Sea Vegetables (seaweed)
Seaweed?! Yes, Western culture is beginning to enjoy the taste and nutritional value of sea vegetables, otherwise known as seaweed, which have been a staple of the Japanese diet for centuries. A variety of edible and highly nutritious sea vegetables can now be found in health food shops.
Sea vegetables are neither plants nor animals but classified in a group known as algae. There are both salt water varieties as well as fresh water sea vegetables. There are thousands of types – each of which are classified into categories by colour – either brown, red or green. Each is unique, having a distinct shape, taste and texture. Some of the most common ones are: nori, hijiki, wakame, arame, kombu and dulse.
- Nori: is a dark purple-black colour that turns phosphorescent green when toasted. It is best known as an ingredient in sushi roll. Nori is 28% protein, more than sunflower seeds or lentils. It is also an excellent source of calcium, iron, manganese, fluoride, copper, and zinc. Of the sea vegetables, nori is one of the highest in vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, B12 as well as vitamins A, C and E.
- Kelp: is light brown to dark green in colour. Often sourced from North America and Europe.
- Kombu: very dark in colour and generally sold in strips or sheets. It is traditionally used as a flavouring for soups. Adding kombu to the cooking water when preparing beans is said to make the bean more digestible.
- Wakame: is quite similar to kombu. It is most commonly used to make Japanese miso soup.
- Arame: is a this lacy, wiry sea vegetable which is sweeter and milder in taste than many others
- Dulse: has a soft, chewy texture and a reddish-brown colour. It is commonly available as a coarse powder or flakes making it easy to shake over food much as you would salt. It is commonly sourced from England and Ireland. Dulse is an excellent source of calcium and potassium – making it a useful addition to any dairy-free diet. Dulse is approximately 22% protein, higher than chickpeas (garbanzo beans), almonds or whole sesame seeds. A handful (about 30g) offers more than 100% RDA of vitamin B6, iron and fluoride, as well as 66% RDA of vitamin B12. Dulse is relatively low in sodium, yet quite high in potassium, phosphorus, manganese, and iodine as well as vitamin A. Dulse is also a highly alkaline vegetable.
Sea vegetables are a good source of iodine for those who do not use conventional table salt (which is fortified with iodine).
Introduction: 8 months
Remember, it is a nutrient dense food – a little goes a long way.
Many sea vegetables originate in the East and have, as a result, been a topic of ongoing debate and research with regards to heavy metal contamination – especially since the Fukushima incident. It is important to buy organic sea vegetables to ensure you are not exposed to the heavy metals which may be present in sea vegetables which have been sourced from polluted sea waters. Some certified organic sea vegetables have been farmed in a process that’s usually referred to as “aquaculture” or “mariculture” and that involves a closely monitored, contained-water environment for the sea vegetables. Others have been wild-harvested, but are from regions where ocean waters are better protected against contaminants.
Look for sea vegetables that are sold in tightly sealed packages. Avoid those that have evidence of excessive moisture.
Sealed glass container cool, dark place several years.
Many types of sea vegetables require soaking for 5-10 minutes before adding to your dish. It is best to follow the directions on the package. Many of the seaweeds expand up to eight times their original size when soaked. The soak water can be used for soups or to sauté vegetables in.
Sea vegetables can be eaten raw.
Sprinkle flakes into your little one’s purées or any other food as a nutritional enhancer or salt replacement. They are a great addition to broths and stews and can be used in the cooking water when preparing any grains to add extra nutrients and flavour.
Sea Vegetables are an Excellent source of: iodine, vitamin C, manganese, and vitamin B2.
Sea Vegetables are a Very Good source of: vitamins A (in the form of carotenoids) and copper.
Sea Vegetables are a Good source of: vitamins B1 and B6, complete protein, pantothenic acid, potassium, iron, zinc, niacin and phosphorus.
Additionally they are a source of: vitamin B12