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Snacking on algae may not sound like the most appetizing treat but it really can be! After all, seaweed is just algae anyways! Coming in a wide range of colors and shapes, seaweed has a tremendous nutritional punch with some serious health benefits. The Japanese have been eating seaweed for centuries but, thanks to sushi, it has now been discovered as a low-calorie snack in North America.
Seaweed provides omega-3 fatty acids. A sheet of nori seaweed contains the same amount of omega-3 fatty acids as two avocados with fewer calories. This type of fat helps to raise healthy HDL cholesterol levels while lowering harmful LDL cholesterol levels. Omega-3 fatty acids also help reduce inflammation in the body.
The natural fiber found in some types of seaweed such as kelp, might help digestion and reduce fat absorption. This fiber is called alginate. A recent study found that eating seaweed reduced fat digestion by more than 75 percent. Another benefit of fiber is it can help you to feel full faster and prevents overeating. These findings strongly suggest that adding seaweed to your diet could potentially help you lose weight and lower unhealthy cholesterol levels in the blood.
Seaweed, particularly wakame, provides about 164 micrograms of iodine, which is essential for a healthy thyroid. Healthy thyroid function is necessary for our body to help manage metabolism. The human body does not make iodine, so it’s important that we consume it through food. Iodine is also needed for bone health, immune response, and the development of the central nervous system.
Seaweed can help you add calcium to your diet. Calcium is an essential mineral that is used to keep your bones and teeth strong. Calcium is part of hydroxyapatite, which is the mineralized tissue that comprises a big portion of your bones. Also, it is used to help your muscles contract, help with cell communication and aid the nervous system and its function. A serving of kelp contains nearly 6 percent of your daily calcium requirement.
Vitamin K is a platelet communicator. Platelets are the cells that form blood clots. Vitamin K helps send a chemical signal that tells your platelets to come together and form a blood clot so that the body knows to stop the flow of blood from the wound. Kelp contains 29 percent of the daily Vitamin K requirement for women and 22 percent for men.
Seaweed contains iodine and too much iodine can cause problems with the thyroid. Some seaweed is high in Vitamin K, which may interfere with blood thinning medications. High potassium levels in seaweed may cause nausea and weakness in patients with kidney problems since their kidneys can no longer remove excess potassium from the body.