Kelp is a type of brown seaweed that grows in ocean ‘forests’ all around the world.  Much of the west coast of the USA’s ocean is dense with kelp forests. Kelp needs light to photosynthesize, so it is usually found in these shallow coastal waters. Many sea creatures use kelp forests for feeding, hiding, and hunting.

Kelp for the Planet

One of kelp’s amazing attributes is that it grows incredibly fast.  In ideal conditions, it can grow up to eighteen inches a day.  As a result of this, along with its incredible nutrient profile, kelp farming is on the rise.  Kelp as a crop is being touted as a possible answer to some of the crises that come out of land-based agriculture.

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In contrast to arable farming, kelp farming obviously requires no extra water, no feed or fertilizers, and it creates no waste product.  Kelp also absorbs carbon from the atmosphere that reduces ocean acidification.  More research is being done on the extent to which this could impact climate change.

Kelp for Me

Kelp grows in nutrient-rich waters and absorbs many of the minerals around it.  As a result, kelp is an excellent source of Folate (45% of the daily value (DV)), Magnesium (29% of the DV), Iron (16% of the DV), Pantothenic acid (13% of the DV) and Calcium (13% of the DV).  As well, it contains high levels of vitamin K1 (55% of the DV) and vitamin A (13% of the DV).

Additionally, kelp is an excellent source of iodine, an essential mineral.  It must be noted, however, that excess iodine can be harmful, so be sure to read any packaging for recommended daily allowances.

kelp is also high in carotenoids (essential in eye health) and flavonoids (anti-inflammatory) which are types of antioxidants.  As with most foods that are rich in antioxidants, the consumption of kelp can help fight disease-causing free radicals in the body.

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Kelp is also naturally low in fat, and preliminary research suggests that it might be helpful in fighting obesity and type-2 diabetes.

How Can I Eat Kelp?

Chinese Seaweed Salad

Source: Chinese Seaweed Salad/One Green Planet

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Kelp is often claimed to be a superfood of the sea.  It can be taken as a supplement in the form of capsules or powders, or, as with many other seaweeds, can be eaten as a food source—a vegetable of sorts.

There are many different types of seaweeds out there chose from.  You may have seen or heard of some of them in the form of nori, spirulina, kombu, wakame, and dulse.  Kombu is actually a type of kelp called bull kelp and is harvested in Japan. Seaweed is a staple in many Asian dishes and can be found in everything from sushi to soups.

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As with other seaweeds, kelp can add an ocean flavor to dishes that some might miss on a vegan diet.  Adding kelp to your recipes can add a subtle fishiness if desired.  That said, for those of you that are turned off by this, you can soak and rinse kelp repeatedly until some of its sea flavor has dissipated.

Conveniently, kelp can be eaten cooked or raw, so it is ideal for those on a raw diet.  It can also replace traditional noodles so gives those on a gluten-free diet a chance to play with some Asian-inspired noodle dishes.

Kelp Inspired Dishes

  • Noodles– one of the most common ways to eat kelp is in the form of kelp noodles.  The noodles can be bought at the supermarket and used as a substitute in any traditional noodle dish.  Have a look at this recipe for raw, vegan, and delicious Kelp Noodle Chili Salad or these Kelp Noodles in Peanut-Miso Sauce.
  • Salads– Kelp can be tossed together with a variety of other veggies to make a healthful and filling salad.  In this recipe for Chinese Seaweed Salad, dried kombu kelp is soaked and blanched before being served with grated carrot, warm spices, and toasted sesame seeds.
  • Soups– Dried kombu kelp is ideal for tearing up and tossing into soups as a garnish or for some extra texture and taste.  Take a look at this Miso Soba Soup with Mushrooms recipe as a great example of how easy it is to sneak a little kelp into a dish.

Seaweed might not be the first thing we reach for when feeling peckish, but we certainly shouldn’t shy away.  Have a go at conjuring up some delicious recipes containing kelp, or if you are really not convinced, but still want the health benefits, have look at some of the kelp supplements that are out there on the market.

This article is for informational purposes only. Seek professional medical advice before taking any health supplements or changing your diet.  

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