A superfood is described in the dictionary as, “a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being”.
It is also defined as, “a type of food that some people think is very good for you and helps to prevent disease”. Once we strip down the hyped-up marketing associations, Superfoods are simply foods with powerful nutritional qualities.
So, does seaweed fit the description?
Nutrient-rich? – Check
Especially beneficial for health? – Check
Supports disease prevention? – Check
You see, what makes seaweeds so intriguing isn’t only their unique flavor (that many foodies love to experiment with), but rather their array of outstanding bioactive and highly therapeutic qualities.
Seaweeds are the predecessors of plants and along with all the wisdom they hold, they also concentrate vitamins and minerals 10-20% more than that of land plants.
The bioactives that are studied in seaweeds are a fairly new and exciting area of science that is revealing an abundance of benefits that have significant effects on preventing disease and improving health.
Among the many important components in seaweed, Fucoidan is an important one to learn about. You’ll find out why when you see what the studies have to say about this bioactive:
Those with diabetes may be interested to know that Fucoidan shows a reduction in blood glucose levels and improves insulin sensitivity in vitro in animal and in human studies.
Fucoidan activates the immune responses in a few unique ways: by promoting activation of dendritic cells (DCs); natural killer (NK) cells and T cells; and by enhancing anti-viral and anti-tumor responses.
Fucoidan is found to regulate the inflammatory response. This effect is especially notable in inflammation related to the digestive system within the intestinal tract. The anti-cancer properties of Fucoidan are well documented. It inhibits tumor cell proliferation and induces apoptosis, essentially killing and eliminating tumor cells. It also works synergistically with chemotherapy.
Seaweed supports our health in many ways:
Sea Lettuce, also known as the “spinach of the sea”, is high in protein and iron. Both of these help with cell structure, which can help keep skin from sagging.
Dulse is becoming a household name as a salt replacement. It’s high in potassium and low in sodium, helping you improve the quality of your meals. It offers a high iron content, helping to enrich and build your blood.
You may be familiar with Nori if you enjoy sushi. This seaweed can be added to your diet on a much more regular basis. Among a list of benefits for protecting the skin, Nori contains bioactives that help nourish your nervous system, which may decrease your anxiety levels.
Green seaweeds contain bioactives that include anti-viral protection with evidence that this may prevent a virus from penetrating our cells. In this day and age, that’s a star quality we all want!
Brown bioactives may activate the immune response in a unique way by enhancing natural killer (NK) cells and T cells, for a better antiviral response. Red seaweeds are showing good results as a first line of defense within the upper respiratory tract. These sulfated polysaccharide compounds defend the cells from the penetration of respiratory viruses. This type of research is promising and is needed now more than ever!
Supporting Weight Loss
Sometimes weight loss is indirect. A brown bioactive called Laminarin helps balance blood sugar level, decrease gut inflammation and creates a healthier intestinal environment. All factors to consider when looking to shed some weight.
Are you considering trying more of a vegetarian or vegan diet on your weight loss journey? Adding seaweeds is an adventurous way of doing that! Protein and amino acid-wise, seaweed is comparable to legumes and eggs. Seaweeds are also very high in fiber, mostly soluble, however, there are also insoluble fibers present. The soluble fibers are responsible for helping one feel a sense of fullness, which has been found to have a positive effect on suppressing appetite when overeating is a challenge.
Supporting Breast Health
A large part of keeping our breasts healthy is by consuming an anti-inflammatory diet. Seaweed fits into this category perfectly. Perhaps you’ve heard that women in Japan have lower rates of breast cancer. On average about 5-10% of their daily diet is seaweed and they consume a fairly equal balance of reds, greens, and brown seaweeds. Modeling our seaweed consumption after how the Japanese successfully implemented seaweed as a regular part of their diet is a great base to spring from.
For centuries seaweeds have been used as a natural remedy for skin conditions such as acne, psoriasis, and eczema. It contains powerful antioxidants that can help protect the skin from damage caused by free radicals and also contain anti-inflammatory compounds that can help reduce inflammation in the skin. You can also use seaweed topically to improve skin health and texture.
As you can see there is an abundance of amazing things this superfood from the sea can do to optimize your health!
If you want to dive deeper into the world of seaweed, Wild Rose College instructor and Seaweed Expert, Angela Willard has created a course all about the magical world of seaweeds.
This course offers some of the most current and well-documented research on the therapeutic aspects of seaweeds!
You can learn more about the online course: Seaweed Therapeutics here!