For most of the times you’ve encountered seaweed, it may be in your mind as one of two things:
1. A horrifically slimy plant that tries to tangle in your feet while you swim in the ocean, or
2. The brightly green wakame salad they serve with your Japanese food that you just…. Like to pretend isn’t there.
But beside promising that seaweed is actually nothing to be afraid of—and in fact, quite delicious—it’s also a plant chockful of nutritional value, sustainably planted, and proving to be saving our oceans.
You know how kale has increased in popularity the last few years? Oh, yeah.
We’re gonna say it should be the next kale: and here’s why.
It’s Incredibly Nutritious
Seaweed may seem to be a fairly new food to the superfood gallery… But in actuality, its health benefits date back thousands of years, and is heavily considered by traditional Chinese medicine to be a miracle plant.
When you look at its nutritional value… It’s no wonder.
First off, let’s talk about the fiber that’s in these babies. At its dry weight, 25-30% can be found in seaweed— found more in even most fruits and vegetables on land. Fiber can lend a helping hand in creating a good, healthy microbiome in your gut by feeding the good bacteria that live there. The bacteria help you process your food better, which helps you stay fuller longer.
Next, it can possibly help in reducing heart disease by containing carbohydrates called fucans, which have been proven in studies to prevent blood clotting as well as any anti-clotting drug. If you’re as interested in natural medical care as we are, this could potentially prove to be considered wondrous to people fearing heart disease in their later years.
We could go on and on about the vitamins and nutrients found in seaweed…But in reality: the proof of its nutritional value already exists. Home to one of the greatest populations of people that live to be over 100 years old, Okinawa’s natives eat a diet of primarily sweet potatoes, brightly colored vegetables, rice, and—you guessed it—seaweed.
Of course, if you eat it every day we can’t promise you’d live to be 100…
But we think you’d have a pretty fair shot.
Sustainability in Our Food
The constant news about how we’re killing our oceans, irresponsibly fishing and using too many resources from our earth seems… Exhausting. Futile. Terrifying.
You have good reason to be, and while we can’t promise to solve sustainability problems in one fell swoop, let’s start with this sea plant.
Incredibly, seaweed is quickly becoming the new food source that seems to have nothing but positives on its sustainability record.
Think about it: it doesn’t need fresh water (which, considering 70% of fresh water is spent on agriculture, could mean an incredible save to rivers and lakes), it doesn’t require soil and it grows fast.
Really fast. It’s even faster than the famously sustainable bamboo plant, growing two feet a day under ideal conditions!
Better yet, it isn’t just a viable option in how little resources it needs to grow naturally. Seaweed is also considered as ecologically important as the rain forest as it actively intakes CO2 emissions from the environment and turns it back into oxygen!
While it’s so easy to grow, it’s also important to acknowledge what it brings in terms of economic value. Coastal farmers who felt that their only choice in seaside agriculture was farm-raising fish will now have the option in growing seaweed—certainly the less expensive option as well, considering its ability to grow fast under minimal circumstances.
“What about our omega-3’s fish give us?” Some may cry. To them we say: don’t worry. Seaweed's got that too.
So how can we help our oceans? Trust us: eating seaweed helps.
It’s Not Just For Eating
While it’s a blessing to say that most of the world is catching up with the eco-friendly times and using reusable water bottles as opposed to plastic, it seems other places are using more… Creativity to hold their water.
Take this past year’s London Marathon, who hydrated their runners by passing out “water pods”...
Made of seaweed.
Start-up company Notpla has done an act of genius by making edible seaweed pods that can contain a multitude of liquids. The pods themselves are tasteless, and if not used within three weeks are naturally biodegradable!
Of course, eating and holding your beverage aren’t the only uses for seaweed these days.
Many cosmetic companies have also found that seaweed is brilliant ingredient in skincare, as it is full of humectants that provide moisture to the skin. It also helps in removing acne and blemishes since it’s rich in anti-inflammatory minerals.
Moreover, some companies are even considering sea plants such as kelp for biofuel alternatives!
It’s exciting to think that not only is there a sustainable food that will help preserve our land resources; but there’s a possibility that this plant can do more than make us feel good about what we put in our stomachs.
It can actually change how we live.
Yes. We’re Excited About Seaweed.
We said it.
And… Yes. Maybe we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Many of these uses are still rather new to the market, after all. And like all good things that are eco-friendly: it takes time to catch on.
But if the alternative is fearing what might happen to our planet, our dwindling resources, and not knowing what’s actually going into our food before it reaches our plate… Why not believe in something that already grows so naturally in our oceans? Why not start to put hope into a plant that can give us alternatives to using plastic, eating fish, and wasting more land resources than we need to?
Look: if seaweed isn’t for you, it isn’t for you. If you’re still grossed out by the texture, if you can’t help but think of that one time you were swimming as a kid and your foot hit a slimy kelp plant and you were sure it was a shark— we can’t blame you.
But for the other, more adventurous types: we beg you to look into it.
You never know what the next big kale is, after all.
Here’s a great article on a variety of different seaweed recipes…. If you have a favorite, comment below!