Vegetables from the Sea
The feeling of satisfaction after a meal depends, in part, on the amount of vitamins and minerals in that meal. More and more people are finding that when they increase the mineral content of the foods on their plate, they feel incredibly satisfied. They don’t crave ‘wrong’ foods between meals. They begin to lose weight if they originally weigh in at more than ideal body weight.
Adding Minerals from Sea Vegetables is Easy Increasing the mineral content of a meal is a simple process when you use sea vegetables, also called seaweeds. These ocean treats include kelp (Alaria, Laminaria, and other species), dulse, nori, bladderwrack, and other seaweeds. Just as the pumpkin seed oils and flax seed oils from different geographic regions have distinct flavors, you’ll find distinct flavors with the sea vegetables, depending on where the sea vegetable has been harvested from.
One way to add several seaweeds to your diet is to simply pulverize them in a coffee grinder and then store in a jar marked “mineral mixture.” You can also store the mineral mixture in salt shakers for use as a salt substitute. Add a little, one-quarter to one teaspoon, to soups, stews or salad dressings, or sprinkle on top of cooked foods and salads, right before serving.
Long History of Use of Sea Vegetables Seaweed has long been known for its nutritional and medicinal properties. Historical records of its use date back to 100 B.C. when the Greeks incorporated seaweed into their diet and into their herbal treatments. The Japanese hand-picked sea vegetables for use as a staple ‘crop’. Hawaiians and Polynesians grew kelp farms, and cultivated more than 60 different types for food, medicines, and ceremonial rituals. Europeans used sea vegetables such as seaweed as an herbal medicine.
Nutritional and Health Benefits Sea vegetables can be compared to a sponge, absorbing from the water everything essential to life, and one of the richest sources of nutrients. Just as sea water is rich in 60 minerals and trace elements such as iron, potassium, natural sodium, phosphorus, zinc, and manganese, the sea vegetables also tend to be good sources of these minerals and trace elements. The sea vegetables themselves are good sources of the vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, vitamin D, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, folic acid, and pantothenic acid. Also a rich source of iodine, sea vegetables maintain a healthy thyroid and can assist in long-term weight loss and weight maintenance.
Seaweeds are a treasure chest of goodness, containing amino acids and beta-carotene that firm and renew skin, and slow the aging process. In the last 5 years, skin care companies have chosen to add sea vegetables to their formulas for beautiful skin because of the high antioxidant content and humectant properties of the plants. Seaweeds also contain fatty acids that are important for cell membranes and fight against inflammation.
Several medicinal constituents are found in sea vegetables, including chlorophyll, fucoidan, carotenoids, sterols, algin, sodium alginate, carrageenan, mucopolysaccharides, and alginic acid.
Because chlorophyll, which is found in green plants and seaweeds exposed to light, has a structure very close to hemoglobin, plants containing it have been found helpful for those who have a tendency to be anemic. Chlorophyll is also a body ‘purifier’, eliminating odors that emanate from inside the body. Fucoidan promotes healthier skin, is an antioxidant that fights free radicals, and is found abundantly in kelp.
Carotenoids have multiple functions in the body, including quenching free radicals that arise from oxidized fats and infectious micro-organisms. Sterols take action against cholesterol, lowering levels in the blood. Algin, in the form of sodium alginate, is found in kelp. Algin gels in water, and by so doing, helps remove heavy metals and radioactive elements from the body such as strontium 90, found in radioactive fallout. It’s a bulking agent, providing substance for the stool, encouraging normal elimination.
Carrageenans, found in red seaweeds abundant along the Irish coastline, form gels at room temperature and can be used to thicken food products. Mucopolysaccharides, found in sea vegetables, are gel-like as well, and act as supportive tissue components in the body’s cells, especially in bones, joints, cartilage and in mucus. These possess anti-inflammatory properties.
Specifics on Sea Vegetables Sea vegetables grow at different parts of the intertidal zone in the oceans and seas. Their colors vary, depending on sunlight exposure, depth found in the sea, and type of species. Some grow to several feet long, while others maximally attain plant length of less than 12 inches.
The kelp species, Laminaria and Alaria, grow along rocky shores below the low water mark line and reach lengths of up to 15 feet and 36 feet, respectively.
Dulse is a red, chewy seaweed that grows in deep water in the North Atlantic and Northwest Pacific near Canada. In Nova Scotia, one variety is cultivated and marketed as Sea Parsley, and found fresh in the produce section. The island of Grand Manan in the Archipelago is known for the best dulse, which is darker, thicker and more flavorful than other dulse products. Widely available in health food stores and fish markets, dulse is used for food and medicinally. One handful provides a healthy portion of Vitamin B6, vitamin B12, iron, fluoride, and potassium.
Nori, also called Laver, has a reddish hue and grows in thin sheets on rocky shores in the low to mid parts of the intertidal zone.
Irish moss is found in the lower intertidal zone and is up to 10 inches in length. Colors vary from dark purple red to brown, yellow, white or green, depending on the exposure to sunlight. This sea vegetable is used for commercial purposes; an ingredient called carrageenin is used as a thickener and to create gels for the pharmaceutical and food industries.
Other sea vegetables are used for organic fertilizers and in human and pet dietary supplements.
Sea Vegetables are Often Hand Harvested Frequently, sea vegetables are picked by hand at low tide. The fronds are brought to fields to sun-dry, then shaken to remove sand, shells, and other miscellaneous. Rolled into large bales, the seaweeds are then packaged or ground later. Sea vegetables are inspected for water-borne contaminants, such as heavy metals, PCBs, herbicides, pesticides, E. coli, yeasts and molds.
One Maine sea vegetable company started out in 1971 with two people hand-picking 100 pounds of sea vegetables each, and now handles 100,000 pounds annually. More people are finding the tastes palatable and the nutrients indispensable.
Using Sea Vegetables in Recipes The most common sea vegetables are dulse, nori, and kelp. In the recipe suggestions below, consider how easy it is to incorporate these wonderful, healthy foods into your menu items.
In soups and chowders, and in pastas, add diced or sliced dulse, nori, Alaria, or Irish moss for flavor and minerals. Powered or granule form can also be used. Alaria is known for its great flavor when added to miso soup.
In sandwiches and in salads, use dulse or nori as ‘lettuce leaves’. Pre-soak or marinate Alaria before adding it to salads.
The next time you make popcorn, use kelp granules, crushed nori, or your mineral mixture, along with some cayenne pepper, nutritional yeast, and other seasonings for a spicy snack.
Consider the addition of dulse flakes, kelp granules or your mineral mixture to bread and pizza dough, to boost the nutrients of your family. Do the same to homemade muffin and waffle recipes.
For a different type of snack, try dry-roasting nori. Or pan-fry dulse or nori in sesame oil with or without vegetables. Or simply top dulse with cheese, bake, then add salsa.
Use sheets of nori for sushi wrap.