Algae-rhythm: Get in on the benefits of seaweed

Rich in brain-boosting DHA Omega-3 fatty acids and a wide range of other nutrients, incorporating seaweed into your diet is a smart idea – and it is easier than you might think.

The term seaweed refers to thousands of species of algae.

Not only are they a rich food source for ocean life, seaweed is also great for humans.

It is a great source of iodine, an essential mineral in the human body, particularly the thyroid gland that regulates metabolic rate.

As well as being high in iodine, seaweed is rich in dietary fibre, fatty acids, essential amino acids, and vitamins A, B, C, and E, along with sodium, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, iron, and zinc.

How to find quality seaweed products

While seaweed products can have great health benefits, not all edible seaweed is equal so it’s important to read the labels, according to Dietitian and nutritionist Mark Surdut.

“Some commercial seaweed snacks, which are popular these days among school- age kids (for the convenience and ‘health appeal’) are packed with processed oils and tons of salt,” Mark says.

“Real seaweed paper (nori) is usually just seaweed with no other ingredients.”

If you’re a regular at your local sushi restaurant, you might not be getting the best quality of seaweed there either, naturopath and nutritionist Heidi Hogarth says.

“Unfortunately, the seaweed salad commonly served on sushi trains isn’t a particularly healthy choice, usually containing a lot of sugar, MSG and added green food colouring,” Heidi says.

Heidi suggests looking for varieties that come from our Southern Australian oceans and the northern waters of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

“Avoid those grown and harvested near heavily industrialised nations where the toxic run-off may be incorporated within the plant,” she says.

Sarah Leung of Alg Seaweed sources their product from Tasmania, and says Australia has one of the most diverse seaweed varieties under our clean waters.

“If you aren’t sure which species are edible, it’s better to source from reliable suppliers,” she says.

Ways to include seaweed in your diet

Seaweed boosts the nutritional value of your meal, making it a great addition, according to Heidi.

“It’s like adding a multivitamin to your food – I feel really good knowing my kids are getting that little bit extra for their developing brains,” she says.

Seaweed is incredibly versatile, so there are many ways to incorporate it into dishes without having to follow complex recipes.

Sushi is an obvious choice when it comes to eating seaweed, and it’s not as fiddly as you’d imagine to make your own at home.

Mark suggests “easy sushi”, made by simply pocketing nori sheets with rice, smoked salmon or tuna and whole egg mayonnaise.

“You can also cut up nori sheets into large flakes to add to salads or chuck it into soups or smoothies for Asian flavour and extra iodine,” Mark says.

Adding it into the salt grinder, to savoury baking (such as muffins), Bolognese sauce and taco mince are some of the ways Heidi incorporates it into her family’s meals

As the various types of seaweed have different nutrient profiles, try a variety.

Nori, wakame, kombu and dulse are great starting points and are not too hard to source.

“Nori and wakame are quite light, easily crushed and incorporated into almost any dish,” Heidi says. “Kombu and dulse tend to be thicker, chewy and stronger in flavour when they become rehydrated in a dish, so you may prefer to remove them before consuming as you would a bay leaf or kaffir lime leaf.”

For more health and nutrition advice, check out the January edition of House of Wellness, available free at Chemist Warehouse.

Written by Samantha Allemann.