Seaweed is a food resource long celebrated by traditional coastal peoples across the globe, including throughout the Pacific Northwest. Although seaweed has been highly revered historically, in more recent generations modern society has lost touch with its virtues. As we encounter a great need to fortify human health, it’s time to bring seaweed back into the kitchen.
In Spanish, seaweed is often referred to as vegetales del mar (vegetables of the sea)—an appetizing invitation to enjoy it as food rather than referring to it as an undesirable plant.
Seaweed is nutritionally dense, loaded with vitamins, minerals, and fibre. At the same time, it’s easy to digest and absorb, making these nutrients highly assimilable. It’s especially rich in minerals and trace minerals, so it can help address deficiencies that are becoming more commonly noted as a result of industrial farming practices throughout our food chain.
Beyond its great nutritional value, seaweed has a therapeutic side. Due to the substantial elemental forces and predatory stressors that seaweed endures in its marine environment, it develops unique protective compounds. Numerous scientific papers have indicated that these protective compounds have medicinal properties and can help prevent a wide range of health disorders in the human body when consumed. Such studies demonstrate benefits to all vital organ systems of the body, indicating the inclusion of seaweed in the diet to be a smart and simple health choice. In the name of food as medicine, seaweed is the epitome.
Culinarily speaking, there are several reasons to include seaweed in your day-to-day cooking practices: it improves taste with its palatable umami flavour and adds unique textures. These qualities help balance and harmonize any simple meal.
Curious about which ones are best to eat? Seaweeds are categorized as either red, green, or brown. Because each category has its own benefits, eating a balance of all three is the most practical, easy-to-follow approach when it comes to eating seaweed. The familiar, large deep-sea kelps fall into the brown category, while you’ll also find various red, green, and brown seaweeds in the intertidal zone.
All seaweed can be eaten freshly picked from clean ocean waters, dried, cooked, or even fermented. In terms of sourcing your seaweed, you can learn seaweed harvesting and identification practices from local experts, or there are a variety of reputable natural seaweed sources carried at your local health-food store.
When sliced into large pieces, it can take centre stage in a dish—or you can hide it discreetly in flaked or powdered form. And you don’t need to eat tons of it: as an average rule of thumb, an approximate daily amount of seaweed of 5 grams dried (1 tsp) is enough to deliver benefits. In fact, this is a more effective approach for improving health than consuming larger, more sporadic amounts of seaweed.
My favourite way to incorporate seaweed into my food is in small flakes, which blend well into a variety of dishes, enhancing flavour and texture without taking over.
Still not convinced you want to consume seaweed? You can reap many of its benefits through your skin! Try adding it to your bath or using skin and body-care products made with it.
May you find inspiration to further deepen your understanding of seaweed out on the shore, in the kitchen, and learn more about what it can do for your good health.
This is one of my favourite ways to add seaweed to most any savoury dish!
• 4 tablespoons flaked mixed seaweed
• 2 cloves garlic
• 6 tablespoons olive oil
Crush and mince garlic. Add all ingredients together and mix (you may need to add a little more olive oil, depending on preferred consistency). Let sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Enjoy on crackers or in soup, pasta, and rice dishes. Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Want to explore more? Check out Angela’s Seaweed Therapeutics Course offered through Wild Rose College of Herbal Medicine, or try out the tasty Sea Veg blend created by Harmonic Arts.