Benefits of Seaweed and Why You Should Be Eating More of It

October 2, 2020

While seaweed has long been a staple of many Asian diets – especially in Japanese cuisine – it’s showing up on a growing number of American restaurant menus, packaged foods and in home kitchens. What’s the reason? Carolyn Brown, a registered dietitian with Foodtrainers in New York City, says, “Seaweed is low-calorie, crunchy, salty and super nutritious. The fact that it’s plant-based and high in protein makes it trendy.” And thanks to online sources, seaweed is also easier to find than ever before.

Nutrition notes
Brown says, “Seaweed is a vitamin and mineral jackpot, rich in vitamins A and E, B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, potassium, copper, iron and iodine.” It also contains omega-3s and polyphenols and is a good source of protein and fiber.

Common types

While there are more than 100 varieties of edible seaweed, these are the ones you’ll see most often.

Seaweed.
Think of it as gateway seaweed. It comes in the form of “seaweed snacks” on sushi rolls and slices.

Seaweed.
Kelp, also known as kombu, is the main ingredient in Japanese soup and is the base for miso soup. Kelp powder can be added to smoothies, and kelp noodles are a staple of Korean cuisine.

Wakame.
It’s the main ingredient in most seaweed salads and the broad, smooth seaweed in miso soup.

Pulse.
Usually sold dried, the bean paste comes in whole, flaky, or powdered form. Some say it tastes like bacon fried. We’ll let you be the judge of that.

3 Ways to Eat It (Besides Sushi)
From Jeremy Rock Smith, executive chef at Kripalu Yoga & Wellness Center and author of The Kripalu Kitchen with David Joachim.

1. add kombu when preparing dried beans. Seaweed helps break down the gas-causing sugars in the beans.

2. sneak seaweed into your salad for depth of flavor.

3. shake store-bought seaweed – a topping that includes sesame seeds and nori – onto popcorn, roasted vegetables, cooked fish or omelets.

Where (and how) to buy
Nori chips, in the form of seaweed snacks, are now ubiquitous. Look for other varieties online and in Asian supermarkets, natural food stores and well-stocked grocery stores. Most seaweed is sold and eaten dried, or reconstituted in warm water. Some seaweed, such as kelp, can also be frozen, which means it doesn’t need to be re-dissolved.