How Cooking with Seaweed Enhances Your Diet01/02/2017
Seaweed has been a part of our diet going right back to prehistoric times and in recent years has seen a resurgence in use in top restaurants around the world. Cooking with seaweed is becoming a top food trend for 2017, and with good reason. It’s loaded with nutrients and is much more versatile than you’d think. In Ireland we are fortunate to be surrounded by 3,000 miles of coastline and a myriad of different seaweeds, yet the inclusion of seaweed in our weekly diet is non-existent for most. Contrast this with Japan, where seaweed plays a prominent role in their daily diet. It is no small coincidence that the Japanese are also known to have the longest life expectancy over any other nationality, given the regular inclusion of nutrient rich seaweed in their daily diet.
Within this blog we have listed the benefits of including seaweed in your diet and provide some simple cooking’s tips, which will hopefully be used as a stepping stone by anyone wanting to introduce this sea vegetable into their diet.
Benefits of Seaweed in Our diet
Seaweed is one of nature’s true wonder foods! It is one of the most nutritionally dense plants on the planet and also the most abundant source of minerals in the plant kingdom as it has access to all the nutrients in the ocean. Being a superfood, a little goes a long way! Sally Mc Kenna from Extreme Greens summaries the extraordinary benefits of seaweed in our diet:
- Seaweed has twice as much Vitamin C as orange juice
- 10 times more calcium than cow’s milk
- 50 times more iron than spinach
- Seaweed is anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti fungal
- Seaweed is full of minerals contains all trace elements and energy needed for human life and health.
- It reduces craving for foods and blocks fat absorption in the body, cleanses our blood and stimulates our immune system
- Seaweed is a valuable source of Vitamin B12 which vegetarians can be deficient in
- Seaweed is both prebiotic and probiotic – especially good for your hair or to give a glossy coat to your dog or horse .
How to Cook with Seaweed
The thought of cooking with seaweed may seem intimidating, but it actually isn’t difficult. Seaweed is most frequently used in soups, salads, stir-fries and noodle dishes. You could add it as a vegetable serving to a dish, add a handful of shredded seaweed to whatever you’re cooking or simply take it as a snack.
Before adding seaweed to all of your meals, consider that, despite it’s potential benefits this sea vegetable can be troublesomely healthy. If the dried seaweeds have not been soaked before use, the salt present in the plant will come out in the cooking so make sure to research preparation guidelines before use. You don’t want to increase your salt intake. Also, as seaweed has very high content levels of iodine, ingesting too much can disrupt your thyroid gland. The secret is to take small amounts, regularly and if you suffer with high cholesterol or thyroid problems, consult your doctor before increasing your intake.
Types of Seaweed used in Cooking
The most popular seaweed species are nori, dulse, arame, wakame, kelp and spirulina.
- Use dulse flakes everywhere! Dulse is a red seaweed and can be bought either whole or as flakes. The salty, umami dulse flavor is perfect as a topping for salad, soup, popcorn, stir fries and more. Dulse is so tasty, it can instantly transform a dull meal.
- Nori, most commonly used to make sushi rolls, can be used instead of bread for a quick and healthy salad lunch wrap. Fill it with fresh salad greens, sliced avocado cucumber, peppers and tomatoes (or whatever yummy seasonal veggies you have on hand). Sprinkle with sesame seeds, soy sauce, a little sesame oil and you have an Asian-inspired sandwich wrap.
- Add Wakame to Soups – this deep green seaweed makes a wonderful addition to soups, stock, stews or savoury dishes. It is sold fresh or dehydrated. It tastes better when hydrated in water for a few minutes before being used. See a delicious recipe here for Miso and Wakame soup.
- Stir Fry – You can soak many seaweeds in water, and then toss them in a wok or pan to stir-fry with other vegetables. Arame, an black’ stringy looking seaweed, tastes wonderful when cooked this way. It’s usually soaked before cooking, and can double in size when cooked. Adding sesame oil and a bit of soy sauce really complements the seaweed to enhance the flavour.
- Make a spirulina smoothie. Seaweed works like a thickener, giving your smoothie depth and texture. Spirulina is a nutrient-dense algae that provides vitamins, minerals and loads of antioxidant goodness. See a delicious spirulina recipe here.
When sourcing or buying seaweed, choose certified organic brands where possible. Seaweeds will absorb the properties of the water in which they are grown, so you want to ensure that they have been grown and harvested in unpolluted waters that are pure, and free from harmful chemicals. Seaweed collected from more remote locations is more likely to be clean.
Carrageen Moss – My Personal Favorite
This is a wonderful winter remedy to fight off those nasty colds, flus and coughs. If you take any recipe from this blog, please take this! Place carrageen moss (8-10g) in cold water (1 ¼ pint) and allow soak for 20 minutes to soften. Cover saucepan and bring slowly to the boil over medium heat. Allow to simmer for 30 minutes. Ginger can be grated into the saucepan if you wish. Strain the liquid through a sieve in to a jug/ jar, using a wooden spoon to get all the liquid through. Cover the jug and store the moss in the fridge.
To make your hot drink, scope 1-2 heaped table spoon of the moss into a pot. Add honey and freshly squeezed orange juice and heat gently. Take this drink 2-3 times a day until your symptoms improve. Carrageen has anti viral properties and also helps shifts phlegm from the chest. This is a recipe handed down by my mother by law, that even my toddler enjoys!
If you’re learning to cook with seaweed and looking to increase your bank of seaweed recipes, we highly recommend Extreme Greens by Sally My Kenna. With more than 80 exciting recipes, from dilisk togarashi to mussel, coconut and kelp soup to steamed monkfish with furikake and wasabi mash, “Extreme Greens” is an book that fully explores the multitude of ways in which seaweeds can form a vital part of our diet, thereby bringing the most health-giving plants in the natural world straight to our tables.
Have you experienced the health benefits of seaweed first hand? Do you regualry use it in your cooking at home? We’d love to hear from you. For more lifestyle advice, beauty and wellness tips follow us on Twitter @VOYABeauty, on Instagram and like us on Facebook today.