Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Seaweed a versatile addition to any diet

A misperception exists that seaweeds are inedible and difficult to incorporate into the daily diet. In fact, they are one of the most versatile foods, providing abundant flavor and a natural source of salt to many different dishes.

Beyond providing seasoning to foods, seaweeds are some of the most nutritionally complete foods on the planet. There aren't many foods that measure up to the nutrient profile of seaweeds. While varying in exact amounts, they are collectively high in potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, iodine and selenium.

Some seaweeds, particularly nori, are also rich in B vitamins, including vitamin B12. Nori is one of the few plant-based foods that contains B12, a critical vitamin for cognitive function. Seaweeds also contain omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce risk for cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Seaweeds have been used to treat many health conditions, most notably: thyroid disorders, heavy metal toxicity, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and chronic fatigue. Despite their nutritional and medicinal benefits, seaweed is almost completely absent from the standard American diet.

One of the simplest ways to incorporate seaweed into your diet is to use dried nori. Dried nori can be found pressed into sheets and is often used for rolling sushi; however, it can be crushed and sprinkled on the most basic foods: eggs, pasta, fish and soups. You can find dried nori and other dried seaweeds at most natural food stores, such as Seattle-based stores PCC and Madison Market, as well as Asian groceries like Uwajimaya and Central Market.

Try seaweed at home and surprise your family with one of the most nutritionally complete foods on the planet.

Genevieve Sherrow, candidate, Masters of Science in Nutrition, and Elizabeth Kirk, PhD, associate professor, School of Nutrition and Exercise Science, Bastyr University

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