05-23-2014

Spotlight on: Seaweed

A couple of years ago I was having sushi with a friend. Normally, edamame was a no-brainer appetizer but we decided to try something a little different.

I ordered the seaweed salad and was surprised by how delicious it was! I started thinking… what exactly is in this stuff? Is it healthy or some weird concoction of artificial “seaweed”?

seaweed salad

After a little research, here’s the scoop on seaweed…

What is seaweed salad?

Goma Wakame is the bright green seaweed that most restaurants serve as the seaweed salad. In Korea, the wakame soup is popularly consumed by women after giving birth as it contains a high content of calcium and iodine, nutrients that are important for nursing new mothers. Many women consume it during the pregnancy phase as well.

Calcium and iodine isn’t just for new moms, though. Calcium is important for the athlete – bones and muscle both use calcium. Most people think of bones right away since calcium does support strong bones and bone health. It’s important to remember that when your muscle contracts whether you’re running, jumping, lifting, or diving, there must be enough calcium for the muscle to use.

Iodine is used by the thyroid to regulate metabolism and the development of your skeleton and brain.

Iodine deficiency in any one of these areas causes harm to the body:

  • Salivary glands = inability to produce saliva, producing dry mouth
  • Skin = dry skin, and lack of sweating. Three to four weeks of increased iodine will typically reverse this symptom, allowing your body to sweat normally again
  • Brain = reduced alertness, and lowered IQ
  • Muscles =  nodules, scar tissue, pain, fibrosis

How is seaweed salad prepared?

Seaweed salad is most commonly sesame flavored and the wakame seaweed is seasoned with sesame oil as well as sesame seeds. Other seasoning components are red pepper flakes, vinegar, salt and cloud ear (kikurage) mushrooms. Agar agar, a type of seaweed-based gelatin, is also added for texture. Some restaurants may add dye to the salad to make it appear more green – if you’re curious about your favorite sushi stop, just ask next time you’re there.

Is it a healthy choice?

We know seaweed salad contains iodine and calcium, but what else?

Almost all types contain vitamins A, B, C, E and K. You will also find sodium, potassium, magnesium, copper and zinc in seaweed.

Basically, it can count as a “hydrating” food, supporting the athlete with electrolytes (sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium), many vitamins and minerals.

…And many studies have shown seaweed is an extraordinarily potent source of antioxidants and also helps prevent inflammation, which can contribute to a host of ailments that include arthritis, celiac disease, asthma, depression and obesity.

Where can I buy seaweed?

If you’re thinking of making your own seaweed salad or seaweed snacks, look for a local Asian market.

Seaweed can be cooked raw, with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, but snack brands have pushed out some interesting dried seaweed choices too. If it’s difficult to find raw seaweed in the local grocery store or you can’t find an Asian market, try some of the dried snacks while traveling. They are nutrient dense and easy to carry with you.

Are there seaweed recipes?

I found quite a few! Here are some of my finds:

Raw Food Recipes

Fox News

Cooking Light

Food.com

seaweed salad - myphoto

Have you prepared your own seaweed salad or snack before? Please share!

 

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