Just when you were getting used to kale, a new green superfood is ready to take its place. Yes, that’s right, folks, kale is “out” and seaweed is “in.”
Seaweed, including kelp, is not only a significant source of calcium and iodine, but it also contains a variety antioxidants.
Where seaweed beats out kale, however, is in the iodine department. Because it comes from the ocean, seaweed is a natural source of this important mineral.
Iodine is essential to your thyroid gland, which regulates many central biochemical reactions in your body, including protein synthesis and enzymatic activity, as well as all of your metabolic activities. (1)
Your body also needs the hormones your thyroid makes for proper bone and brain development during pregnancy and infancy. While government officials felt they had countered the issue of iodine deficiency in the developed world by adding it to table salt (iodized salt), new studies indicate that iodine deficiency has actually increased more than four times in the past 40 years.
This means that nearly 74 percent of otherwise healthy adults are no longer consuming enough iodine. (2) Worldwide, iodine deficiency is a problem in 47 countries (3) and affects close to 2.2 billion people—that’s 38 percent of the entire world’s population! (4)
A tell-tale sign of iodine deficiency is a goiter or enlarged thyroid gland. While not everyone will develop a goiter, according to some experts, as many as 40 percent of Americans have suboptimal thyroid function. (5)
The most common symptoms of an underactive thyroid are fatigue (a general feeling of sluggishness or always tired), difficulty losing weight (or gaining weight easily), constipation, dry skin and hair loss, and a sensitivity to cold.
Seaweed and the iodine contained within it, can help counter many of the issues associated with an underactive thyroid, often without further medication.
Here’s why you should eat more seaweed:
1. The Ocean’s Superfood
Seaweed truly is a superfood. Also known as a “sea vegetable,” you can essentially compare this algae to a “leafy green” that is grown in a “seabed” rather than a “garden bed.”
Coastal regions such as China and Japan have eaten seaweed for centuries, which may account for their good health and longevity compared to the average American.
As mentioned, seaweed contains significant amounts of iodine, but it also contains plenty of potassium, magnesium, calcium and iron. It is also full of vitamins, antioxidants, phytonutrients, amino acids, omega-3 fats and even fiber, all found in one plant that can be as small as blue-green algae or grow to up to 200 feet long like the large brown seaweeds. (6)
2. A Multitude of Healing Powers
While there are many kinds of seaweeds, they all contain similar vitamins and nutrients. Seaweed in general is essentially a marine algae, meaning it is a saltwater-dwelling, simple organism, which falls into the category of a “plant.” Many of these are considered “green” seaweeds (about 1,500 species). There are also about 2,000 species of brown seaweeds and another 7,000 red species. (7)
Kelp, for instance, is a large brown seaweed that typically has a long, tough stalk with a broad frond divided into strips. Kelp is a significant source of iodine, magnesium, potassium, calcium, boron, soluble fiber and iron, and, of course, vitamins A, B12, C and E.
Kelp further contains alginic acid, a substance that protects the plant from bacteria. When you eat it, however, it actually helps your body to reduce radiation exposure and prevent it from absorbing heavy metals. (8)
One study even reported that: “Sodium alginate derived from kelp reduced radioactive strontium absorption in the intestines by 50 to 80 percent … (allowing) calcium to be absorbed through the intestinal wall while binding most of the strontium, which is excreted from the body.” (9)
The alginic acid in the kombu (a type of kelp) is known to help prevent obesity and diabetes. (10) It is also a wonderful anti-coagulant, preventing the formation of blood clots and decreasing the threat of stroke, cardiac failure, and obstructions in your veins. (11)
It can further help to prevent cavities in your teeth, promote good digestive health, protect against the flu and other viruses, and protect your eyes.
Kelp was even found to cause cell death in estrogen-linked breast, endometrial and ovarian cancers by decreasing the levels of the sex hormone, estradiol. (12) Further studies showed that it also caused cell death in prostate, liver, oral, pancreatic and other cancers. (13)
Kelp was also shown to inhibit the Helicobacter pylori bacteria responsible for stomach ulcers. And to top it off, if you have an inflammatory skin condition, kelp can do the trick. (14)
Over 100 years ago, a Japanese chemist discovered that dulse (a red algae) contains glutamic acid (or glutamate in your body), which is key for a healthy and properly functioning nervous system and it can even help with cognition, memory, learning and normal brain function. (15)
No wonder this ocean delicacy is considered a healing wonder food!