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The Amazing Health Benefits from Eating Nori, Karengo, Laver or Luche!

karengo seaweed

Enjoy amazing health benefits from eating Nori, which is also known as karengo, or laver or luche.  This seaweed (or sea vegetable, as these edible sea plants are best termed, given their nutritious health benefits), goes by many names in different cultures across the globe.

Belonging to the genus Porphyra, this edible red seaweed is called Karengo by Māori in New Zealand, Nori in Japan, laver in Wales and luche in Chile – they are all very closely related species to the same seaweed, and offer the same incredible health properties. Nori, the name by which it is most commonly known globally, is by far the most popular edible seaweed in the world, thanks probably to it being the main seaweed used in sushi preparation.  Nori’s popularity over time, comes from its amazing properties and versatility in food as well as widespread availability! Nori offers an excellent source of iodine, a source of amino acids, vitamin B12 and a raft of other essential minerals and nutrients.

Health Benefits of Nori (or Karengo)

Nori is a nutritional powerhouse that helps to nourish and balance our bodies. Nori provides the highest protein content available in commercially harvested seaweeds, at over 35% protein. It’s also among the most nutritious sea vegetables, with a high concentration of minerals, trace elements and vitamins, including iodine, calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, manganese, porphyrin, copper, zinc and vitamins A, B complex, C, E and K, niacin, folic acid and B12.*

Nori offers an excellent source of Iodine

Nori offers an excellent source of iodine which is essential for thyroid health. Many people understand that seaweeds are a great source of iodine and Nori is no different. Do take care if you have a thyroid sensitivity to not overconsume nori – pay attention to the serving suggestions on packaging.

Nori and Vitamin B12

Although Nori varieties have long been considered to be an important source of vitamin B12 for vegans, there is controversy about its biological availability to humans. Looking at empirical evidence of B12, the authors of ‘Sea Vegetable Celebration’, Shep Erhart & Leslie Cerier, noted that vegetarians who hadn’t eaten any animal products for 30 years, but had consumed lots of seaweed, never showed symptoms of B12 deficiency.  It’s well known that most sources of vitamin B12 stem from animal protein, well Nori is one of the only plant based foods which offers B12. Vitamin B12 is key to building immunity, brain function and energy levels when consumed as part of a healthy and varied diet.

Nori’s amino acids

Nori has a distinctly characteristic taste, which is caused by the presence of significant amounts of three specific amino acids: alnine, glutamic acid and glycine, similar to those found in fish and eggs.  Nori also contains lignan compounds, a type of antioxidant which research indicates may assist in fighting disease and preventing cancer.

Nori is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

Nori plays an important role in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), as this species of seaweed is recommended for resolving phlegm issues and dispelling heat from the body. Nori also has traditionally been used to relieve the symptoms of edema, urinary infections and sore throats.

In traditional Chinese medicine, Nori is classified as having an essence or flavour that is sweet, salty and cold.  Traditionally, nori has been recognized as offering the following benefits in TCM:

  • inhibiting tumours, soften & reduce nodules and fatty cysts
  • lowering cholesterol & blood pressure
  • easing painful/difficult urination & urinary infections
  • decreasing swelling
  • prompting cardio-vascular health & strengthen circulation
  • protecting the liver & prevent gall stones
  • treating bacterial & viral infections
  • preventing hair loss

How to use Nori (karengo) in the kitchen

Across Asia, nori is a popular ingredient in cooking, typically dried and used to wrap sushi rolls,  in fact nori is how many have come to first experience seaweed as the popularity of Asian cusine has grown globally. In Wales, laver is traditionally mixed with oatmeal and bacon fat to make laverbread. Here in New Zealand, karengo has been part of the traditional Māori diet for decades, and is typically boiled with butter and spread on bread. It’s an important supplement to the winter diet in many regional coastal communities in particular, because of its high nutritional value, and protein content.  Karengo is also rich minerals, vitamins and is a great source of natural iodine which we need to consume through our diets since our bodies can’t synthesise iodine which is essential for thyroid health.

Nori’s Flavour and taste can change depending on how it’s prepared

A major reason why we love nori, karengo, or any of its other names, so much is its endless versatility, making it a delicious pantry staple to add to your regular diet, whether you are plant based or not.

Nori has very unique culinary qualities, one being that its taste changes depending on how it is used!  This makes it a versatile, adaptable ingredient to add to your cooking to enjoy in myriad ways. Eat it raw straight from the bag, and enjoy the deeply savoury umami flavour.  Or lightly roast or bake Nori and the flavour will evolve to being more nutty or mushroom like.

When consumed in its moist state, such as when you add it to a sauce, the flavour can evolve to that of mild anchovies, and is a great alternative to the fish in Mediterranean dishes.

Nori is a versatile pantry staple

Eat Nori raw, straight from the bag for a delicious raw, low fat snack.  Or pair it with nuts and seeds to use as a garnish or lunchbox snack.

Roast or bake it to achieve a more crunchy texture, and the colour will turn more a more ‘greeny-brown’ than it’s natural purple brown hues.

Chop the fronds into your food as a garnish or as a seasoning, or sprinkle the flakes. Try Pacific Harvest’s seaweed seasoning range which all contain nori if you are looking for an everyday seasoning rich in nutrients and minerals with an umami flavour bomb!  This incredible sea vegetable makes a great pairing with eggs, bread, fish, salads and even chocolate or ginger – the combinations are near endless! Make your own sushi wraps from seaweed and avoid the processed sheets available in most supermarkets.

Read more about Nori – this incredible seaweed here. Don’t delay, get started on your nori journey today!

Note:  New Zealand Karengo is not currently commercially available

Following the 2016 earthquake in Kaikora, the commercial harvesting of karengo in New Zealand was halted due to damage caused to the seabed by the earthquake. Still to this day, commercial harvesting has not yet started up again. Until this issue can be resolved, and our marine environment starts producing plenty of karengo again, Pacific Harvest offers a wild nori from Chile and a farmed nori from Korea. Both options have been sourced from ethical harvesters and tested for contaminants according to the Australia New Zealand food code requirements.  We are continuing to carefully monitor the New Zealand karengo farming situation and hope to be able to offer a locally harvested karengo in the near future.

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 may not include the latest research. We encourage you to do your own research and discuss your findings with a qualified health practitioner who can help you validate the outcomes in the context of your specific & individual health situation.

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