Begin the year with some nutrient-rich goodies from the ocean.

New year, new you?! Yep, it’s the time of year for New Year’s resolutions and after all the over-indulging of the holiday season it might just be time to look at how we can get some healthier foods back into our life. Given that a lot of us are near the ocean this time of year, I thought it would be timely to find out what our Moana (sea) has to offer us!

Sea vegetables, including seaweed and algae are something we often only come across if we go to a sushi bar or Japanese restaurant.  However, there are some compelling reasons that you should investigate integrating them into your food routine a little more regularly.

Sea vegetables contain a wide variety of essential minerals, including calcium, copper, magnesium, and iron. But perhaps their most important contribution is a healthy dose of iodine, which is crucial for thyroid function and breast health. It’s telling to note that these vegetables are a staple of cultural eating in Asian countries where the population enjoys much lower rates of cancer and heart disease when compared to many other Western nations.

Take a look at some of our favourites and the reasons we want to get more of these on our plates:

1. Arame

This particular sea vegetable is a type of brown algae which is typically sold in a dried state and is available year-round. It has a fairly mild flavor which is semi-sweet, which makes it easy to add it to a wide variety of recipes and dishes. Arame makes a good side dish with meat or fish and can be added to soups or salads. It’s rich in iron, magnesium, calcium, iodine and vitamin A which makes it an excellent food for improving your hair, skin and nails. Being rich in Chlorophyll it’s fantastic for detoxing too.  

2. Dulse

Dulse, also known as palmaria palmata, is a red algae that is known for containing vitamins and minerals and all the trace elements that we need to survive as well as being an excellent source of protein for vegetarians or vegans. It can be used as a flavor enhancer as well as a stand-alone snack food. You may even want to put a few strips of it on your favorite sandwich to boost the nutritional content.

3. Wakame

This edible sweet flavoured brown algae (seaweed) is indigenous to the north west Pacific Ocean and cold temperate coastal regions of Asia as well as the South Island of New Zealand and has been harvested for over a 1000 years as a cultural food in Japan and Korea. It is used today in soups, broths and stir-frys and rehydrates quickly when placed back in liquid. It is a great source of the minerals magnesium, iodine, calcium, folate and iron as well as vitamins A, B2, C, D and K. This tasty gift from the oceans is a favourite for adding to soups, broths and stir-frys!

4. Nori

This is one of the few sea vegetables that many people in the Western Hemisphere may already be familiar with. If you’ve ever bought sushi, chances are it came wrapped in nori. Nori is a red algae form of edible seaweed. It’s loaded with B vitamins with a generous amount of B12 in particular. Additionally, Nori contains unsaturated fatty acids as well as plenty of proteins, vitamins, minerals and trace minerals. It tastes fantastic toasted too!

5. Kelp

This is a brown algae that’s known for being nutritionally dense and is packed with vitamins and minerals. Kombu is a popular type of kelp that is a common part of the cultural food throughout East Asia. Especially popular in Japanese dishes, it can be sold dried or pickled in vinegar and is a major ingredient in soup stocks as well as making a healthy snack to have with green tea.

6. Agar

Also known as agar-agar, this natural jelly-like substance obtained from algae has a sweet flavor, which makes it a wonderful sugar substitute for use in a myriad of delicious dessert recipes. It’s also an ideal gelatin substitute for vegetarians. If you are ever prone to constipation, you may be glad to hear that it also has mild laxative properties. Agar is a good source of iron and calcium and is very high in fiber. Importantly, it has no sugar or fat and practically no carbohydrates.

7. Spirulina

Spurilina is a type of blue-green algae that has been on health food store shelves, typically in the form of green shake powders, for quite some time. Its nutrient-dense makeup starts with the fact that it’s 70 percent protein by weight. This is combined with a high concentration of vitamins and minerals. The perfect superfood, spirulina is known for regulating blood pressure, managing cholesterol, assisting with allergies, boosting immunity and even improving memory. Boom!

It’s the perfect time of year to try new things and discover the wonderful tastes and nutritional benefits of sea vegetables. We love them all but our favourite is dulse flakes with salt!

All of the options above should be available at your favourite organic  health food store.

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