Seaweeds vs land plants – definitely not a competition but learn a little more about how they are different. To be able to compare them, lets explore what seaweeds are, (and why we should care!) a little first!
What are Seaweeds?
Seaweeds are technically not plants but algae. They may be single cellular or multi-cellular, but generally they are non-flowering, contain chlorophyll but lack true stems, roots, leaves, and vascular tissue. Marine algae grow in a vastly different world to that of land plans, and have a unique physiology & chemistry in order to cope with their unique environments.
There are thousands of different species of seaweeds under the oceans of the world – many of which we may not yet know about. There are vast differences between seaweed species (in look, feel, texture and application) and bio diversity under the water which we may only begin to grasp if we have spent time snorkeling or skuba diving.
Some seaweeds are microscopic, such as the phytoplankton that live suspended in the water column. Some seaweeds are enormous, such as giant kelp which grows in abundant underwater forests, and towers like underwater Redwoods from their roots at the bottom of the sea. Most seaweeds are medium-sized, come in colors of red, green and brown. To survive currents and conditions in the wild and changing oceans in which they thrive, they are tenacious, flexible fascinating plants.
Importance of Seaweed To Our Planet
Seaweeds are the most ancient plants on earth, and are essentially eco-engineers, working day and night to keep our planet healthy.
Did you know that it is claimed that the ocean is responsible for producing between 50% -85% of the earth’s oxygen! Consider the extent of our oceans and algal matter photosynthesising all day, every day to generate this oxygen and sequestering carbon dioxide.
Algae are critically important ecologically because they are the base of the ocean’s food chain, and thus the most densely nutritious. Without seaweeds there would be no food chain for the small ocean creatures, nor habitat for them to thrive.
Seaweeds are very efficient at absorbing nutrients and minerals which are abundant in the ocean. They also have an ability to absorb toxins and free radicals, so perform an essential cleaning and cooling function int the ocean.,
Seaweeds Are Simply Sea Vegetables – Vegan Protein from the Sea!
The name “seaweed” is really a misnomer, because a weed is often regarded as a plant that spreads so profusely it can harm the habitat where it takes hold. More recently, as the benefits of seaweeds are being better understood, they are becoming known as ‘sea vegetables’ or ‘ocean vegetables’. Three reasons to eat sea vegetables are:
- Significantly more nutrient dense than land vegetables
- Delicious – each has a unique flavour and or texture
- A source of carbon negative food – arguably the most sustainable food source, requiring no fertiliser or additional water to grow!
Apart from the considerable impact these eco engineers have on our planet, seaweeds support many essential functions in the body when eaten as part of a healthy diet, and as a whole food. Read more detail about how seaweeds perform these bodily functions for us humans below:
What’s the Physical Difference: Seaweeds vs Land plants?
There are thousands of varieties and species of seaweeds around the world. Different seaweeds grow at different latitudes and at different depths of the ocean. Generally speaking green seaweeds grow in the shallower waters, browns in the mid depths and reds at the deeper level.
It is important to note that the vocabulary applied to sea plants is quite different to that of the land plants. It is helpful to know it to better understand information on the label. A seaweed’s physiology is quite different to their land counterparts -generally speaking:
- seaweeds have a holdfast, not a root. This helps them to anchor to rocks, the seabed or man made structures. Some seaweeds are also free floating. Seaweeds do not access nutrients or water via their holdfast as a land plant does through it’s roots.
- Seaweeds have a stipe, rather than a step or branch.
- Seaweeds have blades, rather than leaves. A cut blade is referred to as a frond.
- Some seaweeds also have bladders which help them to float. They could be filled with air or liquid less dense than sea water. This helps them to stay upgright while they navigate the currents and ocean conditions they are exposed to during different tides.
This is an example of Wakame – different parts of the seaweed have different uses and applications when it comes to food.
What’s the Chemical Difference: Seaweeds vs Land plants?
Seaweeds have far higher nutrient density than land plants which grow in soils which have often become very depleted. Seaweeds
- are well regarded as the best source of iodine (& essential co-factors) in nature
- offer much more concentrated in nutrients (10-20 times) than land plants
- have all 5 essential nutrients necessary to a healthy diet protein, carbs, fat (albeit extremely low), chelated minerals, all vitamins (including B12) as well as prebiotic fibre
- have unique compounds that are being studied for their tremendous health-giving properties
- are at the extreme of the alkaline food scale
In summary, whilst seaweeds may just seem like plants from the sea there is much more than meets the eye as we consider seaweeds vs landplants, at a physical, chemical level but also the impact they have on the planet and human health.