And how to navigate these slimy superfoods.
Sure, we’ve all dabbled in seaweed. After all, your sushi rolls come wrapped in it and you may even occasionally order the side of seaweed salad. But here’s why you may want to promote this key ingredient from novelty item to pantry staple.
“Seaweed is very nutrient-dense,” our Director of Education, Sarah Greenfield, RD, tells me. “First, it’s incredibly rich in iodine, which supports the health of your thyroid and metabolism.” She also notes that iodine is hard to find in other foods, but is abundant in seaweed.
Seaweed is also a rich source of many other vitamins and minerals while being low in calories, making it a good nutrient-dense option to add to recipes. Sarah recommends eating seaweed daily, or at least as often as possible.
Here are six types of seaweed to look for on the shelves of your grocery store. Also listed are seaweed’s many benefits and how to prepare it.
Top 6 Types of Seaweed
You’re probably most familiar with this type of seaweed since it’s the kind used to wrap sushi rolls. In recent years, it’s been sold in small, flavored sheets as a low-calorie snack. (Personally, I prefer to buy the larger sheets; it’s cost-effective and requires less plastic packaging. Win, win!)
Indeed, a large sheet of nori contains only five calories but can boast iodine, potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc, and vitamins A, C, and B12.
Consider this kelp a digestion miracle worker. Kombu contains the alpha-galactosidase enzyme which helps to break down heavy starches in beans. For that reason, you can actually cook your dried beans with a piece of kombu in the pot to make them easier to digest. (In other words, you’ll be less gassy.)
Then, kombu has the highest concentration of iodine among all seaweeds. Again, these levels are ideal for hormone health. Kombu comes in large pieces, so just cut off a piece with kitchen scissors as needed. In addition to cooking your beans with it, you can also add it when cooking soups and bone broths.
These fine small strands are rich in iron which plays a central role in helping transport oxygen throughout our bodies and contributes to overall energy levels. Hijiki also contains more calcium than milk, meaning it can help keep bones strong. Finally, it’s rich in magnesium, which can promote rest and relaxation in the body. To prepare it, simply soak one part dried hijiki in three parts water for 30 minutes. (As a tip, it’ll grow to be three times the size when ready.) Drain and rinse before adding to a salad or prepared grains for a nutritious boost.
Arame is known for its long fine strands—almost like angel-hair pasta from the sea. It’s also mild and sweet in flavor. Arame is rich in vitamin A, which encourages cell growth and repair. It’s also packed with lignan, a powerful antioxidant with anti-inflammatory benefits. Soak arame in water before rinsing and adding to stir fry or salads.
This type of seaweed has a unique red color and was a staple in Icelandic diets dating back to 961 AD! Dulse is rich in vitamin B12, which makes it ideal for vegans and vegetarians. You can buy dulse in larger pieces or in small flakes as pictured above. Try sprinkling dry flakes over your salad for a little crunch, or adding to popcorn or nuts with furikake for a savory treat.
If you’ve ever ordered a seaweed salad at a restaurant, it was probably wakame. A study in Japan found that a specific pigment in wakame, called fucoxanthin, can actually help the body burn stored fat. Because seaweed is also naturally low in carbs, wakame is an interesting pairing for anyone on a ketogenic diet.
To prepare your own seaweed salad at home, soak dried wakame in water for five minutes. Drain, rinse, and mix with rice vinegar, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Garnish with sesame seeds for extra crunch. Yum!