Does a regular dose of seaweed help to lower blood pressure? To understand this, we need to first consider what high blood pressure is, and common dietary causes of raised blood pressure, before delving into how eating seaweed can help to lower blood pressure.
A word about blood pressure and high blood pressure
Pressure in our blood flow is critical as oxygen and nutrients could not be pushed around the circulatory system to nourish tissues and organs without some pressure. Without blood pressure, hormones such as insulin and white blood cells (delivering antibodies for immunity) could not be delivered around our bodies.
High blood pressure is an increasingly common health condition where the force of your blood against your artery walls is too high, too often. It is determined by the amount of blood your heart pumps and the amount of resistance to blood flow in your arteries. The more blood your heart pumps and the narrower your arteries, the higher your blood pressure.
Ongoing high blood pressure (also known as hypertension) puts stress on your heart and can lead to health problems, such as heart disease and stroke.
Two common diet-related causes of high blood pressure
There are many factors which contribute to high blood pressure. However, two are specifically diet related:
- Too much salt (sodium) – this causes the body to retain fluid which increases blood pressure.
- Too little potassium – potassium helps balance the amount of sodium in your cells. If we don’t get enough potassium in our diet – or lose too much potassium due to dehydration or other health conditions – sodium can build up in our blood, leading to higher blood pressure.
What is the connection between Salt, Sodium and Potassium?
Sodium and potassium are two of the body’s two major electrolytes which work together to regulate nutrients within the cells and regulate bodily fluids. It is important to consume these in moderate amounts for optimal health and management of blood pressure.
Sodium is at the foundation of all life – it is an essential nutrient and major life-preserving substance that we cannot do without. Although the words ‘salt’ and ‘sodium’ are often used interchangeably, they do not mean the same thing. Salt (also known by its chemical name, sodium chloride) is a crystal-like compound that is common in nature. Sodium is a mineral, and one of the chemical elements found in salts.
Potassium is the main electrolyte in the fluid inside of cells, while sodium is the principal electrolyte in the fluid outside of cells.
Salts provide the body’s transportation system for electrical energy and are so important that the endocrine system and all it’s glands – pineal, pituitary, hypothalamus, thyroid, adrenals, pancreas and reproductive, use it to communicate with one another to maintain optimal health and balance.
These electrolytes are found naturally in the fruits and vegetables that we consume, but processed foods tend to have a larger amount of sodium chloride added. This is an inexpensive way to enhance and balance flavour, add texture, mask bitterness and preserve freshness. The use of excess sodium chloride in food preparation has received a great deal of negative press in relation to processed foods.
Regular table salt (sodium chloride) is typically highly processed, and often chemically iodised with iodine.
Other important electrolytes are calcium, phosphate, chloride and magnesium.
So how can eating seaweed regularly help to lower blood pressure?
Seaweeds offer a salty flavour, but contain a range of minerals, not just sodium and chloride. Whilst each seaweed species is unique, they also tend to contain lower amounts of sodium chloride, and higher amounts of potassium salts.
Potassium salts can have up to 70% less sodium than regular table salt, so do not carry the risk of increasing blood pressure that sodium salts do – so using seaweeds instead of table salt can help to lower sodium and increase potassium levels.
Because potassium is chemically similar to sodium, it stimulates the same taste buds in a very similar way that sodium does, imparting a similarly salty flavour to food but without adversely affecting blood pressure.
Late in 2020 US Food and Drug Administration allowed manufactures to use the name ‘potassium salt’ on food labels instead of potassium chloride to help people understand it is an increasingly relevant salt substitute.
Its worth noting that many seaweeds also offer a source of calcium, phosphate and magnesium.
Substituting seaweed for table salt
There is no doubt the easiest way to incorporate seaweed regularly into your diet is simply to use seaweed as a salt substitute, or to garnish your meals with seaweed.
Our customers have told us repeatedly that once they started eating seaweed regularly, cravings for salty foods decreased. No doubt their bodies are thanking them for the increased range of minerals ingested thanks to seaweed!
Eat a variety of seaweeds~ each has differing nutrient and mineral offerings
And finally, we recommend that you eat a range of sea vegetables – not all seaweed species contain the same amount of sodium or potassium, just as land vegetables all offer different nutrients.
The below table is taken from eatthismuch.com and is just used to illustrate how varied the different nutrient and minerals available from a range of sea vegetables are. We included two popular processed snacks (tortilla and bagel chips) to show how awesome seaweeds are in terms of the nutrients they offer! Add seaweed seasonings onto your bagel or tortilla chips to boost nutrient levels!
|Per 100g serving||Sodium (mg)||Potassium (mg)||Iron (mg)||Magnesium (mg)||Zinc (mg)||Calcium (mg)|
· Where it grew (environmental, tidal, weather conditions)
· When it was harvested (during its growing season)
· How it was dried (air dried vs heat dried)
· The species of seaweed
Easy Seaweed Substitutes to Help Get You Started Lowering Blood Pressure
We suggest eating a range of sea vegetables. Try some of these ideas to introduce new flavours and more nutrients to your meals:
|Replace these||With these seaweed-based alternatives|
|Salt/Rock Salt/Plain Sea Salt||Seaweed Salt, Kelp Salt, Kelp seasoning, Kelp powder, Power of Three flakes|
|Chemical stocks||Soak a Kombu leaf or strip in your stock water|
|Garlic /Chilli||Garlic Kelp/Chilli Kelp seasoning|
|MSG/Aromat||Kelp powder, Kelp seasoning (particularly Garlic Kelp seasoning), furikake|
|Parsley / Pepper||Sea Lettuce*, Kelp powder, Dulse flakes**|
|Anchovies /Mushroom||Nori Flakes|
|Liquid Smoke/Hickory||Manuka Smoked Atlantic Dulse Flakes, Manuka Smoked Salt|
** known as the vegan bacon
Easy seaweed substitutes to add flavour and reduce sodium intake
athered after years of working with this amazing seaweed. It is not a replacement for personalised medical advice. Please consult a healthcare practitioner if you require tailored health advice.