Also called marine vegetables or seaweed, sea greens are a novel superfood arriving on the health landscape. They might also benefit your stomach, heart, and other areas of your body.
If you follow the most recent culinary fads, you’ve undoubtedly seen a rise in sea vegetables’ appeal. You can now purchase dried seaweed treats at your neighborhood grocery store, order a sea veggie dish at some establishments, or add sea greens powder to your regular fruit smoothie. Additionally, although kelp, sea vegetables, and sea greens all sound like different foods, the terms are frequently used interchangeably. According to Kayley Myers, RDN, a Springfield, Missouri-based practitioner, “Sea greens, sea veggies, and seaweed are all words that usually refer to a range of edible plants that thrive in the ocean or other areas of water.
Typical illustrations of marine greens include:
While marine greens have long been a part of East Asian diets, the notion of using seaweed in food may be novel to many Americans. People who live near the ocean have been eating these leaves since prehistoric times, according to a BBC News report, and for good cause. They are abundant in omega-3 fatty acids, enzymes, minerals, and fiber. “Their general appeal is most likely due to their flexibility in use, the health benefits they offer, and the environmental effects promoting sea greens has,” says Kelsey Kunik, RDN, of Saginaw, Michigan, the creator of Graciously Nourished and a nutrition advisor for Fin vs. Fin.
Here are seven good reasons to incorporate marine vegetables into your diet.
1. Sea Greens May Support Heart Health
The high amounts of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish tend to get all the attention, but salmon and tuna aren’t the only species in the water that contain these nutrients (so to speak). One of the few plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids, according to Kunik, is sea weeds. The majority of seaweed’s fats are omega-3s, according to a study that appeared in the September 2019 issue of Phycologia. Additional research, which appeared in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health in May 2021, suggests that some red and brown seaweed varieties may be a source of omega-3s for dietary supplements. According to scientific research, higher omega-3 amounts may promote heart health by decreasing blood pressure at rest and triglycerides. However, more research is required to pinpoint the precise degree to which marine greens may be able to produce these outcomes.
2. Sea Greens May Improve Digestive Health
It is well known that getting enough fiber promotes a balanced microbiota, good digestion, and regular bowel motions. You can meet your everyday goal with the assistance of the fiber in seaweed. Seaweed contains more nutrients per ounce than many fruits and veggies. A prior research found that the dry weight content of microalgae, another term for sea greens, ranged from 25 to 75 percent fiber. Seaweed consumption may still have an impact on gut health even if it’s minimal. According to a research that was released in the International Journal of Biological Macromolecules in June 2018, the sulfated polysaccharides in some brown seaweed had a beneficial impact on the gut microbiota’s makeup. Additionally, they boosted the creation of short-chain fatty acids, which, according to studies, may have an anti-inflammatory impact in the gut.
3. Sea Greens Could Promote Thyroid Health
You might want to think about including marine greens in your stews, salads, or shakes if you are worried about having an underactive thyroid. According to Myers and studies, iodine is found in kelp, nori, arame, sea palm, and dulse. Adequate iodine consumption is necessary for the production of thyroid hormones. However, Myers warns against consuming too much iodine from marine vegetables. It’s crucial to keep in mind that getting more iodine isn’t always a good idea, she adds. “Excessive iodine consumption can have a detrimental effect on thyroid health and result in problems like hypothyroidism, hyperactivity, and goiter.” Consult your physician or a trained nutritionist about the amount of sea greens you can include in your diet if you are aware that your thyroid hormone levels are higher than usual.
4. Sea Greens Could Fight Seasonal and Food Allergies
Future treatments for the feared springtime running nose and watery eyes may contain compounds derived from marine weeds. According to Myers, there is some proof that spirulina may benefit those who suffer from seasonal allergens. She cites a prior research that was written up in the Journal of Medicinal Food and involved giving a nutritional additive based on spirulina to individuals with allergy rhinitis for a 12-week period. (Seasonal allergies that impact the nose passageways are also referred to as allergic rhinitis.) Interleukin-4, a cytokine implicated in the onset of seasonal allergies, was then found to be at lower amounts in these individuals. Theoretically, this could imply that ingesting sea greens, particularly in supplement form, could lessen the intensity of periodic allergy symptoms. However, more research is required before definite inferences about how consuming sea greens in their entirety may influence springtime hay fever can be made.
5. Sea Greens Could Help Manage Diabetes
A prior study suggested that sea greens’ high amounts of antioxidants, fiber, and unsaturated fatty acids could make them useful in the therapy of type 2 diabetes. The study discovered that the beneficial substances in kelp were efficient at lowering inflammation and thwarting the enzymes that cause blood sugar to rise after eating. The findings may pave the way for future studies that investigate this possible link. For people with diabetes, it definitely can’t harm to incorporate sea greens into meals and snacks. However, the study did not clearly state how much seaweed would be required to accomplish these benefits. A cup of uncooked seaweed has 33 calories, 2.8 grams of protein, 0.4 grams of fat, and 6.3 grams of carbohydrates, making it a low-carb, diabetes-friendly food. according to the USDA.
6. Sea Greens Help Detoxify the Body of Heavy Metals
There is a lot of false information about “detox” programs, but occasionally it can be helpful to rid the body of dangerous drugs. When it comes to ridding the body of heavy metals, there is some proof that marine greens may be able to do just that. Consuming spirulina reduced the impacts of arsenic, cadmium, mercury, and lead, according to a study published in a 2020 edition of the Journal of Environmental Pathology, Toxicology, and Oncology. And in an April 2019 Antioxidants research, supplementing with chlorella and another seaweed called Fucus spiralis for 90 days aided people with long-term oral titanium implants lower their levels of heavy metals. “For individuals who are subjected to heavy metals on a regular basis, offering a means to securely eliminate these from the body could benefit various health outcomes, including better bone health and decreased chance of some autoimmune illnesses,” claims Kunik.
7. Sea Greens Are a Weight Loss–Friendly Food
Sea greens can be a handy go-to meal when on a diet to lose weight. According to USDA statistics, choices like fresh wakame, kelp, and spirulina are low in calories, with only 5 calories per 2 tablespoon dose. They can be particularly satiating because about 75% of their dry weight is made up of fiber. The Mayo Clinic claims that meals with more fiber tend to be more satisfying than those with less fiber, keeping you fuller for longer. The seaweed’s vitamins may also help people lose weight. People with higher levels of inflammation were more likely to experience greater weight increase and newly-onset overweight or obesity, according to a large research that was performed over eight years and was published in the June 2017 issue of Obesity. Your diet may benefit from including marine vegetables to help reduce the inflammation brought on by these weight-related problems.
Are you hoping to lose weight by consuming marine greens? You can try using them fresh or preserved. Kunik advises adding sea vegetables to salads, soups, and noodles if you can locate them fresh. Myers recommends adding them to miso broth or sushi. Sea veggies can also be added to salads or used as a salty garnish on your beloved meals, the author adds. There are as many types of these adaptable greens as there are methods to consume them.