For many Americans, seaweed is something that holds your sushi together — or something you might encounter at the beach. But as more restaurants serve salad, appetizers and even desserts with seaweed, it’s time to explore the various types and flavors of this highly nutritious sea vegetable.
Although the exact level of nutrients varies by type, seaweed, in general, is high in soluble and insoluble fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, and provides vitamins A, C and E, plus B vitamins. It also contains polyphenols and carotenoids as well as many micronutrients, including calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, zinc, manganese, iron and iodine.
“This last nutrient can make seaweed a good option for people who follow a low-sodium diet or don’t eat iodized salt,” says Maya Feller, RD, of Maya Feller Nutrition. We need iodine to make thyroid hormones, which control many important functions in the body.
Seaweed may have other health benefits, although most of the research is preliminary at this point. Many also highlight the fact seaweed is a sustainable source of nutrition.
Despite all this good, note that not all sea vegetables can be consumed. Some have also expressed concern over toxicity and heavy metals, which can be avoided by purchasing seaweed from a reputable source, Feller says.
6 TYPES OF SEAWEED AND HOW TO ENJOY THEM
Like seafood, sea vegetables can be a bit intimidating to cook, but they’re actually easy to incorporate into dishes. Each variety is slightly different, but all add flavor as well as an umami note to your meal. Look for these six types of seaweed and try these cooking suggestions.
Commonly used to wrap sushi maki or make hand rolls, you can also just eat thin, paper-ish nori as a snack. You can even find flavored packaged nori chips in the supermarket or crumble nori sheets into soups and onto salads of all kinds (green, pasta, bean) for a savory crunch, suggests Ginger Hultin, RDN, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. You can also try wrapping salmon in nori and roasting it.
Most often sold in flakes, you can use dulse in place of salt. “Or add it to dips, blend it into salsa or make dukkah,” a Middle Eastern spice mixture, Hultin says. Some say that if you take leaves of dulse and pan-fry them in oil until crispy, they taste like bacon.
This seaweed is a bit more mild in flavor, Hultin says. She suggests soaking and then boiling it to make a side salad with carrots, as they traditionally do in Japanese cuisine. It’s also good to make salsa or add to stir-fries.
Another mild sea vegetable, this is good to add to miso and other soup broths. Or soak the arame and then saute it with vegetables for a tasty side dish.
“The mild flavor of wakame can pair well with heat like hot pepper or with miso and sesame seeds,” Feller says. Use it to make a salad or try adding it to hot dishes right before serving.
Most often kombu strips are added when cooking dried beans to make them more digestible and less gas-inducing. However, you can also use kombu to make stock for soup or stew.