When you think of the ocean, what comes to mind? The relaxing sounds of the waves, swimming, maybe your favorite vacation spot? Do you ever think about the seaweed? Not the nuisances of getting it stuck between your toes, or caught up in your hair occasionally, but more how it can be helpful to your body?
Seaweed tops our list for the best foods to eat when you are trying to conceive. The benefits of this iodine-rich superfood are plentiful. Not only is it beneficial for hormonal balance, but it also helps the lymphatic, urinary, and nervous systems, too! With more than 21 different species of seaweed, there are so many possibilities to incorporate it into our lives. So, let’s stop calling it a weed and call it what it is: a sea vegetable.
Sea vegetables are rarely eaten in the West, but they are a standard part of Asian diets. We’re always telling our patients’ to eat sea vegetable. To get you started, we’ve curated a beautiful collection on our Seaweed Recipes Pinterest Board!
One simple way to include seaweed in your diet is to simply put a piece of Kombu into your soups and stews. Even if you don’t “like” seaweed, this method is sneaky, and no one will notice. You can buy nori snacks at most natural foods stores these days. Kids love to snack on them.
My favorite is sea vegetables of all is hijiki. It’s not only delicious, but it’s a nutritional powerhouse. It looks like black hair. A small 3 oz serving has 55 mg iron, 620 mg of magnesium, 1400 mg of calcium, and more. Some Japanese restaurants serve it, so be sure to order it if it’s on the menu.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, seaweeds are salty and cold. They’re grouped with herbs that transform phlegm. They are used to soften phlegm nodules, which is one way we think of goiters. They also are used to reduce edema.
Whether we apply it to our skin as part of our beauty routine or sneak it into our diet in a spice blend, dips, smoothies, or even stocks and soups, these are the top reasons to add it to your grocery list:
- Sea vegetables contain 13 vitamins, 20 amino acids, and 60 trace elements including iodine, sodium, potassium, and magnesium, which can account for up to 36% of its dry mass. These vitamins include B1, which helps fend off depression and anxiety, and vitamins A and C, sources of calcium which help strengthen hair and nails. It contains more than eight times more calcium than beef and milk! A great snack that is low in both fat and calories, and helps promote bone health and reduces the risk of osteoporosis.
- Basically, it gives your thyroid superpowers. Sea vegetables are one of the few foods packed with iodine, which your thyroid needs to function optimally. It helps to regulate your body temperature and is especially beneficial for people with chronically low blood temperature. Low, (even low-normal) thyroid function is a leading cause of infertility and miscarriage, so we pay special attention to optimizing thyroid function for our fertility patients
- Sea veggies help alkalize the blood, and is a great digestive aid since the alginic acid it contains helps absorb and expel toxins out of the gastrointestinal tract. It is also full of prebiotics and fiber, which helps keep bacteria in the gut healthy and aids in regular bowel movements.
- It promotes healthy cell membranes and contains fucoxanthin, an antioxidant that has can inhibit tumorous cells in the body. The same antioxidant is also linked to fat-burning properties. Alginate, found in kelp, slows stomach emptying, increases fullness and causes blood sugar to rise more slowly after meals. Seaweed also lowers estrogen levels in women, decreasing the risk of breast cancer. Overall, people who regularly consume seaweed were found to have lower rates of cancer.
- For skincare, the topical application of seaweed has been found to treat rosacea and acne, reduce dermatitis, and has anti-aging properties due to the ascorbic acid and selenium found in the plant.
Is it possible to overdo it? Actually, it is. Seaweeds are high in iodine, and excessive consumption could lead to thyroid dysfunction if overeaten. One thing to be mindful of is the source of the seaweed. If you remember back to 2011, there was a tsunami that destroyed a nuclear power plant in Fukushima, and unfortunately, caused a severe radiation leak into the Pacific Ocean. To avoid the contamination of radiation into the seaweed, we recommend using seaweed sourced from clean oceans and products that may originate from places such as Canada or France.
About Cara Frank, L.OM.
Cara Frank, L.OM. was raised in a health food store in Brooklyn, NY. When she was 8, she cartwheeled 5 miles from Greenwich Village through Soho and Chinatown and across the Brooklyn Bridge. For over 35 years, she has had the same crazy passion for Chinese medicine. At 17, she had her first acupuncture treatment. At 20 she enrolled in acupuncture school. In 1998 she went to China to study where she fell deeply in love with Chinese herbs. Since then, she has devoted her life to studying and teaching the topic.
Cara is the founder of Six Fishes Acupuncture, in Philadelphia where she maintains a busy acupuncture practice and acts as the head fish of two warm and lively offices. She is also the president of China Herb Company. You can read her full bio or schedule an appointment.