Eat This Now: Seaweed

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In the last few years, seaweed has evolved from sushi-roll staple to everyday snack, thanks to the growing popularity of brands like SeaSnax. But is it actually good—and good for you? In our second installment of “Eat This Now,” we break it all down.


The food: Nori, which is a red seaweed that turns black and green when dried, is one of the most prevalent types for snacks and an easy first dip into seaweed, although there are many types of seaweed, like kelp, that are also widely consumed. As with other “superfoods,” it’s hard to know how much of the hype is a marketing push versus legitimate health claims, but even dried nori has a wealth of nutrients.

(MORE: Eat This Now: Morels)

The hype: “In Korean culture, seaweed is like bread,” says Jin Jun, the founder of SeaSnax. “It’s a very sacred part of our culture. It is served to us in soup on our birthday and given to women for three weeks after childbirth. In ancient Korean folklore, the tradition came about by watching whales eat seaweed after giving birth. According to our elders, it is supposed to replenish and rejuvinate the body.”

Other seaweed snack brands, like Annie Chun’s, Sea’s Gift and Trader Joe’s, also tout a variety of health perks, including low fat and calorie counts, and richness in minerals. especially the low calorie count. And, per Sea Gift’s website, “seaweeds offer a tremendous range of therapeutic possibilities.”

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SeaSnax

The truth: Although much of the rejuvenating claims come from Korean and Japanese traditions—not scientific evidence—other research is starting to confirm that seaweed does indeed contain a wide variety of vitamins and nutrients that could prevent disease. A 2011 study published in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry reviewed 100 studies on the health benefits of seaweed and reported that some of the proteins in seaweed could serve as better sources of bioactive peptides than those in milk products. These reduce blood pressure, and boost heart health.

Seaweed also has an impressive amount of nutrients like vitamins A, B-6 and C as well as iodine and fiber. And that low calorie count is definitely legitimate: ten sheets of Nori have just 22 calories.

(MORE: The 31 Healthiest Foods of All Time — With Recipes)

The preparation: Seaweed can be cooked raw, with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, but snack brands have pushed out some interesting takes on dried nori stacks, like wasabi flavored strips or toasty coconut flavored “sprinkles” to top ice cream or popcorn. It’s difficult to find raw seaweed in the local grocery store, but dried products are making their way from health stores into general supermarkets. “I’ve been seeing seaweed more in more in snacks and even used as noodles,” says Theresa Albert, a nutritionist and diet consultant based in Toronto. “The snacks are actually very lightly processed, with a little seasoning added. I recommend it for my traveling clients because it is a nutrient dense food that you can count on.”

To find raw seaweed to cook up in your own kitchen, Albert recommends visiting Asian markets if one is available. Unfortunately, my own venture into New York City’s Chinatown proved unsuccessful, and I could only purchase dried seaweed—but a lot of it.

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SeaSnax

(MORE: Soylent: Is the ‘Food of the Future’ Really a Nutrition Solution?)

The taste: Not great. As much as I wanted to like the seaweed snacks (and I tried several types), I wasn’t a big fan. To me, it was akin to taking a bite of fish food. Or what I imagine that experience would taste like. I’m a seaweed salad and sushi enthusiast, but chipotle-flavored nori strips just didn’t do it for me. Still, there’s no denying the snacks are growing in variety and popularity—and several of my co-workers really enjoyed them. “We sell to a lot of moms, yogis and coaches,” says Jun.

The takeaway: Try it. Perhaps it’s a trend I’ll personally pass on, but given its impressive nutritional profile, it’s worth a go for more adventures snackers.

43 comments
myhomeshu
myhomeshu

I ate dried seaweed once when I ate Kimchi (Korean food) and I did not even taste something different. It was surely delicious. I have read a few articles regarding the health benefits of the seaweeds and I must say, I should consider it to my diet. I must agree it is a delicious and nutritious snack. http://dyslexiakitset.com

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brix
brix

The good nutrients seaweeds have is that its is rich in iron. The bad is that the food is very high in Sodium.

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Shadem
Shadem

eeeewwww, I don't like seaweeds! No matter I try to push it down my throat hahaha But this ready-to-eat-packed-processed-snack looks promising! 

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YG
YG

Seaweed may look like slimy spinach, but this dense green or brown sea vegetable is high in nutrients and packs a variety of heath benefits.

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i
i

Seaweed is great nutrition for health good for anemic or person with anemia.For example, iron (as part of the PROTEIN hemoglobin) carries oxygen from our lungs throughout our body.


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i
i

Seaweed is great nutrition for health good for anemic or person with anemia.For example, iron (as part of the PROTEIN hemoglobin) carries oxygen from our lungs throughout our bodies


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i
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Seaweeds is full of iron.Best to cure and prevent goiter and other sickness.


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nathalieskim
nathalieskim

You're supposed to get dried seaweed (not sqared ones but those that actually look like seaweed - "miyeok" in korean) from the asian market when you want to get raw seaweed. All you need to do is put the seaweed in the water for about 1 hr and it becomes "raw." You can lightly season it and eat it or put it in the soup or cook in however way you want.

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Moriartysai821

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Vanessaverve
Vanessaverve

Even if you don't like seaweed, you might be surprised to find that your KIDS would enjoy this really healthy snack. I started buying sheets of Korean Seasoned Seaweed from our Oriental Food Store. I cut it into 2x2" bite sized pieces. My 3 year old, can't get enough, and she convinced her very picky 5 year old brother to try it. And now he'd always prefer a bag of seasoned seaweed to a bag of Cheetohs. So what's it like? It's very thin and crispy dried seaweed, seasoned with sesame oil and salt. It does taste of the sea, but my son, who gets nauseated with the smell of fish likes the smell of seasoned seaweed.  Don't sell your kids short, food can be an adventure!

You can also buy Hiyashi Wakame, Japanese seaweed salad. It's a beautiful of mix of various marinated tender and mild tasting seaweed greens. When I worked at a sushi restaurant it was one of the more popular dishes for most palettes. You should be able to find pre-made at most Oriental Food Mkts. And I think it's a great introduction to seaweed and should be quite affordable.

ArthurPivirotto
ArthurPivirotto

Try Bold Coast Seaweed from Maine, certified Organic and USDA by OCIA, visit our facebook page at Bold Coast Seaweed to learn more about this exciting new product harvested from the pritine waters of Maine's Bold Coast !

paizleychieko
paizleychieko

Buy dry unseasoned seaweed such as wakame or kombu.  Soak in water to reconstitute and make your own seaweed dishes. Lots of recipes and how-tos on the web  I'm Japanese.

ArthurPivirotto
ArthurPivirotto

@paizleychieko I have 2 types of Kombe, finger kombu and sweet kombu , also Alaria from maine which is winged kelp and very tender and good to eat. Also Nori and Dulse. Visit my facebook page at Bold Coast Seaweed.

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nicmart
nicmart

The sell seaweed packets at Costco now.