unexpected benefits for the planet and health
You can make an impact both personally and globally, starting with what you put on your plate. Take seaweed for example. If you’ve ever enjoyed sushi wrapped around your favorite fish, it’s still not very popular in the West. But algae cultivation could change that in the very near future. Read on to find out why seaweed could be the next sustainable superfood.
Why is seaweed important?
As for humans, 2020 research suggests that algae played a role in the evolution of humanity from Homo erectus to Homo sapiens and served as a staple food during famines. Evidence shows that seaweed was used as food and medicine in Asia, Europe and South America at least 14,000 years ago. The Romans and Celts used seaweed to enrich fertile soil. However, it is not only this rich global history that makes seaweed interesting as a modern food product. They provide a range of other benefits, from job creation to ecosystem restoration.
Algae may even be the future of food. This is mainly due to algae aquaculture, also known as seaweed farming.
Environmental Benefits of Seaweed Farming
Systematic cultivation of seaweed can be a solution to a number of problems, from clean ocean water to economic stimulation. Growing algae requires little or no resources
Seaweed is a zero input product and makes the ocean healthier with every harvest.
Cultivation of algae requires:
there is no arable land
there is no food
no fresh water
Algae are known as “non-nutrient” aquaculture species, meaning they generally do not need to be supplied with additional nutrients to grow. It simply uses the nutrients available in seawater.
Growing seaweed promotes healthy oceans
The ocean absorbs about 30% of the carbon dioxide (CO2) released into the atmosphere. This leads to a change in the pH of the oceans and an increase in acidity, which adversely affects fish, corals, and crustaceans such as oysters, crabs, and sea snails. These organisms play an important role in the ocean’s food chain. Fortunately, algae capture carbon and nitrogen from ocean waters and help reduce ocean acidity. They also provide habitat for a range of oceanic organisms, thereby contributing to the diversification of ocean ecosystems.
reduces the amount of carbon in the ocean
reduces the acidity of ocean waters
provides habitat for ocean-dwelling species
diversifying ocean ecosystems.
Also, seaweed farms aren’t just good for the ocean. It appears that seaweed farms can help reduce wave energy and reduce erosion and other shoreline impacts.
Health benefits of seaweed
When it comes to the health benefits of seaweed, the list is quite long.
For starters, seaweed is known to be an excellent source of iodine. Depending on the type of seaweed, there are also slight variations in their diet. For example, kelp is a large brown seaweed found in shallow coastal fronts where salt water is rich in nutrients.
In 100 g of raw cabbage you can find:
55 percent of the daily value (DV) of vitamin K1
45% of the daily value (DV) for folate
29 percent DV magnesium
16% DV iron
13% of the daily value of vitamin A
13% DV pantothenic acid
13% DV calcium
Note: The above DVs are for an average male.
Kelp is one of the most nutritious foods on the planet.
Wakame is a seaweed that has been cultivated for centuries in Korea and Japan.
Two tablespoons or 10 grams of raw wakame contains:
280 percent of the DV is iodine
7 percent DV for manganese
5 percent DV for folate
4 percent DV for sodium
3% of NA for magnesium
2% of NA for calcium
Other types of algae include:
Nori is a red seaweed used to roll sushi and is often sold in dried sheets.
Sea lettuce is a type of green nori that is often eaten raw in salads or cooked in soups.
Kombu, a type of cabbage used to make soup stocks or pickles.
Arame is a mild type of cabbage with a firm texture that is sometimes used in baking.
Dulse, a red seaweed, is used to flavor recipes and is eaten as a snack.
Chlorella, a freshwater algae often used as a powder additive.
Agar and carrageenan, gelatinous substances used as vegetable binders and thickeners.
Some studies show that seaweed often has bioactive compounds that provide a variety of benefits.
These compounds include in particular
proteins with essential amino acids
polyunsaturated fatty acids
Seaweed has been found to have a number of medicinal benefits, including the following
protection against cell damage
Several compounds found in seaweed have been shown to have therapeutic potential. According to a 2021 study, some compounds in seaweed have been shown to cause cancer cell death and fight metastasis.
Are there any disadvantages to algae?
Although algae are a veritable gold mine for human and planetary health, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Too much iodine is not a good thing
Seaweed is an excellent source of iodine, but how much? According to a 2021 study, eating seaweed once or twice a week is probably not dangerous. However, regular consumption of iodine-rich seaweed, such as pumpkin, can lead to excessive iodine consumption. Too much iodine can adversely affect thyroid function, especially in people with preexisting thyroid conditions, pregnant women, and infants.
Effects of agriculture
Not everything is necessarily positive in the field of algae cultivation. There are also possible negative effects, such as an increase in the number of aquaculture mechanisms, which can lead to pollution from abandoned or lost equipment.
Seaweed Frequently Asked Questions
Are algae vegetables?
Yes, seaweed is a nutritious vegetable. They are full of nutrients like iodine, vitamins and minerals. Technically, seaweed is a type of sea vegetable.
How are algae used in food?
They can be used for sushi wraps, to flavor soups and stews, and to thicken sweets and sauces. They are also used in fertilizers, cosmetics, fuel and animal feed.
What are the benefits of seaweed? Is dried seaweed good for health?
Seaweed is a nutritious food that contains significant amounts of iodine, folate, magnesium, iron, vitamin A, pantothenic acid and calcium. Both fresh and dried seaweed offer these nutritional benefits.
Are there side effects of seaweed?
Seaweed is generally considered a healthy addition to a balanced diet. However, the high iodine content in seaweed can cause thyroid problems, especially in people with pre-existing thyroid conditions, pregnant women and infants.
Can we eat seaweed every day?
Seaweed is rich in iodine and too much iodine can cause thyroid problems. Consumers are advised to consume seaweed only once or twice a week.
How to use seaweed in recipes?
Use seaweed as a wrap, garnish, salad ingredient, or flavor source.
What is seaweed extract?
Seaweed extract is a biostimulant extracted from seaweed, also known as a fertilizer. It is often used to stimulate the growth of plants, seeds and plants.
To pick up
Is algae the superfood of the future? They definitely have potential. Only time will tell if seaweed becomes a zero-waste staple food product that contributes to human and planetary well-being.