As a registered dietician, I am always on the lookout for interesting foods and Seaweed is one of my favorites. It has a delicious, unique flavor; it is extremely versatile and easy to use; it is environmentally sustainable; and finally, it is exceptionally nutritious. In fact, it is the most nutrient dense vegetable on Earth! Here are a few of the many super-nutrients seaweed provides to you and your family.
For one, seaweed is packed with antioxidants. These are compounds that neutralize free radicals – unstable molecules that can damage our DNA and cells. Cell damage can increase the risk for disease and illness, and speed up the aging process. Considering that the body is made up of (literally) trillions of cells, it’s pretty important to keep these cells healthy, and antioxidants do just that.
Seaweed is an excellent source of polyunsaturated fats (aka ‘healthy’ fats), including omega-3 fatty acids. These types of fat are greatly beneficial for human health as they support brain cells and cognitive function, and have been suggested to lower the risk for cardiovascular disease. Additionally, omega-3 fatty acids possess anti-inflammatory properties, which are beneficial for disease prevention as many chronic conditions are associated with high inflammation levels.
Seaweed also contains many micronutrients, including vitamins and minerals, that the body requires in smaller amounts but are essential for good health. Vitamins and minerals are needed for many processes in the body throughout all life stages, and intake through food must be adequate to prevent nutrient deficiencies. For children, micronutrients play a role during growth and development and in the proper formation of organs, bone strength, and cognitive function. Micronutrients are also essential for energy production and immune function.
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble nutrient – meaning it is better absorbed in the presence of fat. Vitamin A is an essential nutrient that supports many bodily functions such as vision, skin health, cell growth, immune function, and fetal development. It exists in two forms: Preformed vitamin A, which occurs naturally in animal products, and provitamin A, which is abundant in plant foods, including seaweed. Because vitamin A is fat-soluble, a pro tip is to consume vitamin A-rich foods with healthy fats (for example, seaweed with avocado).
Vitamin B12 helps with the production of DNA and red blood cells, which deliver oxygen throughout the body. During pregnancy, vitamin B12 plays a key role in the development of the baby’s brain and spinal cord, which later affects a child’s cognitive function and nervous system. Although animal foods are the primary source of vitamin B12, seaweed is one of the only sources of this vitamin in plant foods. Nevertheless, those following a vegan diet should supplement vitamin B12.
Iodine is required for the production of thyroid hormones, which control growth and metabolism. In children, these hormones play a pivotal role in cognitive development. Because the body does not produce iodine on its own, it is essential we get it from the diet. It turns out that seaweed is one of the best food sources of iodine, having the highest iodine content in plant foods.
Seaweed is a great source of calcium, which is the major component of bones. Calcium helps the body build and maintain strong bones and teeth, making it an essential nutrient for the growth and development of children and adolescents.
Making Seaweed A Staple
With all of this nutritional goodness it is clear to see why Seaweed should become a staple in your family’s diet. Fortunately, seaweed snacks are an easy and delicious way to add more of this superfood into every eating occasion. And, they are extremely versatile – enjoy seaweed snacks as-is, add them to noodles, salads, and rice bowls, or roll them up with fish and your favorite veggies for sushi night!
About the Author
Carolina Schneider, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian and a writer specializing in plant-based nutrition. Carolina has followed a vegan diet for almost a decade and is passionate about helping others incorporate more plants into their diet. Carolina is the founder of Hungry for Plants, a company dedicated to offering nutrition consulting services to health and wellness brands, primarily in the plant-based food and beverage space.