People usually get their daily nutrients from vegetables or “land weeds” like lettuce, kale, and arugula. And while veggies are a must-have component of a healthy diet, you may want to explore alternative foods that offer the same vitamins and minerals.
For example, why not incorporate kelp into your diet? Kelp is a type of seaweed, which is the marine equivalent of common land vegetables. They’re just as nutritious as your leafy greens and offer a different way to prepare and eat your meals.
This blog discusses kelp, its nutritional facts, health benefits and answers some frequently asked questions.
What is Kelp?
Kelp is a type of seaweed that naturally grows in saltwater, but most commercial kelp is farmed or cultured in shallow seas. It is full of nutrients beneficial for health and disease prevention. This large, brown-colored seaweed is a staple additive in many Asian cuisines.
The extremely versatile ingredient can be added to your dish as powder, included in supplements, or consumed raw or cooked. Moreover, it produces sodium alginate, a compound that helps thicken ice cream and salad dressings. You may not realize it, but you’ll also find kelp in sushi and sauces.
Kelp Nutrition Facts
Because of its appearance, many would mistake kelp for a plant even though it isn’t. Instead, kelp are large brown algae which are protists, a kingdom of life separate from plants.
In addition to kelp being photosynthetic, it also absorbs nutrients from its surrounding marine environment, making it rich in vitamins and minerals.
Below is the nutritional value of a cup of dried kelp:
- 44.7 calories
- 0.6g fat
- 86.2mg sodium
- 7.9g carbohydrates
- 0.8g fiber
- 0.5g sugars
- 4.6g protein
Kelp also contains phosphorus, iodine, folate, and vitamins A, E, K, B12, and B6. Below is a list of some of its other vitamins that contribute to better health:
- Vitamin C for preventing illness or disease
- Calcium for better bone health
- Iron for healthy red blood cells and greater resistance to disease
- Magnesium to help regulate blood pressure, control glucose levels, and promote muscle and nerve function
Kelp Health Benefits
Here are various kelp benefits that might convince you to add it to your diet:
Builds Thyroid Health
Kelp is one of the best natural sources of iodine. Low iodine levels puts you at greater risk of metabolism disorders, goiter, and hypothyroidism. Since your body is unable to produce iodine on its own, make it a point to consume foods rich in iodine. Just make sure you still maintain a balanced diet because too much iodine could also cause your thyroid to malfunction.
Apart from iodine, kelp also contains vanadium, a mineral that can help decrease blood sugar for people with type 2 diabetes. Its high levels of antioxidants also fight free radicals and act as an anti-inflammatory agent.
Iron deficiency anemia is a condition where the concentration of hemoglobin in your red blood cells is lower, limiting your body’s ability to transport oxygen to other tissues. Adding kelp into your diet helps prevent anemia because it’s moderately rich in iron.
Promotes Weight Loss
Kelp is low in fat and calories. Studies show that it contains a type of fiber that helps people feel full. In turn, including kelp in your diet could encourage you to consume fewer calories and lose weight. Kelp also has fucoxanthin, an antioxidant that aids in weight loss.
Lowers the Risk of Cancer
Kelp contains three compounds that show promise in fighting cancer: fucoidan, polyunsaturated fatty acids, and antioxidant polyphenol. However, further research is still needed to fully support this claim.
Below are some of the frequently asked questions about kelp.
How do I eat kelp?
There are various ways to consume kelp: you can enjoy it raw, cooked, powdered, or take it as a supplement. You can easily mix it with vegetables and other unprocessed foods.
Below we’ve listed a few examples of how you can incorporate it into your diet:
- Add dried kelp to your soups and stews
- Mix raw kelp noodles into salad
- Blend it with vegetable juice
- Serve cold with oil and sesame seeds
- Use it as a dried flake seasoning
- Replace traditional noodles with kelp noodles
What are the health risks of eating kelp?
Introducing too much or too little kelp into your body can carry various health risks. Keep in mind that the recommended iodine intake is around 150mcg for adults, and iodine deficiency could cause hypothyroidism that could develop into a goiter. The effects of iodine deficiency could also extend to dry skin and thinning hair, as well as feelings of constipation and depression.
Another concern some people have about kelp is the presence of heavy metals. Kelp harvested near industrial areas usually contains heavy metals below toxic levels, but some are wary of the exposure to aluminum, cadmium, lead, and arsenic.
But don’t worry because arsenic is present in other common foods, such as rice and apple juice. Moreover, as long as you limit yourself to a standard serving of kelp, you won’t have to worry about the presence of any heavy metals.
What’s the best way to store kelp?
If stored properly, kelp can last for many years. Store your kelp in an airtight container placed in a cool, dry area away from light. You can use a glass jar, food bucket, or Tupperware container. Avoid using ziplock plastic bags because these aren’t airtight.
How do I prepare fresh kelp?
Fresh kelp is thicker and tougher than other seaweeds. You can rehydrate your kelp in cool water until it becomes soft. Afterward, drain and slice it into your desired shape and size.
What does kelp taste and feel like?
Kelp is grown in water, so you can expect it to taste salty, like a fresh oyster. It feels wet and gelatinous to the touch, like grass filled with water and jelly.
Is it possible to be allergic to kelp?
Being allergic to kelp and other seaweed is rare but possible. You’ll know if you’re allergic to it if you experience swelling and rashes after eating. If these symptoms persist, consult your doctor immediately.
Is kelp the same as seaweed?
Seaweed is an umbrella term for the different types of red, brown, or green marine algae. For example, dark green nori are red, while wakame and dulse are brown. They can grow in various marine-based environments, including lakes, oceans, and rivers.
That said, kelp is a type of seaweed that grows in saltwater environments, specifically ocean coastlines. They’re classified under brown seaweed but may also come in other colors. Kelp is a more prominent variety of algae that requires being placed in moving water to properly absorb nutrients.
One of the main differences between kelp and seaweed is that kelp doesn’t float like seaweed. Kelp anchors itself to the ocean floor and stays in a single spot to form thick forests, while seaweed can grow on any marine surface.
Get Your Daily Intake of Nutrients with Kelp
Stock a generous supply of kelp in your kitchen so you can easily incorporate its distinct flavor into your dishes. Consuming it provides you with various vitamins and minerals that are great for your health.