Maui Food and Dining

Get Your Greens: The Health Benefits of Eating Seaweed

January 15, 2011, 5:12 PM HST
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By Erica Garza

Incorporating seaweed into your diet can be one of the healthiest decisions you make this year.

You see the slimy stuff swirling around in the ocean waves, sticking to the shores, and getting tangled in your feet when you’re out for a swim, but have you ever thought about the health benefits of eating seaweed? The ocean plant has been used in a number of products, from soaps and lotions to medicines. But seaweed has also made its way into a number of delicious, health-conscious dishes. Incorporating the plant into your Hawaiian cooking arsenal might be one of the smartest decisions you can make for yourself this year.

The most popular edible seaweeds include hijiki, kombu, dulse, wakame, nori and kelp. Though each of these types of seaweeds might have different textures or tastes, each one is packed with valuable nutrients your body will appreciate. High in essential amino acids, seaweed is a valuable source of protein, perfect for vegetarians and vegans. Like other land vegetables, seaweed contains vitamins A and C, vital ingredients to a healthy immune system. Seaweed is also loaded with iron, calcium, potassium, iodine, magnesium and vitamin B-12.

If one of your resolutions this year was to shed a few extra pounds, consider seaweed’s measly 5-20 calories per serving, lack of fat, and fiber content. Many seaweed advocates attribute a feeling of fullness to seaweed consumption due to its fiber content. This fiber content also helps to balance out blood sugar and is a great digestive aid.

For a quick seaweed fix, venture out to any island supermarket, where you’ll find seaweed salad or “ocean salad,” usually stacked next to the poke (which makes a delicious pairing). Many islanders also combine nori seaweed with spam for a popular dish called spam musubi. Or simply head to your local sushi place where your favorite rolls have most likely been wrapped in the ocean plant or tossed into miso soup.

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