Seaweed has been a staple in Asian diets for many years before recently finding its way into Western culture, and for good reason too. The algae is naturally rich in numerous vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A and E, B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, potassium, copper, iron and iodine. Being so nutritious means that it may have a number of health benefits, from supporting thyroid function to improving gut health.
Health benefits of seaweed include:
Supporting thyroid function
The thyroid gland relies on iodine to create hormones to help control growth, energy production, reproduction and the repair of damaged cells in the body. If the thyroid is insufficient in iodine, the body may experience symptoms like weight change, fatigue or swelling of the neck over time. Seaweed has the unique ability to absorb concentrated amounts of iodine from the ocean, far more than land vegetables can from soil. The iodine content of seaweed varies depending on the type, varying anywhere between 11%-1989% of the recommended dietary intake. Seaweed also contains tyrosine, an amino acid which alongside iodine is used to make two hormones that help the thyroid function as it should.
May support gut health
Seaweed is a great source of fibre, which is known to promote a healthy gut. In fact it can make up about 25-75% of seaweed’s dry weight – higher than the fibre content of most fruits and vegetables. The fibre in seaweed can resist digestion and be used as a food source for bacteria in the large intestine instead. As well as this, sulphated polysaccharides are sugars found in seaweed that have been shown to help the growth of good bacteria in the gut.
Contains a variety of antioxidants
Seaweed contains a wide variety of antioxidants including flavonoids and carotenoids, which research shows can protect the body from free radical damage. Excess free radical production is thought to be an underlying cause of many diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes, consuming seaweed could protect against these.
One particular carotenoid called fucoxanthin has 13.5 times the antioxidant capacity as vitamin E and has been shown to protect cell membranes better than vitamin A.
You can use dried seaweed as a replacement for tortillas or bread, add it to soups, or roast it with a little salt and oil. Seaweed is also available as a supplement, try our Iodine Capsules – Made with Pure, Organic Scottish Seaweed.