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How Does Seaweed Nourish Our Bodies?

Seaweeds are extremely nourishing plants, and will boost the nutritional value of a meal they are added to.

Seaweeds (also known as sea vegetables) contain all the nutrients essential to health and emotional balance; historically, they have been a staple in the diet of the healthiest people in the world.  Sea vegetables are among the most nutrient & mineral-rich foods on the planet. They concentrate all the basic elements that are the building blocks of our planet and human bodies. Seaweeds have been credited – in part – for the lowest incidence of cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis and obesity in Japan, when compared to other industrial nations.

Seaweeds provide:

  • A concentrated plant based source of vitamins, minerals and cell salts.  More than any land vegetable, seaweeds, are the most highly mineralized plants on earth. Their structure enables them to accumulate minerals directly from the ocean. These minerals are essential to the body and also help to assist  the body to use other nutrients and vitamins more effectively. The major mineral concentrations include calcium, magnesium, potassium iodine, phosphorus, sodium & iron. Seaweeds are also an excellent source of micro-nutrients like manganese, selenium & zinc.  Source: sea-vegetables-for-health
  • Complex B vitamins, including B12, Among the 13 vitamins present in seaweed are B vitamins, which are hard to find in a plant source. They are critical to bolster metabolism, maintain healthy skin & muscle tone and essential to strong nervous & immune systems. Vegans and vegetarians can benefit significantly when consuming seaweed as their likelihood of getting B12 from other plant sources is low.  Sources: Bioavailability of B12 in Seaweed and Vit B12 in Purple & Green Laver (nori /karengo & Sea Lettuce)
  • The best natural source of iodine, The entire body, not just the thyroid, requires iodine for metabolic health. The body can absorb iodine 3 ways: by mouth (eating seaweed), via the skin (seaweed baths or sea soaks), or the the lungs (inhale it at the seashore). The individual iodine requirement depends on many factors: individual chemistry, goitrogen load (lifestyle factors suppressing the thyroid function), toxicity and availability of essential micronutrients.  Source: Seaweed Supplementation to improve Iodine Status and Role of Iodine & other Micronutrients in Thyroid Function
  • Unique compounds that play an important role in the prevention and correction of degenerative diseases . Among them are Algin, Fucoidan  and Laminarin.  Source: Nutrients & effects of Edible Seaweed
  • Lots of fibres – Seaweeds contain a large amount of ‘polysaccharides’ most of which are not digested by humans, therefore they are regarded as dietary fibres. Seaweeds have a rather high content of fibre (33-75%) particularly rich in the soluble ones (50-85% of total fibres), some of them having pre-biotic benefits.  Source: Benefits of Seaweed Polysaccharides in Nutrition and seaweed, Gut Function & Microbiota
  • Antioxidants – according to ‘Plants as a Natural Source of Antioxidants’ by Nawal Kishore Dubey, algae represents the most untapped source of natural oxidants. This is mainly due to their enormous bio diversity which exceed that of higher plants (terrestrial).  Source: algae-antioxidants
  • Essential amino-acidsSeaweed protein is a source of all amino acids, especially glycine, alanine, arginine, proline, glutamic, and aspartic acids. In algae, essential amino acids (EAAs) represent almost a half of total amino acids and their protein profile is close to the profile of egg protein.  Source: Seaweed Proteins & Amino-acids
  • Fatty acids (3 & 6) at a favourable ratio 2/1 –   A low ratio of omega-6/omega-3 fatty acids is more desirable in reducing the risk of many of the chronic diseases of high prevalence in Western societies.  Source: Importance of the Ratio Omega-3/6
  • An ideal ratio of potassium to sodium (2.4 to 1) – potassium is needed to offset the hypertensive effects of sodium & regulate blood pressure and to maintain proper pH levels in the body fluids. An imbalance between these minerals can lead to a number of diseases.  Source: Importance of Sodium/Potassium Ratio
  • A valuable non-dairy, bio available plant source of calcium – seaweeds contain a notable amount of calcium with low levels of oxalic acid and phytates – unlike other plant sources of calcium – which makes the calcium in seaweed highly available. Seaweeds also contain many trace minerals which are important for bone health.  Source: food-sources-calcium-table
  • Antibiotic, antibacterial, antiparasitic, antiviral & anti-inflammatory agents.  Source: Bioactivities of Sulfated Polysaccharides in Seaweed and Effects of Marine Carbohydrates on Human health
  • A rich source of lignans – a phytochemical which is found in high concentrations in sea vegetables may help prevent cancer cells from forming by preventing the process of angiogenesis or new cell formation. Research has shown that lignans may be useful in the treatment of lymphoma. Lignans may also be able to antagonize oestrogen, which means implications in the prevention of oestrogen sensitive cancers, like breast cancer. Dr Jane Teas of Harvard University published a paper saying that kelp consumption might be a factor in the lower rates of breast cancer in Japan, and she is now researching the effects of seaweed as a natural replacement for HRT.  Source: Seaweed & breast Cancer and seaweed & Estrogen Metabolism
  • Source of essential glyconutrientsseveral studies have reported that marine carbohydrates exhibit various biological activities, including antioxidant, anti-infection, anticoagulant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-diabetic effects.  Source: Essential Glyconutrients

Much research is underway to deepen our understanding of the many ways seaweeds nourish us and support our health. Already, many of the bioactive compounds isolated from seaweeds are used in life saving drugs all over the world.  To find out more, search ‘seaweed’ on pubmed, the largest site for biomedical literature & research.

Too often unfortunately, research leads to the extraction of ‘isolates’ (isolated compounds), also called micronutrients. Although they certainly offer benefits, we believe that consuming the whole seaweed plant as a food, rather than supplement, offers higher long-term benefits. Invariably in nature, the whole is more than the sum of its individual parts; more specifically, the therapeutic effectiveness comes from the cumulative & balancing effects of the sum-total of the combined nutrients in the original food, rather than the overloading in the body of the one compound found to resolve a singular issue. There is growing evidence that micronutrients act in combination rather than in isolation.
Reading: Nutrition: more than the sum of its parts

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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