Grow Youthful: How to Slow Your Aging and Enjoy Extraordinary Health
Grow Youthful: How to Slow Your Aging and Enjoy Extraordinary Health

Seaweed

Seaweed essential in industry, food, medicine

Seaweed as a food

Seaweed as a traditional remedy

Seaweed essential in industry, food, medicine

Seaweed is a loose term covering a wide range of marine algae and plants. They are usually divided into groups of red, green or brown algae. They have a wide range of uses, as food, medicine, fertiliser and in industry. To live, seaweeds need seawater or brackish, salty water. They need to be kept wet, so are not found above the level where they could dry out. They also need enough light to drive photosynthesis, so are not usually found in water deeper than a few metres. They also need something to attach onto, so they are more often found on rocks rather than sand or shingles.

Indonesia is the world's largest producer of seaweed, followed by the Philippines. Much of this production is used by industry and for fertiliser. Seaweed is used to produce alginate, agar and carrageenan, gelatinous food additives with gelling, water-retention, emulsifying and other properties. Agar is used in confectionery, desserts, beverages, meat and poultry products and moulded foods. Carrageenan is used in sauces, salad dressings, dietetic foods, dairy and baked goods, and as a preservative in meat and fish products. Seaweeds are also used in the making of toothpaste, cosmetics, paints, glues, dyes and other chemical processes.

Seaweed as a food

As a food, seaweed has been harvested and consumed for centuries in many countries around the world. Nori (Japan), Zicai (China), and Gim (Korea) are sheets of dried Porphyra used in soups or to wrap sushi. Chondrus crispus (also known as Irish moss or carrageenan moss) is a red alga used to produce laver and various food additives, along with Kappaphycus and various gigartinoid seaweeds.

Seaweeds are an excellent source of iodine and a wide range of minerals and vitamins. Kelp is the richest source of iodine. In addition, they have up to 25% protein, making them a highly nutritious food.

Most seaweeds are not easy to digest as they contain long-chain complex sugars. Those with weak digestion have the most difficulty. If they are simmered for an hour or more, these sugars tend to break down and make them more digestible. I find I can eat and digest raw dulse, wakame needs only a few minutes of cooking, but sea vegetables like kelp and nori need at least an hour of simmering.

Many commercial seaweeds are treated with pesticides and fungicides on drying racks, so try to buy organic seaweeds, or get to know the local seaweeds on your beach.

Kelp - this brown algae has been used for thousands of years as a food and medicine. In Japan kelp is widely used, being ground into flour, and added to every day dishes, soups and as a garnish. Its mineral content is quite exceptional, with large amounts of calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, copper, manganese, boron, zinc and others in an easily-absorbed form.

Dulse is a red-coloured seaweed which grows on the rocky shores of England, Ireland, Canada and several other countries. It is collected at low tide, dried and packed for sale. It can be used in a similar manner to kelp, but is softer, easier to digest, and is much more palatable - quite delicious as a snack! It is an excellent source of calcium and potassium, and has some iodine.

Seaweed as a traditional remedy

Seaweed remedies are widely used in traditional medicine.