An Ocean of Promise
Andrew J. Black
Seaweed is a general term for more than 20,000 species of sea plants and algae living in the world's oceans and seas.
Seaweed is a general term for more than 20,000 species of sea plants and algae living in the world's oceans and seas. But don't bury your head in the sand when it comes to these sea vegetables. Most varieties of seaweed contain between 10 and 20 percent protein and are rich in fibre and vitamins such as A, C, E, B-complex and B12. Minerals found in seaweed include magnesium, calcium, iodine, potassium, iron and many trace elements that are often lacking in the western diet. Seaweed's antioxidant properties make it suited for the prevention and treatment of cancer by supporting the immune system in eliminating the proliferation of cancer cells. Because seaweed helps decongest swollen or inflamed lymph nodes, it can be consumed as a treatment for autoimmune illnesses including arthritis, diabetes, hives and chronic allergies. Seaweed is especially important today because of its ability to protect against damage caused by toxic elements in the environment, including heavy metals and some types of radiation byproducts. Be sure to buy certified organic varieties. Less expensive sea vegetables are sold at some markets, but the superior quality of organic is worth the extra money. Sold in dehydrated form, seaweed can be stored airtight in a cool, dark place (a kitchen cupboard) and will keep indefinitely. Since the vitamin and mineral content is so concentrated, you only need a small portion (about one-third cup or 80 milligrams) of sea vegetables two to three times per week for maximum benefit. Ready-to-use shakers filled with flakes of dulse, kelp or nori can be used as salt substitutes or to season foods while adding vitamins and minerals. Ocean Treasures Agar-Agar (AY-gar): Also called kanten in Japan, agar-agar is a natural jelling alternative that is virtually tasteless. It is used to make gelatin-type desserts and aspics and is available in flakes or bars. Agar-agar is especially rich in iodine. Alaria (a-LAH-ree-ah): This sea vegetable is harvested from the eastern seaboard of North America. Once dried it is black or dark green in colour. It's high in calcium and vitamins A and B. Alaria is good in stews and grain dishes and can also be used in miso soup instead of the traditional wakame. Arame (AR-ah-may): A mild-tasting sea vegetable from Japan with a delicate, almost sweet flavour. It is especially good in soups or combined with tofu or vegetables. Arame is rich in calcium and iodine. Carrageen (KEHR-ah-geen): Also called Irish moss, carrageen is used as a thickening agent in soups, stews and sauces, as well as in several commercial products. It has also been used medicinally to treat digestive and urinary disorders and chronic chest infections. Carrageen is rich in minerals, especially iodine, and vitamin A. Dulse (duhlss): Reddish in colour with a soft, chewy texture, dulse can be eaten right out of the package or cooked quickly and added to recipes. It has a salty, spicy flavour great for salads and stir-fries or eaten as a snack. It is native to the North Atlantic coasts and has a long history in northern European cultures. Extremely high in protein, iron and vitamin B6, dulse is also rich in vitamin B12 and potassium. Its appealing taste makes it a good introductory sea vegetable for beginners and children. Note: Dulse also contains relatively large amounts of naturally occuring fluoride, a toxin that accumulates in and weakens bones. Hijiki (hee-JEE-kee): This sea vegetable is one of the strongest-tasting varieties. It is often saut? with vegetables or used in soups, and it pairs particularly well with onions and root vegetables. In its dehydrated form, hijiki resembles black strings. Extraordinarily high in calcium and iron, it expands up to five times its dry volume when cooked, so keep that in mind when measuring out. Kelp (kelp): Kelps are large brown seaweeds that grow together in underwater forests. They are used in soups and stews, stir-fried with vegetables or cooked with beans or grains. Kelp cooks quickly and dissolves in longer-cooking dishes. High in calcium, potassium, magnesium and iron, kelp is also a good source of chromium and iodine. It can be presoaked or added dry to foods with liquids. Kelp expands up to five times its dry weight when it is used in liquid. Kombu (KOHM-boo): This Japanese seaweed is used to make dashi, an Asian soup stock, and to flavour rice and stews. Usually sold dried, in strips or in sheets, it is dark green, almost black in colour. Kombu is often called "natural MSG" and is used to boost the flavour of soups, stews and grains and tenderize beans. Laver (LAY-vuhr): Indigenous to the North Atlantic, laver is purplish black in colour and related to nori. It's especially good dry-roasted to bring out its nutty flavour. It can then be crumbled and used as a nutritious condiment to sprinkle over soups, salads or grain dishes. Laver has a long history in the British Isles, where it is combined with rolled oats and fried as a breakfast bread. Nori (NOH-ree): Belonging to the laver family of sea vegetables, nori is deep purple in colour but turns dark green when toasted. It is noted for its role in sushi-making and is available in ready-to-use sheets. It can also be chopped or crumbled for use in soups and salads. Wakame (WAH-kah-may): Leafy and mild in flavour, wakame turns green after soaking. Traditionally added to miso soup, wakame is also good with other vegetables or in salads, stir-fries or rice dishes. It is rich in calcium with high levels of B vitamins and vitamin C. Sea Vegetables Snacking Are you are ready to try seaweed but don't know how to add it to your diet? Here are eight ways.