Sea vegetables, also known as seaweed, grow in the ocean on solid surfaces and supply marine life with nutrients needed to survive. Sea vegetables can be eaten by humans and are filled with essential vitamins and minerals that the body needs. Certain sea vegetables are packed with vitamins that boost immunity and ward off different diseases. They are high in sodium alginate, a compound responsible for fighting cancer.
The Japanese often use different sea vegetables in their diet. Although little scientific research has been done, Asians have used healing methods involving seaweed to prevent tumors. Japan conducted its own research on extract from eight different types of seaweed and found they all had the ability to prevent tumors. Different examples of the more well-known sea vegetables available in most health food stores and Asian markets include alaria, dulse, hijiki, kelp and nori.
Kelp is often sold in wide, dried dark green strips and is similar to the Japanese kombu. It is mostly eaten in soups and stir-fries to replace salt. This sea vegetable is high in folate which helps regenerate red blood cells and breaks down protein in the body. Kelp contains high levels of magnesium. Magnesium is beneficial for people who are sensitive to sodium or have high blood pressure.
Nori, also known as laver, is sold in paper-thin green dried sheets. It is used to wrap around sushi, accentuate salads and pasta or float in soups. Nori is high in Vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that attacks free radicals in the body. Vitamin A is another powerful antioxidant found in nori that builds immunity and prevents night blindness and helps improve vision. Vitamin A is known for preventing cancer as well.
Hijiki, sometimes spelled hiziki, is a stronger tasting seaweed and looks like black angel hair pasta when packaged. It can be soaked to lighten the strong taste or eaten as a side dish. Hijiki is loaded with calcium iron, fiber, potassium, Vitamin E and protein.
Dulse looks like deep red wrinkled leaves and can be eaten straight from the package. It is usually added to pasta dishes, soups and stews and can be found in ready-to-use flakes. Dulse is high in protein, iron, potassium, chlorophyll, enzymes, magnesium, iodine, dietary fiber, Vitamin A and some Vitamin Bs.
Alaria, also known as wakame, is often used in miso soup. This sea vegetable is sometimes very chewy but can be tenderized by cutting away the stiff midrib of the plant. Alaria is high in protein and Vitamin A. It is a rich source of iodine and minerals.
Most sea vegetables provide sufficient amounts of Vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 fights off fatigue and memory loss. While sea vegetables tend to supply a ton of nutrients, they also contain iodine and sodium which can be harmful if ingested in large amounts.
Small amounts of iodine helps the body process protein and carbohydrates. The thyroid needs iodine to regulate growth and development, but too much iodine can damage the way the thyroid works, and too much sodium can raise blood pressure. When eating sea vegetables, it is wise to remember that most valuable nutrients are found on the surface. Lightly rinsing them is most beneficial when preparing them for meals. Using them in soups will cause the broth to soak up the nutrients, but the nutrients can still be ingested when sipping the broth.