Let’s learn about Seaweed
How you can support the planet — one plate at a time!
From beaches to plates, seaweed is a ubiquitous plant that everyone experiences with thousands of different species all over the world. Vegans and omnivores alike can benefit from this delicious ingredient through simple recipes or even skincare! In this article, we’re going to talk about a few different kinds of Japanese seaweed, their uses, and how they are as good for the planet as they are good for ourselves.
Seaweed has been found to be one of the most sustainably abundant crops in the world. Due to its fast growth rate and multitude of species, according to Sustainable Food Trust, seaweed and kelp promotes biodiversity, absorbs carbon at a significant rate, and feeds off of production waste coming from both land and sea. The article even reported scientist Tim Flannery proposing that if seaweed farms populated more of our oceans (less than 10%), it could do well enough to absorb all human emissions.
On top of that, more and more research shows how supplementing cattle feed with seaweed can reduce the amount of methane produced with the beef and dairy industries.
So what are some seaweed that we can use in our daily lives?
You may recognize the dark green squares floating around in your miso soup — that’s wakame. Wakame is probably one of the most utilized types of seaweed in asian cuisines, with multiple uses in both hot and cold dishes. Outside of miso soup, you can toss a tablespoon into other different types of soups like Udon! During the summer, this traditionally vegan wakame salad can be a fresh side dish to your meal.
Eating wakame can also help you boost your intake of essential nutrients like iodine, calcium, and magnesium. According to Healthline.com, iodine is particularly important for your thyroid.
“Iodine is an essential mineral that your body uses to produce thyroid hormones, which help support growth, metabolism, protein synthesis and cell repair,” the article stated.
Wakame is also one of the easiest seaweeds to find at the grocery store, so to begin your seaweed exploration — give wakame a try!
This thick seaweed is great for vegans wanting to make asian-style stock, but without using instant bouillons or traditional dashi (fish stock). But don’t throw it away! After it is rehydrated from making your stock, you can also turn it into a sweet and salty, simmered side dish called kombu tsukudani.
In this article from The Washington Post, kombu helps reduce blood cholesterol and hypertension, as well as supporting your eye health and immune system. It also states that kombu has a particular ability to help make beans more easily digestible.
“Kombu contains enzymes that help break down the raffinose sugars in beans, which are the gas-producing culprits. Once they are broken down, we are able to absorb more of the nutrients, and we can enjoy these legumes without as many intestinal complaints.” wrote the author, Casey Seidenberg.
One of our members at B2L recommended steeping the kombu with dried shiitake mushrooms to create a soup base with extra flavor and umami. You can find kombu at most East Asian supermarkets.
Brown, thin, and chewy, Hijiki is another nutritious seaweed that is delicious when its saltiness is countered by a sweet simmer. While less common outside of Asia, hijiki can be another seaweed option that can be added to soups or stir-frys, but is most commonly braised with nuts that make this delicious side dish!
Healthwise, it is fantastic for your digestive health as it is high in fiber, and rich in iron and vitamin K. In fact, hijiki can serve the same purpose as dark, leafy greens like kale and chard!
But there is one danger about hijiki — low levels of inorganic arsenic. This post from Umami Insider states that while “too much [of anything] can often cause harmful effects to the body… So long as it is eaten in moderation, the arsenic levels you might consume are too minor to be of any consequence.”
Enjoy hijiki all year around, because like with other dried seaweeds, it can be kept for years if properly stored in a cool, dry, and dark place.
Probably the most famous and the fan favorite — nori seaweed has taken the world by storm as a delicious alternative to potato chips, toppings for a simple bowl of white rice, and as a wrapper for many different kinds of nigiris and makis. By having such a nice salty taste and crunchy texture, foodies and picky eaters alike can find some way to enjoy nori.
Ceres Organic posted in 2016 that nori is a very important part of Asian cultures — particularly in Korea. They said that it is often eaten as a soup for birthdays and is a traditional postpartum food for women within the first month of childbirth.
For men and people without birthdays coming up, it was also reported that nori can be especially beneficial for your blood and circulation, “because the chemical composition of seaweed is so close to human blood plasma, they are excellent at regulating and purifying our blood.”
You might already have a favorite way to eat nori, but feel free to experiment! Try using a big sheet of nori as a gluten-free alternative for lunchtime wraps. If you’re already a fan of sushi, (or maybe not a fan of fish at all), try this korean roll called Gimbap that often uses beef and other proteins within!
Nutritious, green, and friendly for almost every diet — it is no wonder why seaweed has gained popularity within the past few years. Diversify your next meal by adding seaweed! Look in your local Asian supermarket for an array of options — at an affordable price.
Check back on December 19th at 12pm EST for our next article on Sustainable Spirits! For this holiday season, learn how to make the right choice by having your festive drinks be great to the taste and to the environment. In the meantime, follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more fun facts, photos, and tidbits!