Do you remember the first time a long, freaky tendril of murky green gunk brushed against your leg in the ocean? Well, prepare your palate—that slimy strand of seaweed may rival kale as the next big, nutrient-rich superfood.
Don’t flip just yet! Seaweed has been in our diets for decades. You’ve probably eaten it in sushi, noshed on some nori, or consumed ice cream that uses agar as a thickening agent. But this next crop of seaweed-centric food is a step above the rest. We’re talking sophisticated recipes that pack a whole host of health benefits and make innovative dishes like black bean brownies sound like child’s play.
But first, let’s break down the benefits of this next-gen leafy green, shall we? Here are five reasons to love seaweed, with research help from our pals at Zoom+ Performance:
- While the seaweed family tree contains multitudes—kelp, kombu, arame, dulse, and wakame to name a few—all seaweed strains boast high levels of minerals such as iodine, which is essential for thyroid, brain function, and metabolic support.
- The veggie of the sea has anti-cancer and anti-aging properties due to its natural abundance of antioxidants, which help resist free radicals that cause cell damage.
- Seaweed can help absorb zinc, which boosts your metabolism and immune system.
- Seaweed also contains magnesium, a mineral required for protein synthesis and energy production. Put simply, you need it to feel good, and it can even help ease muscle soreness.
- Astaxanthin is found in microalgae, and is often used to prevent wrinkles, improve cardiovascular health, and soothe sunburns.
Sold on seaweed? Great. Here’s how to get in on the trend:
Each type of seaweed tastes different, and red dulse is currently making waves for its savory, bacon-y flavor. Dulse is grown in the North Pacific (that’s where we are!), and New Seasons Market recently partnered with Oregon State University to produce a "Tamari with Dulse Seaweed Dressing & Marinade," the first commercial product to contain Oregon-grown red dulse.
“You can be presented with very luxurious ingredients like caviar and lobster, but I don’t see why those have to be more interesting than a mushroom or kale, or seaweed,” says Jason Ball, a research chef at the OSU Food Innovation Center, who helped create the dulse dressing. “We attach such importance to certain ingredients, but there is so much food in the world—especially vegetables, sea vegetables that are so often ignored.”
OSU grows the dulse in seawater tanks, and Ball notes that the dulse functions in many ways as a sponge, tumbling through seawater and soaking up the vitamins and minerals. As for the dressing, it’s very versatile, and can be used as a marinade for meat or tofu—it’s a tasty balanced flavor with a savory kick of salt that could pair well with any dish.
Kelp granules are another great way for the more squeamish eater to get some seaweed in their diet. Sprinkle a little on a spinach salad, or even vegan pizza for a little more flavor—done and dusted.
Keep in mind that seaweed is dried instantly after harvest, which makes shelf life a non-issue, and none of the nutrients are lost in the drying process. Unlike other vegetables, you can have dried seaweed on hand for years—just quickly reconstitute it in cold water, and you’re good to go.
Don't feel like cooking? Check out our list of seaweed dishes at local restaurants, from Prasad's Urban Bowl to Mojo Crepe's globally-inspired hot dogs. Just don’t forget how important it is to keep your gut guessing! Whether it’s seaweed dressing, marinade, sheets of nori used as sandwich wraps, or a delicious seaweed salad garnished with nuts and seeds, a varied diet is integral in ensuring a healthy body and mind.
Ready to get started? Try this simple seaweed salad recipe from Zoom+.
Easy Seaweed Salad
Cook time: 20 minutes
Makes: 4 servings
1 ounce dried red dulse seaweed
1 ounce dried green wakame seaweed
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons grated ginger
2 teaspoons tamari (gluten free soy sauce)
1 tablespoon roasted sesame oil
Juice of 1 lime
Sea salt, to taste
1 small carrot, peeled and sliced paper thin
8 radishes, thinly sliced
1 small cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
1 firm-ripe avocado, sliced
2 teaspoons toasted white sesame seeds
2 teaspoons toasted pumpkin seeds
4 green onions, slivered
1. Put dulse and wakame in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Let soak 5-10 minutes, until softened. Drain in colander, pat dry and place in serving bowl.
2. To make dressing, whisk together the rice vinegar, honey, ginger, tamari, and sesame oil in a small bowl.
3. Spoon half the dressing over the seaweed, add the lime-juice and toss gently. Taste and add a small amount of salt if necessary. Surround the salad with the carrot, radish, cucumber, and avocado. Season them lightly with salt and drizzle with remaining dressing.
4. Sprinkle salad with sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, and green onions.