Beginners Guide to Sea Vegetables: 5 Fantastic Health Benefits of Sea Greens

Sea vegetables are growing in popularity. And, for good reasons! Surprisingly easy to use, delicious to eat, and backed by science as a healthy choice, sea vegetables are truly a catch. Here’s what you’ll want to know.

Are Sea Greens Good for You?

Yes, sea vegetables are a nutritious food source with many potential health benefits. Despite not being widely consumed in Western countries, seaweed is an integral part of many Asian cultures. Diversifying our North American diets is advised by researchers, who have found sea vegetables may be linked to longevity.

What are Sea Vegetables?

A sea vegetable is a plant that grows in the ocean or other waterways. Sometimes sea vegetables are called sea greens; however, they come in many colours, including green, brown, and purple. Seaweed is another common name.

What’s in Seaweed that’s Good for You?

  • Fiber
  • Vitamin A, B12, C, E, K, & folate
  • Potassium & Sodium
  • Calcium & Magnesium
  • Iodine & Tyrosine
  • Zinc
  • Protein
  • Omega-3 fats

Is Seaweed a Healthy Snack?

Seaweed is the common name for the many species of marine plants and algae that grow in the ocean, rivers, and lakes. Considered by many as the vegetables of the sea, seaweed is rich in minerals and trace elements, including iodine. Salty and crunchy, dried seaweed is an appealing snack food.

Can I Eat Seaweed Every Day?

As with all foods, moderation is the key to a healthy, balanced diet. Seaweed contains iodine, as such you probably don’t want to eat large amounts of it every day and cause an imbalance, according to nutrition researchers. There may also be concerns about heavy metal load, but research suggests the risk is minimal.

7 Easy Ways to Eat Sea Vegetables

  • Sprinkle dried seaweed on your soup.
  • Eat dried seaweed as a portable snack
  • Add spirulina powder to your smoothie.
  • Toss dried wakame flakes into your simmering potatoes.
  • Rehydrate dried sea vegetables and use them to create a salad.
  • Use Nori sheets as your wrap.
  • Crush into flakes and sprinkle onto popcorn.

Do You Cook Sea Greens?

Delicious and easy to work with, sea vegetables come in many forms, including powders, dried snacks, and fresh plants.

5 Fantastic Health Benefits of Sea Vegetables

  • Source of thyroid supporting nutrients

Sea vegetables contain iodine and tyrosine, two nutrients your thyroid gland requires to make hormones. Without enough iodine, your thyroid cannot function properly. Low iodine can cause fatigue or weight changes.

  • May contribute to longevity

Sea greens may contribute to Japanese longevity and the prevention of diseases, according to researchers. This is likely due to the rich content of antioxidants in sea vegetables, which are well-known supporters of health (lower inflammation, prevent damage).

  • Plant-based protein source

Sustainable eating is a growing need to secure food for all. Sea vegetables are an abundant source of plant-based proteins that could be part of a planet-friendly shift in consumption. With a lower carbon footprint than land-based protein sources, sea vegetables are a nutritious, sustainable food option.

  • Fiber-rich gut support

Rich sources of fiber, seaweeds may exert helpful effects on the microbes that live in the human gut. Enhancing the diversity and abundance of bacteria present in the gut are suggested benefits of eating sea vegetables in research.

  • Potassium and flavonoids for heart health

Containing soluble-fiber, potassium, and flavonoids, eating sea vegetables is associated with a lower risk of coronary heart disease and mortality from stroke, in large studies.

Beginners Guide to Sea Vegetables

Nori – dried, edible, green, crunchy, sheets – a healthier alternative to potato chips.

Wakame – edible kelp leaves with subtly sweet, distinctive flavour – great in soups.

Dashi Kombu – large brown seaweed, used commonly to make soup.

Dulse – fresh, raw dulse tastes like the ocean – flake into salad dressings, sprinkle on popcorn.

Laver – also called Gim, this a purple sea vegetable that turns dark green when dried – often wrapped around rice.

Want to learn more about cooking with healthy ingredients?

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Impact of seaweed intake on health. Eur J Clin Nutr 2021 Jun;75(6):877-889.

Iodine status and thyroid function in a group of seaweed consumers in Norway. Nutrients 2020 Nov; 12(11):3483.

Metals in edible seaweed. Chemosphere 2017 Apr; 173:572-579.

Seaweed’s bioactive candidate compounds to food industry and global food security. Life (Basel) 2020 Aug 6;10(8):140.

Seaweed intake and risk of cardiovascular disease: the circulatory risk in communities study (CIRCS). J Atheroscler Thromb 2021 Dec 1;28(12):1298-1306.

Seaweed components as potential modulators of the gut microbiota. Mar Drugs 2021 Jun 23;19(7):358.

Contributed by Allison Tannis

Known for her deliciously geeky words, Allison’s articles and books are read around the world by those curious about where to find the most delicious (and nutritious) places to stick their forks. More at Follow @deliciouslygeeky.