Red seaweeds offer an excellent source of minerals, carbohydrates, antioxidants, enzymes and generally very high in dietary fibre. Learn about what they are, how to use them and why you should eat them!
Seaweeds are actually classified as algae, not plants, although they are often referred to as ‘sea plants or sea vegetables’. All seaweeds photosynthesise, just as land plants do. However seaweeds do not produce flowers, have roots or systems for transporting water and nutrients. They all contain the light harvesting pigment chlorophyll which is synthesised and stored in the seaweed’s cells. Seaweeds also contain other pigments which are used to capture light for photosynthesis or to protect against harmful ultraviolet radiation. The pigments present in seaweeds are used to help classify them into three broad colour groups – red, green and brown.
What Are Red Seaweeds?
Red seaweeds are red because in addition to chlorophyll they also contain red and blue pigments such as phycoerythrin, phycocyanin, and allophycocyanin which combine in various ways and can mask the green chlorophyll.
Red seaweeds are the oldest & largest group of algae with about 6,500 known species worldwide (roughly 570 species of which are found along the New Zealand coast). Most exist in salt water although some grow in fresh water. Their distinctive colour pigments allow them to survive at great depths where they can still absorb the light they need to photosynthesise. Red seaweeds vary greatly in size, colour (from pink to dark red to purple and everything in between), shape and ecosystem, and despite their name, their colour ranges from pink through to crimson, purple and orange. They tend to grow more slowly than brown or red seaweeds, and also live in warmer waters, whereas the browns tend to prefer colder temperatures.
The most popular red edible seaweeds include Nori (aka Karengo or laver), Dulse, Agar, Irish Moss and Sea Chicory. The seaweed in sushi is Nori and this can often look green when one purchases the processed sheets at the supermarket, but the green colour is only as a result of drying, roasting and processing – the natural colour for raw nori is a browny red colour.
What Nutrients and Minerals Do Red Seaweeds Offer*?
Red seaweeds are an excellent source of minerals, carbohydrates, antioxidants, enzymes and generally very high in dietary fibre. They are also rich in agar and carrageenan and have a positive potassium/sodium balance. Red seaweeds are an excellent vegetarian source of high quality, complete protein – containing all the essential amino acids the diet requires. They are also a source of heme iron (a form of iron that can actually prevent iron-deficiency anaemia). Red seaweeds are a good source of iodine, well suited to maintaining healthy thyroid function.
What are the Health Benefits of Red Seaweeds?
Generally red seaweeds:
- Have a ‘tonic effect’ on the body, strengthening the immune system
- Promote cardiovascular health & regulate cholesterol
- Nourish the nervous system, improving resistance to stress
- Relieve congestion in colds & flu
- are naturally anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-parasitic, anti-biotic, anti-inflammatory, anti-septic and anti-fungal
- Sooth the skin and digestive tract
How to use Red Seaweeds in Your Cooking and Baking
Each red seaweed has a unique flavour profile and they can be used in vastly different ways from each other. Experiment with different seaweeds in your cooking to see which flavours you prefer. Click here for the red seaweeds we offer – Dulse (and try our new smoked dulse!), Agar, Irish Moss, Nori, Sea Chicory
Here are some ideas to get started with adding a little red seaweed to everyday meals:
- Eat more Sushi! Buy it for a quick lunch or have fun making seaweed sushi sheets at home. Even better, just eat Nori straight from the bag as a raw snack.
- Add Dulse to soups, pesto & savoury baking for a nutritional boost. Dulse is a very popular smoothie ingredient.
- Sprinkle Nori on salads or roast it gently for a crunchy snack
- Use Agar or Irish Moss instead of gelatine or pectin – a vegan, raw option for egg substitution or to replace bovine gelatin in any of your cooking.
- Make quick & delicious salads with Sea Chicory or simply add it as a stunning edible garnish to your plate.
- Visit our recipe section for an extensive collection of easy-to-make dishes
Eat the Seaweed Rainbow!
Red seaweeds are so versatile! However we would always suggest one eats a range of seaweed colours as each seaweed is unique and delivers differnt nutrients and flavours! Experiment with some of our blends which also contain red seaweeds – power of three (dulse is the red seaweed) and the furikake (nori is the red seaweed) seasoning range.
*Note: The nutritional content of seaweeds can vary depending on a number of factors including where they are harvested from, which part of the season they are harvested, how they are dried and more. The indicated minerla and nutrients in this article are gathered from a number of journals and published books on seaweeds over the years are are intended as a guide only. Please refer to specific nutritional panels on each product you purchase for more information.
Disclaimer: This material is provided for educational purposes only and IS NOT intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This information is generic and should be verified by a qualified health practitioner for specific & individual needs & requirements.