From kelp and nori to spirulina and wakame, sea vegetables of all kinds are the next big thing in health foods, so we’ve got the dish on everything you need to know about them. And if you love sushi, then good news – you’re already ahead of the curve.
In 2014, we couldn’t get enough of kale. A few years later the only acceptable carb was quinoa, and then we put our dreams of home ownership on hold to fund our obsession with avocado toast.
In 2020, though, all anyone can talk about are sea vegetables.
In fact, a Google search for “how to eat sea vegetables” brings up more than 90 million results, with more and more people wanting to include the alleged superfoods in their diet. Let’s see if they are worth the hype.
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What are sea vegetables?
“Sea vegetables, or sea greens, are a class of marine algae that are edible and packed with nutrients,” dietitian Nicole Dynan tells Body+Soul.
If you’re a fan of sushi, then you’ve already tried the sea vegetable called nori.
Most sea veggies are a type of seaweed and include the more familiar varieties like kelp and spirulina (usually consumed as a powder) and the more uncommon, but increasingly popular, types such as Irish moss and dulse.
What’s so good about them?
According to dietitian Melissa Meier, sea vegetables are low in kilojoules, high in fibre and offer a decent protein punch.
“They’re also rich in iodine, which is important for your metabolism, and they provide iron and vitamin C, which is particularly important during the colder months to support your immune system,” she tells Body+Soul.
As well as being eco-friendly – sea veggies are sustainable and help reduce the acidification of ocean water – Dynan notes sea greens also contain a variety of minerals and antioxidants: “These support your cardiovascular health, stabilise your blood-sugar levels and provide anti-inflammatory benefits”.
How to add them to your diet
To bump up the amount of sea greens you eat outside of the odd sushi roll, both Dynan and Meier suggest adding them to your smoothies, stir-fries and salads.
“Seaweed is incredibly versatile and works well in many dishes,” notes Meier.
“Wakame is a great place to start. You buy it dried and rehydrate it when you’re ready to use it in soups and salads. You can add nori to salad dressings for a punchy umami flavour and kelp noodles are a good option for stir-fries, too.”
Nori also makes for a great snack, says Dynan, and you can add it to your poke bowls as well.
“Add spirulina to your smoothies – it goes well with avocado, banana or pineapple. And make a seaweed salad with wakame and arame by mixing them with vinegar, sesame oil, garlic and shallots,” she adds.
You can also use sea vegetables as meat substitutes: “Lightly fry dulse in extra-virgin olive oil and it goes crispy like bacon,” tips Dynan.
Add these nutrient-packed seaweeds to your shopping list:
Irish Moss: Also known as sea moss, this red algae is high in iodine, amino acids and prebiotics.
Irish Moss Organic Powder, $13.40, at Austral Herbs.
Dulse: A popular red seaweed, dulse is packed with minerals such as magnesium and potassium as well as vitamin B6.
Maine Coast Sea Vegetables Dulse, $12.75, at iHerb.
Wakame: Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, iodine and calcium, wakame is best known for its slightly sweet but strong flavour.
Spiral Foods Wakame, $20.25, at Aussie Health Products.