Is it a plant? Is it an animal? Who cares when it tastes this delicious!
Classified as an algae (so neither plant nor animal!), the sea vegetable family counts ultra-healthy seaweed, sea lettuce, nori and kelp among its many relatives. Mimicking the mineral content of the ocean – which incidentally mimics the mineral content of human blood – sea vegetables are, pound for pound, the most nutrient dense food in existence.
On the minerals side, sea vegetables provide each of the 56 minerals required by the body for optimum physiological function. In addition, these minerals are made available in colloidal form, meaning that they are small enough to be easily absorbed by the body.
In terms of vitamins, sea vegetables are an excellent source of Vitamins A, B, C, and E as well as several B vitamins. Specifically, sea vegetables log high levels of folic acid (B9), which is an important deterrent of birth defects and cardiovascular disease, riboflavin (B2) and pantothenic acid (B5). Incidentally, sea vegetables are one of the only known non-meat sources of vitamin B12, which helps the body metabolize fats for energy and also plays an integral role in the formation of DNA.
Rounding out the list, sea vegetables are perhaps one of the best vegan sources of protein – with some varieties made up of as much as 48% protein – and are also a great source of both soluble and insoluble dietary fiber. Finally, sea vegetables contain a compound known as alginic acid, which removes radioactive isotopes and other heavy metals from the digestive tract and lignans, a type of phytochemical that is thought to prevent the formation of cancerous tumors.
Long considered a staple in Japanese cuisine, sea vegetables are increasingly making their way into America’s kitchens, with today’s chefs using them as an alternative to table salt, as a seasoning for soups and salads and even to reduce the flatulence-causing quota of other veggies.