Potential Health Benefits of Sea Greens

Category: Newsletter

By Leslie Barrie, Everydayhealth.com

The health benefits of sea greens also appear to be related to constipation and improving > > >

When you were little, your parents probably told you it’s important to “eat your greens.” And while they may have been thinking of greens grown in soil, it turns out greens from the sea are just as beneficial — and they’re a food trend for 2022 in the United States (though they’ve long been a staple of certain cultures and regions around the world).

“Sea greens or sea vegetables are simply edible plants, such as seaweed and algae, that come from the sea,” says Vicki Shanta Retelny, RDN, of Chicago, the author of The Essential Guide to Healthy Healing Foods and host of Nourishing Notes podcast. They can be a nutritious and tasty addition to your diet.

There are many good reasons to add sea greens to your diet. “Sea greens are highly nutritious, as they are loaded with vitamins and minerals, such as potassium, calcium and magnesium, as well as iron and iodine,” says Retelny.

A review of research in the Journal of Applied Phycology points out that sea veggies are a good source of the ever-important B-group of vitamins, as well as vitamin A and vitamin E. Vitamin A is crucial for vision and your immune system, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and vitamin E is essential for everything from your blood to your brain to your skin. Kelp, for example, has 70 micrograms (mcg) of beta-carotene in 100 grams (g), or about ¾ of a cup (and your body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A), according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).You’ll also get 1.3 g of fiber, 89 milligrams (mg) of potassium, and 168 mg of calcium.

Wakame, meanwhile, has a whopping 216 mcg of beta carotene in about ¾ of a cup, as well as 1 mg of vitamin E, 150 mg of calcium, and 107 mg of magnesium.right up arrow

And a type of seaweed called agar contains small amounts of the vitamin B6 (0.03 mg) in about ¾ of cup, plus 226 mg of potassium and 54 mg of calcium.

A word of caution, though: “Care must be taken not to over consume iodine from sea greens,” says Retelny. Per NIH, too much iodine can affect how your thyroid functions, leading to a variety of problems, including hypothyroidism. In most cases, it is hard to exceed the upper limit of 1,100 mcg per day from food and supplements, but two tablespoons (tbsp) of dried flaked nori, for instance, provides more than 100 mcg.

In addition, sea greens can also contain beneficial dietary fibers called polysaccharides, according to a study published in Marine Drugs. These fibers can work as prebiotics to potentially help maintain a person’s gut bacteria, which is beneficial for one’s health and well-being, the researchers note. “The health benefits of sea greens also appear to be related to constipation and improving bowel regularity,” says Dr. Agarwal.

Another perk? You’ll also load up on beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. One study (done in a laboratory setting) found both red and brown seaweed could be a valuable source of fatty acids, including omega-3s. Eaten on their own or used as an ingredient in dietary supplements and other products, these sea greens could be a great vegan source of these healthy fats. Omega-3s are essential fatty acids that help everything from your heart to your immune system and lungs function at their best.

Additionally, research published in Antioxidants found that adding brown seaweed to rye snacks upped the antioxidant levels of the snacks. The researchers note that this shows that sea greens can potentially be used as a natural ingredient to improve the health of consumers. (As a reminder, antioxidants are natural substances that can delay — or even prevent — cell damage in the body, according to the NIH.)

Still, not all sea greens are created equal. “Vitamin, mineral and antioxidant content in sea greens is highly variable based on their marine environment, and more,” says Retelny.

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Updated: August 16, 2017