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It’s green, a little slimy, and I admit it’s a bit scary, but seaweed is one food you need to stop fearing and start eating, my fellow veggie lovers! I remember exactly what went through my mind the first time someone told me seaweed was good for me.  “Are you kidding me? I’m not eating the same slime that I used to avoid as a kid while at the beach. No thanks!”  Then a few years later, I became a health nut and there was no ignoring the truth any longer. I knew I had to learn to love seaweed, especially since it’s practically a food group in a plant-based diet.

Since vegan eaters don’t eat fish, getting certain nutrients like omega-3s, iodine, Vitamin B12, calcium, and magnesium can sometimes be a bit challenging.  That’s where seaweed comes to the rescue! If you’re on the fence about seaweed or even scared of it like I was, here are some facts and recipes that will familiarize you with this foreign food and introduce you to its many benefits. Oh, and I promise, the taste actually grows on you!

The Most Popular Types of Edible Seaweeds

Seaweed is available in many different types, but here are some of the most common ones you’ll see at your health food store or online:

  • Spirulina: a deep-sea green alga that contains more protein than any food on Earth.  One teaspoon of spirulina contains 150 percent of your daily Vitamin B12 requirements, 4 grams of protein, 80 percent of your daily iron requirements, and 880 percent of your daily Vitamin A content. It contains more chlorophyll than wheatgrass and is an amazing food for the brain, digestive system, heart, lungs, and liver. You can buy spirulina in powder or tablet form and it’s easy enough to toss into your next green smoothie or vegan superfood bar.
  • Agar-Agar: this seaweed is commonly used as a vegan baking aid, due to its thickening properties. Agar-agar is rich in fiber, iodine, and is sold in flake or solid form, though the flake form is usually less expensive and easier to use. It is light and almost white in color.
  • Kombu: a brown seaweed that increases digestion and is added to many soups or vegan bean dishes for this reason. Kombu also contains a zesty, salty taste that goes well in any savory dish. It may even help prevent weight gain due to a pigment it contains known as fucoxanthin. Fucoxanthin helps metabolize fats for energy instead of storing them as fat in your body.
  • Dulse: a green and slightly purple seaweed, dulse is one of my favorites! It is very light in taste, but adds a lovely salty taste to any dish. You can use it in soups, stews, on salads, in dressings, and it even makes a lovely addition to smoothies where the salt helps bring out the flavor of ingredients like cacao.
  • Kelp: a green seaweed that is wonderful for the thyroid due to its high iodine levels. You may have heard of kelp noodles, which are zero-calorie noodles that make a wonderful replacement to grain-based noodles. Though kelp contains little to no calories, it is still a nutritious seaweed to consume. Kelp is rich in magnesium, fiber, iodine, and may help keep you fuller longer than starchy foods rich in fiber like whole wheat noodles or bread. Kelp has even been linked to fat reduction and better digestion. Kelp is available in flake form, noodle form, and is commonly added to many superfood powders as well.
  • Hijiki: Need calcium? Eat more of this seaweed! It contains 14 times the calcium of milk and is rich in fiber. It does need to be soaked before you eat it, since it is tough in texture or you can simply use it in soups and stews to naturally soften it.
  • Wakame: This dark blue, almost black seaweed is rich in protein, magnesium, chlorophyll, iron, calcium, and zinc. Wakame can be used in flakes over a vegan Caesar salad or in a savory dish you choose.

The Benefits of Seaweed

Here are 10 amazing things seaweed can do for you and why it’s essential to a vegan diet:

  1. Provides the body with magnesium, zinc, Vitamin B12, biotin, and iron
  2. Just one gram of seaweed provides your entire day’s worth of iodine, a critical mineral for the thyroid.
  3. Increases hair and nail growth
  4. Clears the skin and enhances eyesight
  5. Improves mood by reducing anxiety and enhancing mental focus
  6. Prevents anemia and fatigue
  7. Cleanses the digestive tract
  8. Alkalizes the blood
  9. Prevents and treats sugar cravings
  10. May prevent depression

How to Use Seaweed

Still afraid of seaweed? Here are a few delicious recipe ideas to use seaweed in right now:

  1. Sprinkle dulse flakes on salads for a salty twist.
  2. Add kombu to a vegan soup.
  3. Make vegan “crab” cakes.
  4. Add it to this Mock tuna sandwich.
  5. Eat kelp via these Vegan Chili Thai Kelp Noodles.
  6. Use agar-agar to make this Almost Raw Panna Cotta Cream.

See how tasty that was? Do you eat seaweed? What’s your favorite kind?

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