You may only be familiar with seaweed as the vessel that holds together your favorite sushi roll. Seaweed seems secondary to the rice and fish and veggies, contributing little flavor or texture. However, seaweed is so much more than a simple wrap for sushi. In fact, it's quickly climbing the ladder of superfood popularity to become the feature of many healthy dishes!
Seaweed has been a popular food in East Asian diets for centuries. Seaweed is a member of the marine algae family. Think of it like underwater kale! Of the 10,000 species of marine algae, there are over a hundred edible varieties of seaweed. Talk about an underutilized plant! The most popular edible varieties are brown, red and green seaweeds, of which there are specific types, each with a different use and flavor.
Touted for its health benefits and nutrition, seaweed contains numerous vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. It is low in calories and fat and high in fiber. Some varieties of seaweed, such as nori, which is commonly used in sushi, have protein concentrations has high as 50 percent. Other varieties, such as wakame, have high concentrations of calcium and iron. High levels of vitamins A, C, and E provide antioxidant benefits to the body. Perhaps seaweed's most popular nutritional benefit is high levels of iodine, which is critical to thyroid function and boosts metabolism.
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We've all been creeped out by a seaweed plant tickling our feet at the beach, but if you can get past seaweed's slimy brownish-green exterior, it's an incredibly healthy addition to your diet. Some manufacturers now make packages of dried seaweed sheets for snacking flavored with salt or wasabi. Fresh, salt-packed, or dried seaweed varieties may also be available at your nearest health food store or international market.
Some popular seaweed dishes, such as miso soup, can be easy to make at home with a few simple ingredients. Other dishes, like sushi, take some patience and skill, plus a little creativity. Remember to watch out for those sneaky, potentially unhealthy sushi rolls. Try making a seaweed salad that uses rehydrated seaweed sheets, crisp veggies, and a flavorful dressing. Or if you're feeling adventurous, head to your local international market or a new restaurant and try a few exciting, healthy dishes.
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