High in nutrients, low in calories, and packed with flavour, seaweed has been used for millennia in Far Eastern countries.
Japanese adore seaweed, and people of Okinawa, who eat a lot of it, enjoy the longest lives of all in the country.
Three seas surround Canada, the second largest country of the world,, yet for the vast majority of the population, sea vegetables seldom, if ever, appear on their plates. Some use processed sea vegetables in pills.
Seaweed is dense in nutrients including calcium, iodine, potassium, and vitamins A, and C.
Seaweeds are also loaded with soluble fibre that helps lower cholesterol and are considered to be a detoxifier of the gastrointestinal tract.
Sea vegetables – nori, wakame, kombu, dulse, hijiki – grow in the depths of the sea. They contain powerful nutrients, are full of vitamins and minerals, as well as trace minerals that help humans to function adequately.
Minerals constitute anywhere from 8 – 38 per cent of the dry weight of sea vegetables. The most important minerals are – calcium, iodine, phosphorus, sodium, and iron.
Proteins and vitamins A, B, C, and E are found in many sea vegetables.
Most grocery stores in the western world rarely offer sea vegetables, except some specialized stores you can find dry versions, and a few health stores offer pills containing sea vegetables.
Nori is dried laver seaweed, aenori is powdered, furikake (blend of seaweed smoked bonito tuna, sesame seeds), shimchimi togarashi (blend of seaweed, chilli flakes, dried orange peel, white and black sesame seeds, ginger).
All are available in Japanese grocery stores in major North American cities.
In Canada, Nova Scotia is a major seaweed producer (dulse) and exports both fresh and dried seaweed to a number of Asian countries.
Nori is used in sushi preparations, is probably the best known of all that appears on Japanese crackers, or chips as snacks, or in hummus, quinoa salads, or on sautéed vegetables.
Wakame contains omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins A, and E, both of which are essential for healthy skin. Wakame tastes delicious in soups and salads.
Konbu has the highest iodine content among all seaweeds and is consumed by Japanese regularly. 150 micrograms of konbu consumed daily will keep you balanced metabolically, and energetic.
Konbu can be used in soups, or added to water when cooking rice, or quinoa, or boiling potatoes to render them more flavourful.
Dulse contains calcium, magnesium, and iron. It helps protect joints. Available dried, in health stores. Dulse is abundant in Atlantic Canada and exported to several far eastern countries.
Hijiki contributes to growing thick, healthy hair, is rich in magnesium and encourages hormones to make sleep more restful.
Other sea vegetables are bullkelp, gutweed, seapalm, seawhip, sugarkelp, hiromi, carageen moss, seagrapes, carola, and bladderwrack.
All eastern Canadian provinces and British Columbia harvest sea vegetables, process them and much of the harvest is exported to Japan, and other Far eastern countries.
Ireland, Japan, and several other island nations harvest sea vegetables from their coastal waters.
It is important that harvests occur in pristine waters to prevent contamination.
While Japanese and other Far Eastern nations have been consuming sea vegetables for eons, in western cultures these delicious and nutritionally important foods remain still to be discovered.