American Oceans

Everything You Need to Know About Seaweed

If you have ever been to a beach or stepped into the sea, you have probably noticed the presence of seaweed. It commonly grows in coastal areas, and it is something that can be found all over the world. 

You might have heard that seaweed is something that is often eaten in some places around the world, which can leave you with lots of questions about seaweed.

Seaweed underwater with light coming from uptop

Seaweed is something that can provide many benefits to your body, which is something that we are going to consider here.

In this article, we are going to tell you everything you need to know about seaweed, including what it is, whether you can eat it, and all of the benefits of doing so. Who knows? Maybe seaweed will be the latest introduction to your diet.

What is Seaweed?

Seaweed is the common name for a variety of different species of marine plants and algae that grow in the ocean and places like rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water.

There are some seaweeds that are microscopic, like phytoplankton, that live suspended in the water column and provide the base for the majority of food chains.

However, there are some types of seaweed that are much larger than this, like the giant kelp that typically grow in abundant forests and tower-like underwater redwoods from their roots to the bottom of the sea.

The majority of seaweeds are medium in size, and they come in various colors, like red, green, brown, and black. They can be found on beaches and shorelines almost anywhere.

Seaweed is generally anchored to the bottom of the sea or other solid structures by root-like holdfasts. The sole purpose of this is attachment, and they do not extract nutrients like the roots of higher plants.

Lots of different types of seaweed species are edible, and lots of them can provide humans with a variety of benefits. Other types can be used as fertilizers or as sources of polysaccharides.

Seaweeds will often form dense growths on rocky shores or accumulations in shallow water.

Something that you might be interested to know is that the types of seaweed that grow near the high-water mark will be different from those that grow at lower levels.

The higher plants are often exposed to air, but the lower ones will have little to no exposure.

Can I Eat Seaweed From the Beach?

Woman eating seaweed with chopsticks on a bowl

Yes, you can eat seaweed from the beach. Seaweed is something that can be found in oceans and marine environments around the world.

While some seaweed will be directly harvested from the natural environment in which it grows, seaweed farming is responsible for most aquatic crops that you can get your hands on today.

Some farmers will use saltwater tanks in order to grow seaweed, but others will have the equivalent of garden plots out at sea.

Farmers have been known to cultivate seaweed on ropes in order to monitor the growth of them and promote a healthy harvest by removing any undesirable plants or marine life.

Seaweed is typically dried to preserve it, which is why they will need to be rehydrated in liquid.

Is There Poisonous Seaweed?

You might have heard about toxic algae, but this is typically in reference to microalgae, or harmful algae blooms. These are what are responsible for shellfish poisoning, and what are known as red tides.

They can exist in either fresh or salt water bodies, and they are toxic if they are consumed.

However, even though seaweed is classified as macroalgae, there are currently no known poisonous or toxic seaweeds in existence.

There are some seaweeds that will produce acid, but these are known to not be any more acidic than your own stomach acid, so they would not cause you any harm if you were to eat them. 

Interestingly, only 14 deaths have ever been reported as linked to eating seaweed, and this was not due to the seaweed itself, but the bacteria that had grown on it.

What Does Seaweed Taste Like?

The most pronounced flavor that you will notice in seaweed is saltiness. It has quite an intense taste that is pretty unique, but different types of seaweed will have subtle differences in flavor.

Nori, a type of seaweed that you are likely to find in avocado rolls, is mostly briny. However, dulse is known to have more of a smoky taste, which is why it is often used as a spice.

You might think that seaweed would have a slimy texture, but it doesn’t. Seaweed is typically crisp and crackly, and it can also be slightly chewy.

Once it has been moistened, it can become more silky and chewy. Some types of dried seaweed are even too thick and tough to eat as they are, which is why they will need to be soaked in hot water for around 30 minutes.

Is Seaweed Good for the Body?

Yes, seaweed is well-known for being good for the body, as it contains a variety of nutritious and beneficial ingredients. We are going to list some of the many benefits of seaweed below for you to read about.

seaweed photographed underwater

Nutritional Value

Seaweed is full of nutrients and contains a rich supply of nutrients, including calcium, copper, iodine and iron.

Seaweed is also rich in protein, fiber and vitamins, especially vitamin K and folic acid, while being low in calories and fat.

Due to this impressive nutrient profile, seaweeds can be extremely beneficial to our health, and they are even thought to be able to help us to fight illness and disease.

Contains Fucoidans

Something else that can be found in seaweed is a molecule that is called  fucoidans, which are thought to be responsible for various health benefits.

It can contribute to overall life expectancy, and it can even help with immunity and cardiovascular function.

The American Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry reported that seaweeds can be used to help lower blood pressure and promote heart health.

Supports Thyroid Health

Your thyroid relies on iodine to make hormones, and the recommended dietary intake for iodine is around 150 mcg per day.

Seaweed is able to absorb concentrated amounts of iodine from the ocean, and it is typically high in iodine due to this.

Contains a Variety of Antioxidants

Antioxidants can make free radicals less reactive in your body, which makes them less likely to damage your cells.

As well as this, too much free radical production is thought to cause a variety of conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes.

Seaweed contains antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E, and it also contains many beneficial plant compounds, like flavonoids and carotenoids, which can protect your body’s cells from free radical damage

Supports Gut Health

Gut bacteria are really important when it comes to your overall health, and it is thought that you will have more bacteria cells in your body than human cells.

When the good and bad gut bacteria are not balanced, it can lead to sickness and disease. Seaweed is a great source of fiber, which is known to promote gut health.

The fiber content is even higher than that of most fruits and vegetables.

As well as this, some sugars that have been found in seaweed, which are called sulfated polysaccharides, have been known to increase the growth of good gut bacteria, and it can also provide support and nourishment to the cells that line your gut.

Is Seaweed Vegan?

Yes, if you are vegan, it is definitely alright for you to eat seaweed. It doesn’t contain any fish or animal products, as it is an algae that grows in the ocean.

Essentially, it is just like plants that grow on land, like tomatoes and peppers, the only difference is that it grows in the ocean instead.

Due to the fact that seaweed is a great source of iodine, B12, calcium, and magnesium, it would make the perfect addition to a vegan diet. Seaweed is often called for in both vegan and vegetarian recipes to imitate fishy flavors. 

Can You Eat Seaweed Every Day?

There is absolutely nothing wrong with eating seaweed every day, and it will not cause you any harm to do so.

This is a commonly eaten food in many places around the world, and some research even suggests that you should eat seaweed on a regular basis. 

However, this doesn’t mean that you need to go seaweed crazy, as many dried seaweeds are high in sodium, which is something that you should keep at a balanced level in your diet.

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