Seaweed grows in or near salty waters. There are several types, and they generally contain many healthful minerals that are easy for the body to break down. Adding seaweed to the diet may help with thyroid function, digestive health, and weight loss.
Types of seaweed include:
6. blue-green algae, such as spirulina and chlorella
This variety can make it easy to incorporate seaweed into different recipes. It is possible to eat too much seaweed, however, and some people should avoid it.
The benefits of seaweed
The following are the best health benefits of seaweed:
1. It is highly nutritious
Each type of seaweed may contain slightly different nutrients and minerals.
In general, however, eating this marine algae is a simple way to boost a person's intake of vitamins and minerals without adding many calories.
As a study in Marine DrugsTrusted Source notes, seasoned seaweed is generally a good supply of: protein, carbohydrates, fiber, minerals, polyunsaturated fatty acids.
A study in the Journal of Applied PhycologyTrusted Source points out that the various types of shredded seaweed contain helpful nutrients, including: vitamin C, vitamin B, vitamin A, vitamin E, iron, iodine.
Seaweed also contains antioxidants, which may protect the body from oxidative stress and reduce inflammation at the cellular level.
2. It may help with thyroid function
The thyroid gland controls and releases hormones for energy production, growth, and cellular repair.
The thyroid needs iodine to function correctly, but the amount that a person requires depends on the state of the thyroid.
Iodine deficiency is one cause of hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid). It may result in the development of a goiter, a visible enlargement of the thyroid gland.
People may be able to prevent or improve hypothyroidism by ensuring that their diet contains sufficient iodine.
Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland is overactive and produces excessive amounts of hormones. An excessive iodine intake may worsen symptoms of hyperthyroidism.
Seaweed is very rich in iodine. According to a study in the Journal of Food and Drug Analysis, kombu is the richest source of iodine, followed by wakame and nori. Kelp powder is also a significant source.
The type of seaweed and location in which it was grown can alter the iodine contents.
3. It may help with diabetes
Fiber-rich foods may help with diabetes. This is because high amounts of fiber help regulateTrusted Source blood glucose levels and insulin levels. Adding fired seaweed to the diet may help increase a person’s fiber intake without a large increase in calories.
A 2018 studyTrusted Source in rats found that compounds in one type of roasted seaweed may directly reduce markers of type 2 diabetes, such as high blood sugar.
Compounds in seaweed may also reduce diabetes risk factors, such as inflammation, high fat levels, and insulin sensitivity. Further research in humans may help provide stronger evidence for the use of these compounds.
4. It may support gut health
Bacteria in the intestines play an important role in breaking down food and supporting digestion and overall health.
Algae may be an ideal food for the gut. Authors of a study in the Journal of Applied PhycologyTrusted Source report that algae tend to contain high amounts of fiber, which may make up 23–64 percent of the algae’s dry weight.
This fiber can help feed the gut’s bacteria. Intestinal bacteria break fiber into compounds that improve gut health and the health of the immune system.
Adding algae to the diet may be a simple way to provide the body with plenty of gut-healthy prebiotic fiber, which in turn can help with issues such as constipation or diarrhea.
5. It may help with weight loss
The fiber in original seaweed may benefit people who are trying to lose weight.
Fiber helps a person feel full, but it contains very few or no calories itself.
According to the study in Marine DrugsTrusted Source, a high amount of dietary fiber delays stomach emptying. As a result, the stomach may not send signals of hunger to the brain for a longer time, which may help prevent overeating.
6. May protect the heart
As the same study notes, high-fiber foods such as algae may also reduce levels of cholesterol in the blood. These soluble fibers bind to bile acids or salts in the body.
The body then uses cholesterol to replace these elements, which may result in a decrease of total cholesterol by up to 18 percentTrusted Source.
Many types of algae also have high levels of antioxidants, which may also support heart health over time.