Sea vegetables (also known as kelp and seaweed) are edible algae that can be eaten as is or used as an ingredient in recipes. The most common types to eat are alaria, arame, dulse, hijiki, kelp, kombu, nori, and wakame. They have been consumed by coastal people for thousands of years and for good reason. According to Dr. Gabriel Cousens in his book Conscious Eating, sea vegetables are packed with protein, vitamins and minerals. In fact, they are “higher in minerals and vitamins than any other class of food” and unlike land vegetables “have all the fifty six minerals and trace elements our bodies require.” In addition to vitamins A, B, C, and E, sea vegetables contain human-utliizable vitamin B12, which is challenging to get on a whole food, plant-based (WFPB) vegan diet. For example, one-half ounce of alaria contains 10 times more vitamin B12 than the recommended daily requirement. One-half ounce of kelp has 1-2 times the daily minimum requirement and nori has 2-3 times.
Sea vegetables are very high in fiber, contain 25% protein and are low in fat (approx. 2% to 4.5%). Alaria, Japanese wakame and kelp are high in calcium and all sea vegetables are high in potassium.
Due to pollution in our oceans, sea vegetables can become contaminated. The Maine Coast Sea Vegetables Company tests their product in a lab for 47 different chemical pollutents. Contamination has never been a problem and their sea vegetables are certified organic by OCIA (Organic Crop Improvement Association International, Inc.). Strong Arm Farm, located in Healdsburg, CA harvests seaweed off the Sonoma Coast during May and June. They recently tested their crop and found NO radioactive isotopes from Fukushima.
Strong Arm Farm’s seaweed factsheet contains some interesting information on sea vegetables:
- “Algin-rich seaweed can reduce the uptake and help remove radioactive Strontium and Cesium in the human body
- Algin also helps remove heavy metals from the body including lead, cadmium, barium, and zinc
- Alkalinizes the blood, similar composition as blood
- Lymphatic cleanser
- Beneficial to the thyroid with bioavailable iodine (vs radioactive iodine) known to regulate metabolism, weight, and mood”
Dr. Cousens recommends rinsing and soaking dried sea vegetables first to remove sea salt and then eating them as is or marinating them in lemon juice or vinegar. You can add them to soups (like Japanese miso), salads and make nori rolls. Check out these recipes from the Maine Coast Sea Vegetables Company.