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Eat Your Weeds: Seaweed, That Is!

July 17, 2012
Seaweed is an excellent source of protein, vitamins, and minerals. (Photo by: Ben Salter)

By guest contributor Paige MacKenzie Welborn

You’ve probably heard you should eat your greens, but have you included veggies from the sea in that category? Seaweed and algae, the ocean’s vegetables, add valuable nutrients to the diet and textural variety to the plate. They’re also an excellent source of vitamins A, B, and B-12, as well as calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron and iodine.

Seaweed is also a good source of plant-based protein, which can be especially helpful for those who don’t eat animal products often. A ½-cup serving includes one to three grams of protein, depending on the variety.

If you’re vegetarian or vegan, alaria and dulse seaweed can be a great supplement for nutrients you may not be consuming regularly, like vitamin B-12 and iron, which are both are typically found in meat. Dulse is from the British Isles; some stalwart Irish folks have been known to enjoy it like chewing tobacco (with notably more healthful results).

In New York, one of our favorite places for enjoying a simple yet delicious seaweed salad is Clean Plates-rated Souen Organic Ramen. Cross the country to try another Clean Plates hot spot, Seed Bistro in Los Angeles. Order the tri-colored green, red and white seaweed salad to sample a several varieties. And wherever you dine, most Japanese restaurants serve miso soup with strips of seaweed floating in the broth.

Want to serve seaweed at home? It’s easy to incorporate it into foods via powders: Spirulina and chlorella can be stirred into baked goods, smoothies, salad dressings, pasta sauces and more. (A spoonful of spirulina adds nutrients without notably altering the flavor.) Or try lightly sautéing strips of dulse in olive oil for a crispy chip alternative. Roll up veggies in sheets of nori to make a wrap, or prepare traditional sushi rolls. But the easiest way to add seaweed to your diet is to keep a bottle of seaweed flakes (available at almost any Asian market and some health foods stores) on the table next to the salt and pepper to sprinkle on eggs, salads, stir-fries and grains.

Seaweed is also one of the easiest vegetables to store: Since it’s typically sold dehydrated, you can keep it in the pantry and always be guaranteed to have a serving or two of veggies on hand. Here’s to eating your greens!

Image of drying seaweed in Wales courtesy of Ben Salter; image of flowing seaweed courtesy of Visulogik.

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