Under the Sea(weed)

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Seaweed is really one of my favorite options for a healthy snack for you and your family. It’s so low in calorie that you can eat a lot and still stay within a good calorie range. Talk about satisfying! A serving of seaweed has more calcium than broccoli and as much protein as a serving of legumes. Plus, it’s gluten-free, vegan, high fiber, low fat, cholesterol free and very rich in vitamins, such as A, B, C, E and K. The Vitamin A strengthens your immunity, eye sight and skin; Vitamin B revs your metabolism and gives you energy; Vitamin C boosts your immune system; Vitamin E improves your metabolism, immunity, stamina and vitality; and Vitamin K helps regulate blood flow and keep bones strong. Plus, seaweed is delicious! Even though it comes from the water, seaweed has a truly non-fishy taste. Make sure to look for brands that are non-GMO, organic and source their seaweed sustainably, like gimMe Organic, which pioneered this standard in the seaweed category.

There are three main groups of seaweed: red algae, green algae and brown algae.


Part of the red algae family, this type of seaweed is commonly used to wrap sushi, but also sliced into strips, toasted and used as a garnish on soups and salads. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Department touts this as the most nutritious variety of seaweed, because it's loaded with B vitamins and iodine, which helps optimize your metabolism and remove unwanted toxins from the body. Originally harvested from the ocean, it's now produced on specialized farms to meet increasing demands. This salty snack is typically eaten by the sheet (thin and flaky), which only contain 5 to 10 calories, yet pack a gram of fiber each. It even has more vitamin C than an orange!


Vegan alert! It's the leathery, green substance that's found floating around in your miso soup. Delicious! This popular brown seaweed variety contains a plethora of nutrients that are typically lacking in the vegan diet. Not only does wakame have calcium, but it's also full of vitamin D, which aids in the calcium absorption process. In addition, it's loaded with folate and vitamin C, a proven dynamic duo that aids the body in soaking up iron. Ancient medicine associates this green goodness with alleviating constipation and preventing colon cancer. Beware of the sodium content though. A 50 gram serving can have over 400 mg of sodium, which may not be ideal for those prone to high blood pressure.


Also referred to as sea lettuce or "dead man's fingers" (yum!) this is the most common variety of green algae seaweed that resembles fresh cabbage. Ulva is the ideal substitute for regular romaine or iceberg leaves. Simply soak in cold water to remove the salty flavor, towel-dry and then use the same way you would use lettuce. Pair with Asian components such as ginger, daikon and wasabi for a refreshing salad that packs protein, vitamins and minerals. Seaweed is one of the healthiest vegetables around, and a simple addition to your menu.

And here are some of my favorite forms of edible seaweed on store shelves these days:

  • Seaweed Salad. Japanese restaurants often offer a great seaweed salad as an appetizer, but you can also make it yourself at home. Just buy dried seaweed, soak it in water for five to ten minutes (depending on how crunchy you want it) and add rice vinegar, soy sauce and/or sesame oil for dressing. Slice carrots, ginger and sesame seeds make great garnishes.
  • Snack Sheets. This is probably the most common form of edible seaweed available in the market. You can buy it in big sheets, like the size used to make sushi, or some brands cut it into smaller pieces. Try to opt for the grab-and-go size packages, which can be as low as 15 calories per package and are great to bring with you anywhere, like gimMe Organic Roasted Seaweed Snacks.
  • Seaweed Chips and Crumbles. Toss the chips and start crunching on a variety of forms of edible seaweed. They come in a variety of flavors and really satisfy your crunchy, salty snack craving. They’re a great replacement for higher calorie corn or potato chips. Bring these to the movies or chomp down on some during your next study session. These are great for adding to salads and soups for a crunch instead of croutons.
  • Seaweed Noodles. Noodles made from seaweed are a great alternative to starch-filled and refined white pasta. You can use them as a substitute in basically any of your favorite traditional pasta dishes or add to soup for a nutrient-rich bowl of chicken noodle.

The bottom (of the ocean) line is this - you can't go wrong with seaweed. So pick your color and form, and eat up!

Heather Bauer, RD CDN
Heather Bauer, RD CDN


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