toss with an Asian sauce, like Thai peanut sauce. Alternatively, purchase kelp seasoning and use it to enhance the flavor and mineral content of your meals.

Kombu

What it is: A dried sea vegetable used to increase the digestibility of foods.
How to use it: Place a strip of kombu into cooking water when preparing beans, grains, and soups to add minerals and reduce gas. Remove the strip before serving. Alternatively, place kombu in simmering water, cover, and remove when soft. Cut into strips, and toss into salads and vegetable dishes.

As with all ingredients, quality matters. Visit the Environmental Working Group website for dried sea vegetable ratings.

This article originally appeared on wellwithinbeauty.com. It has been reprinted with permission.

Photos: Tbrainina; Super Mimicry

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