Sea Vegetables

I’ve always known that sea vegetables are among the best foods for your health. I grew up eating all the different species—nori, kombu, hijiki, arame, dulse, wakame. I was so familiar with them that their names even sounded normal to me. So when I started attending classes at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, I couldn’t wait to hear my teachers extol the virtues of these unusual ocean–dwelling plants (or weeds, to use a less euphemistic term). To my surprise, sea vegetables were not placed front and center. Even the school’s founder said that it took him a long time to get into them. Later I realized that my teachers were trying not to alienate the majority of the student body by telling them that a healthy diet was all about eating the oddest and most exotic foods you could find. And they’re right—you can certainly be healthy without sea vegetables. Many traditional peoples settled and thrived in places where they weren’t available. But because sea vegetables do have so many nutritional benefits, and because they taste quite delicious even in quick, simple recipes, I think it’s important to devote some time to them, especially at this time of year, when their warming, salty qualities balance the harsh winter.

Because sea vegetables come from the ocean, they are coated with a wide variety of different minerals that are naturally present in the sea. These include calcium (ten times as much as an equal amount of milk), iron, magnesium, phosphorus, iodine, chromium and zinc, to name a few. Because of contemporary agricultural practices, the soil that our conventional food is grown in is often less rich in minerals than it used to be. Sea vegetables are therefore a good way to get all your minerals without having to buy expensive mineral supplements (which are not as efficient; minerals are much better absorbed when digested alongside plant tissue). Because of their salt and mineral content, they are even more alkalizing than other vegetables. Because they are plants, sea vegetables also contain a lot of vitamins such as A, C, and many of the B vitamins. Because they thrive in cold ocean environments, they especially help strengthen people in the winter. They are very good for people with serious health conditions like cancer because they carry toxic and radioactive waste out of the body.

Finally, because of their abundance of nutrients, sea vegetables will do amazing things for your skin and hair. Hijiki, arame, and wakame especially help promote beautiful glossy, shiny hair and prevent hair loss. Because they are so detoxifying, sea vegetables naturally promote healthy clear skin.

Most sea vegetables can be eaten in soups, as snacks, or in salads or stir–fries. The brands sold in health food stores always include on the packaging several recipes, because they are well aware that very few people have experience cooking these strange, and strange–looking, foods.

My sea vegetable cooking class, mentioned above, will be held on February 25 th. It’s a way for anyone interested in introducing these bizarre and wonderful foods to their diet to learn how to prepare them easily and quickly. If you’d like to come, send me an email and I will reserve your spot!