A SUPER FOOD
Since ancient times, sea vegetables have been appreciated as one of nature’s most valuable food sources by coastal peoples from around the globe. Although their taste is distinctive and an acquired one for many palates, sea vegetables are incredibly versatile and may be added to just about any dish.
Soaking before cooking: Remember that dried seaweeds will expand considerably upon soaking. Save the soaking water, strain it, and use for soup broth and vegetable stock for a mineral infusion.
Storage: Dried seaweeds, if stored in a cool, dry place, will keep for several years in an airtight container. If the seaweed does become damp, simply dry briefly in a low oven.
Although they are part of the plant kingdom, sea vegetables are a complete protein source and one of nature’s richest sources of vegetable protein (up to 38%) and vitamin B12.
Ounce for ounce sea vegetables are higher in vitamins and minerals than any other food group. They are particularly high in vitamins A, C, E, B1, B2, B6, and B12. Seaweed also contains a substance (ergesterol) that converts to vitamin D in the body. (This doesn't always convert to cholecalciferol so supplementation is still advised) In addition to key nutrients, seaweeds provide us with carotene, chlorophyll, enzymes, and fiber.
Seaweed’s saltiness comes from a combination of sodium, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, and a myriad of trace minerals found in the ocean.
Because their chemical make-up is so similar to human blood, sea vegetables have a balancing, alkalizing effect on the blood.
Sea vegetables are known for their ability to reduce cholesterol, remove metallic and radioactive elements from the body, and to prevent goiter. Seaweed also has antibiotic properties that have shown to be effective against penicillin resistant bacteria.
Some popular sea veggie sources that most of us have access to include:
(Sea Cabbage) The most commonly used seaweed, kombu is particularly good as a mineral boost for bone broth.. Add a 4-6 inch strip to soups, stews, beans, or brown rice as they cook. When cooking time is short, soak kombu for 20 minutes first. Once cooked, cut up and return to the dish. Kombu contains glutamic acid, a natural flavor enhancer. Like kelp, kombu has the ability to soften other foods that are cooked with it.
Health Benefits: Kombu contains enzymes that help to break down the raffinose sugars in beans (the cause of excessive gas and bloating), increasing digestability. Kombu also acts as an antidote to excess sodium consumption and it is known to reduce blood cholesterol and hypertension. Kombu is high in iodine, potassium and calcium, as well as vitamins A and C.
(Sea Lettuce, Green Laver) Nori has a mild, nutty, salty-sweet taste. Best when roasted before using (pre-toasted nori is sold as “sushi nori”), wild nori is excellent crumbled into soups, salads and stews. Nori is also great as a table condiment either alone or with ginger. Nori, when sold in paper thin flat sheets, is used for wrapping sushi rolls or for cutting into strips to use in soup. Sea lettuce, “green nori” that resembles lettuce, is excellent in soups, salads, and in rice and noodle dishes.
Health Benefits: Nori is 28% protein, more than sunflower seeds, lentils or wheat germ without the potentially gut damaging lectins. It is also an excellent source of calcium, iron, manganese, fluoride, copper, and zinc. Of the sea vegetables, nori is one of the highest in vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, B12 as well as vitamins A, C and E.
A traditional addition to miso soup, this sweet-flavored and tender sea vegetable may be softened in water for only about 5-10 minutes before slivering into a green salad. Add a touch of Rice Vinegar and eat with your favorite sushi. Wakame goes well with land vegetables, especially cooked greens. It is particularly delicious when sauteed with onions. Lightly bake and crumble wakame for a mineral-rich condiment for side dishes. I always order a nice Wakame salad while enjoying sashimi tuna to assist in clearing any heavy metals that might be delivered with my sashimi.
Health Benefits: Wakame has many of the same nutritional benefits of its close relative, kombu. It is especially rich in calcium and contains high levels of B and C.
Whole Foods Companion by
Dianne Onstad, Cooking with Sea Vegetables
by Peter and Montse Bradford and Maine Coast
Sea Vegetables Recipes.