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Vital Vittle of the Week: Sea Veggies

Posted Jan 26 2009 5:39pm

The Vital Vittle

By Maureen Lauder

Food of the Week:  Sea Vegetables

Seaweeds like nori, dulse, and kelp provide some of the most varied mineral content of any food.  Most of the minerals found in the ocean end up one way or another in sea vegetables, and the mixture of vitamins and minerals in seaweed closely resembles that of the human body.  Sea vegetables are also incredibly nutrient dense, which means that a little goes a long way.

Types of Sea Vegetables

There are lots and lots, of course, but here are some of the most common: Chopstick and sushi mat

Dulse:  Dulse is a red seaweed with a chewy texture.  It’s low in sodium but has a salty taste that makes it good for seasoning.  Dulse can be purchased in whole-leaf or flake form or in granules for seasoning.

Hijiki: Hijiki is round, noodle-like sea vegetable that can be used in salads.  It is usually sold dried and then reconstituted for use.  Watch out though - its volume expands quite a lot as it rehydrates.

Kelp:  Kelp ranges from light brown to dark green in color. Raw kelps is chewy and salty and acts as a natural flavor enhancer.

Nori:  Perhaps the best known sea vegetable, nori sheets widely used in sushi rolls in Japanese restaurants.  Nori can also be purchased in flake form and used as a seasoning or garnish.  Nori sheets are often toasted; raw nori is darker green and somewhat chewier.

Wakame: Wakame is a dark green sea vegetable with long leaves.   Wakame is often imported to North America from Asian countries; a similar seaweed, called alaria, grows naturally off the Atlantic coast of the northern US and Canada.  Wakame is commonly used in salads and in miso soup.

Why It’s Good for You

Nutritional content will vary somewhat depending on the variety of sea vegetable, of course, but they all have a few things in common:

  • Lots and lots of iodine, vitamin K, folate, and magnesium - plus iron and calcium.
  • Like flaxseed, sea vegetables are a good lignans, which helps prevent fast-growing tumors from metastasizing.
  • Sea vegetables promote healthy thyroid function. The thyroid, which regulates your body’s metabolic processes, depends on iodine to function.
  • The folic acid in sea vegetables helps reduce the incidence of some birth defects.
  • The magnesium in sea vegetables may help reduce the severity of migraine, asthma, and menopause symptoms.
  • Plus, magnesium and folic acid help prevent cardiovascular disease.

Get Yer Sea Veggies In!

Because they’re so nutrient dense, you don’t need to eat a lot of sea vegetables to get the benefits.

  • Kelp and dulse are both sold in shakers and can be added to almost any dish as a seasoning or as a salt substitute.
  • Dulse, kelp, and nori flakes, as well as wakame leaves, can be added to salads for a little extra zing.
  • And nori sheets make for a great wrap! Sweet ingredients like apples, pears, lettuce, avocado and honey can be rolled in nori sheets for a dessert-like treat.
  • Or make “sushi” rolls: Spread a thin layer of finely chopped cauliflower or your favorite raw pâté on a nori sheet. Add a row of veggies– tomatoes, peppers, and spinach, perhaps-down the middle and then roll the nori into a tight tube. Eat in one piece as a wrap or slice into chunks and share.

And if you’re feeling more ambitious (Cucumber Sea Vegetable Salad, anyone?), check out the raw seaweed recipes on the Maine Coast Sea Vegetables website.

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