One of my favorite things to eat is seaweed. Fantastic in kimbap and good on its own, seaweed is a health-friendly option for mealtimes and snacking. Packed with nutrients and disease-fighting properties, the edible algae may easily become your new best friend.
Like with any good treat, too much seaweed can be a bad thing, though, so use judgement and moderation when deciding how much of any one thing to eat. Even natural and nutrient-rich picks can disrupt the balances that our bodies need in order to maintain their ability to function properly. If you have any questions given your particular circumstances, don’t hesitate to talk with a nutritionist or other healthcare professional in order to determine what’s best for you.
What Can Seaweed Do For You?
Offering Nutritional Goodness
Seaweed delivers a fiber-filled, protein-packed punch to help your body stay on track. The marine algae is also a good source of iodine, which is necessary for thyroid function and ovulation. Providing vitamins A, B, C and E as well as essential amino acids and some heart-healthy fatty acids, seaweed is a low-calorie way to access vital nutrients for your body’s health.
Preventing Certain Types of Cancer and Improving Menstrual Irregularities
In animal studies, seaweed actually lowered estrogen levels and blocked certain hormonal activities, which are two important factors for decreasing your risks of developing breast cancer. Seaweed may also be helpful in preventing endometrial and ovarian cancers as well.
Because of the effect seaweed may have on estrogen, eating seaweed or taking seaweed-based supplements may be able to help with menstrual problems. In animal studies, seaweed lengthened menstrual cycles, which can help decrease the number of cycles an animal had and the amount of time spent in the high-estrogen phase overall. Consequently, seaweed may be able to limit your estrogen exposure, improve the condition of ovarian cells and help treat endometriosis.
During some gynecologic procedures, brown seaweed is actually used to expand the cervix to ease diagnostic measures and cancer treatments. However, this method is not advised by everyone and should especially not be used on pregnant women since the technique can increase the risks of infection, miscarriage and a ruptured cervix.
Increasing Digestive Health and Providing Weight Loss Help
Seaweed contains soluble fiber, which can have a delaying effect on digestion so that your stomach is slower to empty out its contents. This, in turn, may help you feel fuller for longer, decreasing your appetite and making you less likely to overeat. Consequently, the seaweed-extracted fiber alginate has actually been added in some diet pills and meal-replacement drinks.
According to studies, meal-replacement drinks with higher concentrations of alginate reduce hunger feelings for longer than alternative diet drinks. Although more research is needed to understand the particulars, the way alginate reacts to stomach acid is thought to play an important role in creating such a full feeling. Despite this effect, seaweed can still be used as a laxative to treat constipation and intestinal discomfort.
Another interesting component of some types of brown seaweed is an antioxidant named fucoxanthin, which has been shown to help burn fat in animal studies. Although eating seaweed in food form isn’t likely to give you a medicinal-dose of such an antioxidant, the dietary supplement industry may someday come out with a relevant offering designed to help humans similarly burn more fat.
Aiding Skin and Beauty Treatments
Seaweed can actually be used for at-home and professional spa treatments alike. A seaweed wrap may be useful in detoxifying your skin by helping pull out impurities and making you sweat. Seaweed extracts can also be found in some ready-made beauty products including moisturizers and cleansers.
However, full body wraps and other practices that call for the overuse of seaweed may have negative consequences including skin breakouts. Also, because what you leave on your skin can ultimately appear in your bloodstream, beauty lovers should avoid the frequent application of a mineral-rich pick like seaweed.
Providing Helpful Resources for Medical Professionals and Scientists
The alginates in seaweed absorb water quickly and are commonly used in wound dressings and dental moulds. Agar, which is made from seaweed, is a useful culture medium in the world of microbiology. Alginates and agar alike are additionally used in various fields of biomedicine.
What Are the Risks of Ingesting Seaweed?
Irrefutable Brands May Be Offering Toxic or Contaminated Algae
Although seaweed comes from edible marine algae, there are toxic forms of freshwater algae that should not be consumed. Even some marine algae contain irritants that can negatively affect your digestive tract so you need to buy your seaweed only from credible manufacturers and companies that are reputable and trustworthy. Rotting seaweed can also contain a potent amount of a toxic gas that can cause poisoning, vomiting and diarrhea so make sure you’re eating sources that are either fresh or that have been properly dried.
Too Much Iodine Can Be Harmful
Seaweed is not considered safe for women who are pregnant or nursing because of the iodine and heavy metal content. Similarly, those who have hyperthyroid conditions need to be careful of eating too much seaweed. Post-menopausal women may also face increased cancer risks when their bodies are exposed to too much iodine.
Even for many healthy adults, taking a dietary supplement with a particularly-high concentration of seaweed can expose those individuals to unsafe amounts of iodine. Since no authoritative body closely governs the sale of dietary supplements, don’t assume that a product is safe just because you can pick it up from a local store.
Seaweed Can Increase the Severity of Pre-Existing Problems
If the benefits of seaweed include providing a nutrient that you personally need to avoid, your personal circumstances will dictate avoiding an increased consumption of the algae. Since seaweed contains potassium, for example, those with kidney issues may find it problematic to regularly ingest seaweed. Similarly, if you struggle with a condition like low levels of estrogen, seaweed may only worsen your situation. When in doubt, contact a medical professional to discuss your situation and make sure you are staying away from the kinds of foods and supplements that will only further compromise your ability to be healthy.