Seaweed as Food: Discover the Surprising Health Benefits You’re Missing Out On

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  May 28, 2022

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Seaweed is a macroscopic, multicellular, marine algae that lives near the seabed (benthic). The term includes some members of the red, brown, and green algae. Seaweeds can also be classified by use (as food, medicine, fertilizer, filtration, industrial, etc.). The study of seaweed is known as Phycology.

In this article, I’ll tell you all about it and how it’s a great addition to many dishes.

What is seaweed

Get to Know the Edible Seaweeds You Can Add to Your Diet

Brown seaweeds are the largest and most diverse group of seaweeds. They are typically found in colder waters and are known for their high iodine content. Here are some common brown seaweeds you can try:

  • Kelp: This seaweed is packed with nutrients and can be used in a variety of dishes, from salads to soups. It’s also a popular snack in Japan.
  • Dulse: This reddish-brown seaweed has a chewy texture and a salty taste. It’s a great addition to sandwiches and salads.
  • Hijiki/Hiziki: This seaweed has a strong flavor and is often used in Japanese cuisine. It’s a good source of iron and calcium.

Red Seaweeds

Red seaweeds are typically found in warmer waters and are known for their high vitamin and mineral content. Here are some common red seaweeds:

  • Irish Moss: This seaweed is often used as a thickener in desserts and smoothies. It has a neutral flavor and a gel-like texture.
  • Laverbread: This seaweed is a popular ingredient in Welsh cuisine. It has a strong flavor and is often served with bacon and eggs.
  • Chlorella: This seaweed is a type of freshwater algae that is often used as a dietary supplement. It’s packed with nutrients and is known for its detoxifying properties.

Other Edible Seaweeds

There are many other types of edible seaweeds that are less commonly used in culinary dishes. Here are a few examples:

  • Sargassum: This brown seaweed is often found floating in the open sea. It’s a good source of fiber and is often used in Chinese medicine.
  • Gracilaria, Eucheuma, Gelidiella, Gamet, Halosaccion, Glandiforme, Ogonori, Corticata, Grapestone, Mastocarpus, Papillatus, Hypnea, Myriocysum, Spiral, Thongweed, and Mozuku: These are all different types of seaweed that are used in various dishes in different parts of the world.

Edible seaweeds are versatile ingredients that can add flavor and nutrition to your meals. Whether you’re looking for a healthy snack or a new culinary adventure, there’s a seaweed out there for you to try.

From the Ocean to Your Plate: The Art of Harvesting Seaweed

Seaweed harvesting has a rich history and is commonly done in areas with easy access to water bodies. There are two main methods of harvesting seaweed: traditional and modern.

  • Traditional methods involve hand cutting or gathering of seaweed from the water. This method is still used in some areas, especially for small-scale production and local consumption.
  • Modern methods involve the use of boats and mechanical equipment to harvest seaweed. Companies that produce seaweed on a larger scale often use this method.

Harvesting Process

The harvesting process depends on the type of seaweed and the area it is located in. However, the general process involves the following steps:

1. Cutting or gathering: Experienced workers use knives or scissors to cut the seaweed from rocks or gather it from the water.
2. Storage: The seaweed is then stored in a boat or onshore to be transported to a processing facility.
3. Drying: To prevent spoilage, the seaweed is dried in the sun or using a machine.
4. Sorting and packaging: The dried seaweed is sorted and packaged according to its type and quality.
5. Marketing: Seaweed is sold fresh or dried, and companies often mix different types of seaweed to produce a good blend.

Protecting Nature and Benefiting the Community

Seaweed harvesting is a significant contributor to the local economy, especially in coastal areas. However, it is important to protect the natural habitat of the seaweed plants and prevent over-harvesting. To achieve this, some companies have established seaweed farms where they can control the production and harvesting process.

Moreover, seaweed harvesting provides a range of benefits, including:

  • Providing a source of food and income for local communities
  • Contributing to the production of natural products such as cosmetics and fertilizers
  • Removing excess nutrients from the water, which benefits the marine ecosystem

Illustration of Seaweed Harvesting

Here is an illustration of the seaweed harvesting process:

1. Workers cut or gather seaweed from the water using knives or scissors.
2. The seaweed is stored in a boat or onshore.
3. The seaweed is dried in the sun or using a machine.
4. The dried seaweed is sorted and packaged according to its type and quality.
5. The seaweed is sold fresh or dried, and companies often mix different types of seaweed to produce a good blend.

Seaweed: A Nutritional Powerhouse with Versatile Uses

Seaweed is a nutritional powerhouse that contains a wide range of essential nutrients. Here are some of the key nutrients that seaweed varieties contain:

  • Vitamins: Seaweeds are rich in vitamins A, C, E, and K, as well as B vitamins like folate and cobalamin.
  • Minerals: Seaweeds are a good source of minerals like calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, manganese, and copper.
  • Iodine: Seaweeds are one of the best dietary sources of iodine, an essential mineral that is important for thyroid function.
  • Protein: Some seaweed species contain up to 50% protein by weight, making them a valuable source of plant-based protein.
  • Fiber: Seaweed is a good source of dietary fiber, which can help promote healthy digestion and lower cholesterol levels.

Varied Uses in the Kitchen

Seaweed is a versatile ingredient that can be used in a variety of dishes. Here are some of the ways you can incorporate seaweed into your cooking:

  • Nori: This type of seaweed is commonly used to wrap sushi rolls, but it can also be crumbled and used as a seasoning.
  • Kombu: This thick, leathery seaweed is often used to make dashi, a Japanese soup stock.
  • Dulse: This red seaweed has a smoky, salty flavor and can be used as a seasoning or eaten as a snack.
  • Wakame: This green seaweed is often used in salads and soups.

Nutritional Values Vary by Species and Harvest

The nutritional values of seaweed can vary depending on the species, geographical location, and season in which it is harvested. Here are some notable differences in nutritional content between different types of seaweed:

  • Iodine content: Some species of seaweed, like kelp, can contain extremely high levels of iodine, while others, like nori, contain lower levels.
  • Calorie content: Seaweed is generally low in calories, with most types containing less than 10 calories per serving.
  • Fat content: Seaweed is low in fat and contains no saturated or trans fats.
  • Sodium content: Seaweed is naturally low in sodium, making it a good choice for people on a low-sodium diet.
  • Other nutrients: Some species of seaweed are richer in certain nutrients than others. For example, dulse is notably high in zinc, while wakame is rich in magnesium and calcium.

Healthy Addition to Your Diet

Incorporating seaweed into your diet can provide a wide range of health benefits. Here are some of the ways that seaweed can support your overall health:

  • Improved thyroid function: The high iodine content in seaweed can help support healthy thyroid function.
  • Lowered cholesterol: The fiber in seaweed can help lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease.
  • Improved gut health: The fiber and other nutrients in seaweed can help promote healthy digestion and reduce inflammation in the gut.
  • Increased nutrient intake: Seaweed is a rich source of several essential nutrients that can be hard to come by in plant-based diets, like vitamin B12 and iron.

So, whether you’re looking to add more plant-based protein to your diet, boost your nutrient intake, or simply try out a new ingredient in the kitchen, seaweed is a versatile and nutritious choice that is worth exploring.

The Incredible Health Benefits of Adding Seaweed to Your Diet

Seaweed is a type of ocean plant that offers a wide range of benefits to the body. It contains a range of essential compounds, including iodine, protein, fiber, and a variety of vitamins and minerals. Seaweed comes in many different forms, depending on the type of seaweed and how it is prepared. Some of the most common types of seaweed include red, brown, and green varieties. Seaweed is highly versatile and can be eaten in a variety of ways, making it easy to incorporate into your regular diet.

Seaweed Offers a Range of Potential Health Benefits

Research has focused on the potential health benefits of seaweed, and the results are impressive. Some of the key benefits of adding seaweed to your diet include:

  • Seaweed is a rich source of iodine, which is critical for the healthy function of the thyroid gland. This gland plays a key role in regulating metabolism and energy levels in the body.
  • Seaweed contains a range of protective compounds that can help to prevent damage to the body’s cells. These compounds include antioxidants, which are known to help protect against heart disease and other chronic conditions.
  • Seaweed is a good source of soluble fiber, which can help to lower cholesterol levels and improve blood sugar control. This makes it a great food for people who are looking to manage their weight or prevent diabetes.
  • Seaweed is also rich in certain types of protein, which can contribute to the body’s energy levels and help to support muscle function.

Seaweed is Safe and Easy to Incorporate into Your Diet

Adding seaweed to your regular diet is a great way to improve your overall health and wellbeing. Seaweed is extremely versatile and can be used in a range of different dishes, from salads to soups to sushi rolls. It is also easy to find in many countries, either fresh or in dry sheet form. However, it is important to note that the iodine content of seaweed can vary significantly depending on the type and how it is prepared. It is important to consume seaweed in moderation and to properly control your intake of iodine. As with any food, it is always a good idea to consult with an expert before making significant changes to your diet.


So, there you have it- everything you need to know about seaweed as food. 

It’s a great way to add some extra vitamins and minerals to your diet, and it can be used in both savory and sweet dishes. 

So, don’t be afraid to experiment and discover new ways to enjoy this delicious seaweed.

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Lakeside Smokers is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with BBQ Smoking (& Japanese food!) at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.