From a functional standpoint the biggest reason to start eating more seaweed is because it is excellent for digestive health. Several studies have shown that seaweed can actually strengthen the layer of mucus which protects the stomach wall. It also slows down digestion so you will feel fuller for longer following your meal. Additionally, it slows down the digestive process which forces food to release its energy and nutrients more slowly. Not only does this mean you get more energy from your food but also gives your body more time to absorb the nutrients from your meal.
There are a number of studies that have shown seaweed may be able to improve heart health as well. Specific types of seaweed have been shown to prevent high blood pressure in animals as well as reduce the risk of stroke. A 25 year study of Okinawans, often regarded as the longest lived population, discovered that sea vegetables counted towards 7 to 10 portions of fruit and vegetables they ate on a daily basis. Not surprisingly, they had extraordinarily low cholesterol and low homocysteine levels, which is a heart damaging chemical.
Several studies have noted that seaweed is very high in lignans. Lignans are a plant substance which turns into phytoestrogens in the body. This helps block dangerous chemicals that can predispose people to a variety of cancers, including breast cancer. Several reports have noted that the higher levels of kelp consumption in Japan may be a driving factor behind the lower rates of breast cancer.
Another benefit of eating more seaweed is it can play a primary function in helping regulate thyroid health. It has a very high iodine content which will not only maintain healthy thyroid function but can also assist in weight loss. The presence of zinc in antioxidants also helps strengthen the immune system, thus reducing the risk of illness and infection.
Aside from the health benefits, seaweed is also a great healthy food because of its general makeup. It’s not bulky enough to meet as a primary portion of a meal but at the same time its strong, smoky flavor is intense enough that you are going to eat an exorbitant amount of it during one sitting. This makes it a very synergistic food that can be easily added into meals you already enjoy.