Including Seaweed In Your Diet

When we think about seaweed, most of us picture smelly piles on a beach after a storm or the wrapping that keeps your sushi together, not a food product with a surprising number of health benefits.  Seaweed is high in essential amino acids; contains a wide variety of minerals and trace minerals including calcium, sodium, magnesium, potassium, iodine, iron and zinc; and vitamins C, niacin, B1, B2, B6 and B12.

There is a wide variety of research currently being done on the extensive health benefits of including seaweed in our diet.  Consider cultures where there is a high consumption of seaweed.  In Japan, where most people consume approximately 1/5 of an ounce of seaweed daily, there is a low incidence of metabolic syndrome, which includes conditions such as weight gain, slow metabolism, and a tendency towards diabetes.  When eaten as part of a complete meal, seaweed helps to balance blood sugar by slowing the digestion and absorption into the bloodstream of the food.

How you can include seaweed in your diet

  • Add it to soups or stews
  • Make your own sushi
  • Seaweed salad
  • Add it to noodle or pasta dishes, or cook it in sauces
  • Add to green vegetables such as kale, spinach, or swiss chard

There is evidence to suggest that seaweed may help lower the risk of estrogen-related cancers, including breast cancer, it has cholesterol lowering effects, and is an excellent source of iron.  Additionally, it contains vitamin c, which helps increase the absorption and assimilation of iron.

Seaweed plants can survive in incredibly polluted waters and protect themselves with a naturally produced antibiotic.  There are four varieties of seaweed that are commonly used in Chinese medicine.  They include laminaria, ecklonia, sargassum, and pyrphora.  In Traditional Chinese Medicine, seaweeds have traditionally been used to disperse phlegm accumulation among other uses:

Kunbu (Laminaria and Ecklonia)

  • Essence and Flavor: Salty, Cold
  • Channel Entered: Liver, Stomach, Kidney
  • Actions: Softens hardness, disperses accumulation, resolves phlegm, cleanses heat
  • Applications: Scrofula, goiter, tumor, edema, accumulation, testicular pain and swelling

Haizao (Sargassum)

  • Essence and Flavor: Bitter, Salty, Cold
  • Channel Entered: Liver, Stomach, Kidney
  • Actions: Disperses accumulated phlegm, disperses goiter and tumor, delivers water, cleanses heat
  • Applications: Scrofula, goiter, tumor, edema, testicular pain and swelling

Zicai (Porphyra)

  • Essence and Flavor: Sweet, Salty, Cold
  • Channel Entered: Lung
  • Actions: Resolves phlegm, softens hardness, dispels heat, promotes diuresis
  • Applications: Goiter, beriberi [leg swelling], edema, urinary infection, sore throat

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