The thought of seaweed might bring up memories of alien green sea plants littering the beach you recently visited. Or you might happily reflect on your tasty sushi meal last night. Whatever it brings up for you, seaweed is a nutritional powerhouse and the tradition of eating it is as old as culture itself. There are even some anthropological theories that sea vegetables helped us become the humans we are today.
You might have dipped a toe into the array of seaweed-eating possibilities and are curious to learn more about seaweed salad in particular. We’re here to help you navigate the mixed messages you’ve heard about eating seaweed and offer a few recipes to try. Let’s dive right in!
Is Seaweed Salad Healthy?
Seaweed is an incredible superfood, full of a range of nutrients often in high amounts (especially when compared with other plants). The short answer to this question is, yes, seaweed salad is healthy. But just how healthy, you might wonder. Let’s break it down so you know exactly what your body is getting when you sit down to a tasty seaweed salad.
Nutrition and Health Benefits
Support Thyroid Function with Iodine and Tyrosine
If you’ve ever struggled with symptoms of low thyroid function, you’ll be pleased to know that seaweed can help you out. It’s incredibly high in iodine (depending on the type of seaweed, of course), with some types containing up to 93% of the RDI value. Additionally it is more absorbable by the body as a natural source of iodine.
Seaweed also contains the amino acid tyrosine, which is crucial to thyroid hormone production. It packs a double punch for beating thyroid issues to help you fast-track feeling better again.
Good Source of Vitamins and Minerals
Sea vegetables contain an impressive array of vitamins and minerals. You’ll find these essential nutrients in your seaweed salad:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
- Vitamin B12
And so much more depending on the variety of seaweed!
In addition to all the nutrition packed into seaweed, it’s also high in antioxidants. These amazing nutrients help to defend our bodies against free radicals.
Free radicals are molecules that are unstable and end up causing damage to our bodies’ cells. Over time, this process can cause diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.
Antioxidants are helpful molecules that come from food sources like seaweed. They assist by stabilizing free radicals, which stops free radicals from damaging our bodies’ cells.
Seaweed has antioxidants such as Vitamins A, C, and E, but it also contains plant compounds like carotenoids and flavonoids. It also contains an extra special carotenoid called fucoxanthin which has a higher antioxidant level than both vitamin A and E!
Supports Gut Health with Fiber and Polysaccharides
Fiber has been hailed as a necessary part of our diets for decades, yet we don’t all necessarily understand why. High-quality fiber from fruits and vegetables aren’t digestible by humans, but instead, feed our gut bacteria. This bacteria is essential to gut function and overall quality of health. Gut health is linked directly to mental health – it really matters when it comes to how you feel physically and emotionally!
Seaweed contains more fiber than other fruits and vegetables, making it an excellent way to feed your gut bacteria. Specifically, it contains sulfated polysaccharides which are a special kind of sugar that gut bacteria love. It helps your healthy bacteria to multiply, producing greater overall health.
These polysaccharides can also help to produce short-chain fatty acids, which your body uses to nourish and repair the cells that make up the lining of your intestines. This can also increase your level of gut health (essential for improving chronic issues such as auto-immune diseases).
May Help with Weight Loss
The high levels of dietary fiber in seaweed offer a feeling of fullness that lasts longer than less fibrous foods, without any added calories. Additionally, the fucoxanthin mentioned above is also a special substance that has been demonstrated in studies on rats to help to reduce obesity. While you’d likely have to eat seaweed regularly to see these benefits, you can rest assured that seaweed is great for your body on many levels.
May Reduce Risk of Heart Disease
Carbohydrates in seaweed, called fucans, have been shown in animal research studies to reduce blood clotting. In fact, one study showed that it was so effective that the results were quite similar to anti-clotting drugs.
Other studies have shown that seaweed helps to reduce cholesterol in animals, which is a major contributor to heart disease. New studies are looking at peptides in seaweed, which might work to block the rise in blood pressure.
As heart disease is the number one killer of people worldwide, these results demonstrate the potential that eating seaweed offers.
May Help Reduce the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
Diabetes is on the rise worldwide and can be a devastating disease. Luckily, studies (such as a human trial conducted in Japan) show that seaweed offers some benefits to levels of blood sugar in the body.
Fucoxanthin, once again, shows up as a powerhouse nutrient that also helps to control sugar in the bloodstream. This can reduce the insulin load overall, leading to better health.
Another nutrient alginate has been shown to reduce the amount of sugar in the bloodstream, even after a high-sugar meal. Something about the substance helps to make sure that sugar doesn’t end up in the bloodstream, reducing the negative effects that typically come from this process. Scientists are working on more studies to better understand how it works.
While seaweed is indeed a miracle food, it’s not all rainbows, unfortunately. There are some risks associated with eating seaweed, especially in high amounts. The best way to avoid these risks is to only eat organic seaweed, choose seaweed that is lower in sodium, keep an eye on your iodine intake, and don’t add salt to your seaweed dishes.
Here are a few of the risks to watch out for.
Seaweed is the go-to food when your thyroid is struggling and you know that you need more iodine in your diet. However, some seaweed varieties are extra high in iodine. Consuming too much iodine can cause many of the same issues and symptoms as not having enough iodine, so be careful!
Ways you can reduce the effects of too much iodine include:
- Eating seaweed varieties with less iodine (such as nori)
- Eating seaweed with veggies that reduce iodine absorption (such as broccoli and cabbage)
- Boiling seaweed in water for a few minutes to cook off some of the iodine
Iodine is indeed healthy for you, just make sure that you don’t get too much of a good thing.
Because of the toxic pollution filling up our oceans and water sources, these heavy metals are embedding themselves into ocean life. That means that even nutritious seaweed could have high levels of heavy metals.
These types of metals (such as mercury and lead) are toxic for our bodies and can cause disease, illness, and even death. They’re worth avoiding as much as humanly possible.
The solution? Research your seaweed sources thoroughly to ensure that it’s coming from seas that have less heavy metal pollution. Choose organic brands and don’t be afraid to dig further into the company’s processes. It could save your health down the road!
Watch Out for the Sodium
Seaweed comes from, well, the sea. Since the ocean is a very salty place, seaweed tends to absorb that salt in high concentrations. That means that most seaweed is quite high in sodium.
For example, just 100 grams of wakame seaweed contains 872 mg of sodium. That’s 36% of the daily values recommended allowance. And that’s before you add soy sauce or salt!
To keep your sodium levels at a more reasonable place, pair less salty veggies with your seaweed salad and other seaweed snacks. Use less soy sauce or use low-sodium sauces, and skip adding any extra salt.
Common Types of Seaweed Used in Food
There are so many different varieties of seaweed used in cultures all around the world. The most popular varieties available at a store near you are typically Japanese or Asian varieties (though you’ll also find some Nordic or Atlantic varieties, as well).
The most common types include seaweeds such as…
- Nori – the flat crispy dried seaweed used in sushi
- Wakame – used for salads and in miso soup
- Kombu – used to create umami flavored broths
- Dulse – used as a seasoning for all kinds of dishes
- Hijiki – cooked into stir-fries or served with fish
- Kelp – added to salads, soups, and rice dishes
You can walk into any Asian market and find an endless variety of seaweed options. If you’d like to explore more seaweed ideas, go try some dishes at your favorite Asian restaurants and then learn how to make the healthier versions right at home!
“Why do I eat seaweed? It’s one of the easiest ways I know to get a power-packed nutrition boost. You don’t have to cook it, prepare it or do anything but pop in your mouth. By eating seaweed, you get extra nutritional support for your bones, digestion, thyroid and skin. When I’m traveling, I’ll even put some seaweed in my airplane carry on for healthy eating on the go.
While eating seaweed doesn’t always sound very appetizing to some people, it’s actually one of the most convenient and healthiest “fast foods”. Once you adjust to the flavor, it’s also incredibly delicious. It contains almost all of the minerals in the ocean, which happens to match what our bodies need. You can add it to just about anything without altering the taste of your dish. I especially enjoy sheets of nori which you can add to a sandwich, in soups or just eat as is.”
— Suzanne Monroe, Founder & CEO of the IAWP
Wakame Seaweed Salad Recipe
Wakame seaweed salad is a traditional Japanese dish you’ll love. It’s one of the easiest ways to start including more seaweed into your diet in a healthy way. It can be included in all diets, from vegan to keto.
If you’re not used to the seaweed flavor, you’ll enjoy the mild and pleasant taste and texture of the wakame. It whips up quickly, leaving you feeling satisfied and nourished. Use as many organic and high-quality ingredients as possible for the most nutritious salad.
10 minutes total prep time | 74 calories per serving size | Serves 4
1 ounce dried wakame seaweed (precut for convenience)
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons soy sauce (or liquid aminos)
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon natural sweetener (coconut sugar, stevia, honey, etc.)
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
½ teaspoon minced fresh garlic
⅛ teaspoon wasabi powder or red pepper flakes (optional)
2 scallions, finely sliced
1 tablespoon shredded carrot
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
Optional: add in other veggies and seeds to make your salad more zingy and colorful. Anything you love will work: avocadoes, beets, pumpkin seeds, and so many others. Get creative!
- Cover dried seaweed with warm water in a bowl for at least 5 minutes to rehydrate. Then rinse under cold water, squeeze out excess water, and then leave to drain in a colander.
- Make the salad dressing in a separate bowl. Combine rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, sweetener, wasabi powder or pepper flakes, ginger, and garlic. Mix until sweetener is dissolved.
- Mix seaweed in with the dressing and combine well. Add in the carrots, cilantro, scallions, and sesame seeds and stir to combine. The salad is then ready to serve. Enjoy!
How To Use Wakame Seaweed
Wakame comes in packages fully dried and brittle. You’ll need to rehydrate it before using it in recipes. The small clump of seaweed that you start off with rapidly grows once put underwater.
Simply set your wakame in a medium-sized bowl and completely cover with warm water. Give it at least 5 minutes to rehydrate and watch how, like magic, its size drastically increases. Once it looks ready to use, test a bit to make sure it’s not still hard or crunchy. If it is, add a bit more warm water and let it soak a bit longer.
Once ready to use, it should be soft, lighter-colored, and delicately textured. If you can’t find pre-cut wakame, you can easily cut it yourself. Just wait until it’s rehydrated for the easiest process.
Where to Buy Seaweed
It’s likely that your local grocery store might not have a good selection of seaweed. But take a look anyway, as you might be surprised! Also check your local health food stores, such as food co-ops and bigger chains like Whole Foods. If you’re lucky enough to live near an Asian market, you’ll definitely find a wide variety of seaweed available there.
If all else fails, you can order seaweed online quite easily. It’s available from all major online stores and you might even find it at a discount. Just remember to shop with a careful eye out for the organic, heavy metal-free varieties of seaweed.
Other Seaweed Recipes
There are so many wonderful foods that include seaweed. Some you may have tried and others might be new. You can learn to make nori hand rolls (which is the easier way to make sushi rolls at home), then fill them with healthy grains and veggies for an ultra nutritious meal or snack. Or try out making miso soup and add in wakame seaweed for a delicious warm bowl of soup in the winter.
Branch out and try other seaweed salads, such as the very tasty hijiki seaweed salad. Or just go simple and crunch up dried seaweed sheets onto all your favorite meals: salads, eggs, burgers, soups, sauces, or buddha bowls.
Try out a recipe or two, then get creative with how you integrate seaweed into your diet. You’ll love it!