Seaweed has fast become a dietary staple where vegetables are concerned. From snack packs to fresh sushi stands brightening up the local grocery store, edible seaweeds have been co-opted into the western diet in recent years.
Still, most people don’t know much about seaweed. For instance, there are more varieties of edible seaweed beyond just the nori seaweed that you find in sushi. And there are hundreds of varieties of seaweed, from all different parts of the world.
Whether eaten raw, dried or added as an ingredient to your smoothie or soup dishes, there is a wide range of uses for seaweed, and a pretty long list of different edible seaweeds you can try.
Kelp is generally considered one of the healthiest edible seaweeds you can find. But we get it – you may want to switch things up. If you are looking to choose the best edible seaweed for your diet, these seven seaweeds top the list of the healthiest, most delicious, and most easily adaptable-to-diet (also the easiest to find).
These seven cut across all 3 types of edible seaweeds.
- Irish moss
- Sea lettuce
Top on the list of edible seaweeds is Wakame, also called sea mustard. Although a brown seaweed, Wakame is green colored and is used in a number of dishes like the famous miso soup, seaweed salad, sunomono (cucumber salad), and makizushi (a type of sushi).
Wakame can be added in soups and ramen (a popular Eastern noodle dish), as thin strips in salads, and blended with flaxseed, spinach, fruit and almond milk to make a smoothie. However, there are many different creative ways to enjoy seaweed smoothies. It is also used to make other seaweed food products like packaged snacks.
Wakame is mineral rich, containing iodine, magnesium, manganese and calcium. It contains Vitamins A,C, E and K.
The seaweed contains copious amounts of iodine and may result in iodine toxicity if consumed excessively.
If you are a fan of sushi, you have definitely eaten nori. Nori is a red algae with a mild salty taste used as a wrap for sushi, in strips as topping on pasta, with rice. Nori is used in processed seaweed food products like packaged kimbap, a popular meal in Korea.
This type of seaweed is liable to lose its taste and scent if exposed and not properly covered.
Nori is rich in calcium, vitamins A, B, D, ank K, as well as taurine.
This red algae contains a high amount of sodium and may result in health risks if eaten too much. There is also a risk that the seaweed contains heavy metals like arsenic and toxins which pose a risk to the health.
Kombu is a brown seaweed with a strong umami flavour. This is why it is commonly used for flavouring. There are eighteen different species of kelp that are all called kombu.
Kombu is consumed as a snack, in salads, as a flavouring ingredient in stews, as a condiment and as tea, when steeped in hot water. It is also used to soften proteins like beans.
It is a rich source of calcium, iron fibre and glutamates. Like other seaweeds, kombu contains a high amount of iodine and should not be excessively consumed.
This type of edible seaweed belongs to Red Algae. With its bacon taste, it is an edible seaweed that is versatile; you can consume it in many different ways. It can be eaten raw, as chip when fried or dried, baked with cheese, in salads and sandwiches, added to bread or pizza dough, and as an ingredient in meat dishes and soups. It is also added to smoothies in its powdered form.
Like its other seaweed counterparts, Dulse contains the right amounts of calcium, fibre, iodine, vitamins A, B, C, and E as well as beta carotene and iron.
The source of Dulse determines the dangers it could pose to your health on consumption. Dulse picked in areas close to towns and cities could contain toxins and contaminants from pollution and may affect one’s health adversely.
Irish Moss (both of them)
There’s a lot of chatter around which sea moss is the real Irish sea moss. We actually came across an interesting article in The Guardian which may explain some of the confusion, but for the purposes of this article, we’re going to include both Gracilaria (the noodle-like sea moss) and Chondrus Crispus (the flat-leaf sea moss) under this category.
It’s worth noting that Irish moss is not a moss. This red seaweed is made of carrageenan, a substance that allows it to have a wide variety of uses. It is nearly tasteless and can be consumed as raw or as a powder or gel. The Irish moss gel is famous for its versatility. It is used as a thickener in food and a stabilizer in milk products. It is also added to smoothies, salads, casseroles
It contains Vitamin B, magnesium, chromium, and zinc. It is also a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids and fucoxanthin which is a useful antioxidant.
While it is not proven that the body can degrade carrageenan to form poligeenan, which is toxic and harmful, some seaweeds may contain the substance and this can cause stomach ulcers and inflammation and pose a high risk of cancer.
Irish sea moss may cause side effects like nausea, vomiting, and allergic reactions. It may interact with some medications as well.
Also called Ulva, sea lettuce is a type of green algae eaten raw or added to salads and soups. It is often used as a substitute for nori in wrapping sushi. This edible seaweed is rich in protein, fiber, vitamins and iron.
Sea lettuce may be harvested from contaminated areas and this could contain toxins and heavy metals from pollutants.
Meaning “Sea Grapes”, Umibudo is a green seaweed with small bubbles like grapes, instead of leaves, on its stem. It is also called sea caviar, and it gives a crunchy sound when you chew on it.
Sea grapes are consumed alone or added to salads, rice, sashimi, sushi and noodle dishes. It is also a main ingredient of the Umibudo ice cream, popular in Japan.
Rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, iron and vitamins A and C, sea grapes are low in calories and are widely known for its medicinal properties.
In this article, you have seen the answer to the seaweed vs sea moss question, discovered the healthiest edible seaweeds and you can now decide the best seaweed to eat with your diet.
Seaweed is an all-rounder for any diet. Apart from its rich mineral content, seaweed contains very little in the way of unsaturated fats. This article serves as a pretty good starting point for deciding which edible seaweeds you’d like to try first.