Smart Fuel: Sea Vegetables

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.

landoh Flickr Photo (CC)

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12 thoughts on “Smart Fuel: Sea Vegetables”

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  1. Cynthia, I am glad to hear of your progress. Keep at it.

    I have a question reguarding yesterday’s post. A friend of mine from Finland said that in Italy the pH of olive oil is the deciding factor of its quality. The pH is reported as a percentage, not the regular 1-14 scale. An olive oil with a very high percentage is deemed usuable only as car oil (or oil for any other machinery). The lower the percentage – the higher the quality.

    Does anyone know how to find out this pH percentage? None of the bottles I’ve bought or seen here in supermarkets have any mention of a pH value.

  2. It’s not actually the pH, it’s the “free fatty acids”, which is a measure of the amount damage the triglycerides have sustained during pressing and storage. Oil is composed of triglycerides, which can break apart to form free fatty acids, which is what they measure. Free fatty acids or “acidity” is given as a percentage of the total fatty acids. The lower the number, the fresher the oil.

    Some nice bottles list the acidity level. Any bottle that has the “California Olive Oil Council” (COOC) seal on it has less than 0.5% acidity, which is very low.

    To be called “Extra Virgin” in the US, the oil must have 1% acidity or less.

  3. VAS, I kind of have the same question. A booth in our farmer’s market boasts that their olive oil is “less than 1% oleic acid.” If that’s true, then their olive oil isn’t olive oil, since olive oil is about 70% oleic acid! I assumed that what they meant was “less than 1% acid,” but which acid? They can’t be talking about fatty acids, since all fats and oils are made up of fatty acids.

    Anybody know?

  4. Seaweed. Yum, yum, yum. And so easy to prepare. Arame makes a great salad. Wakame tastes good in soups. Nori is low in sodium, and toasted nori makes a great snack. If you live near an Asian supermarket, look for packages of Korean nori, called “kim.” It’s toasted in sesame oil, which gives it a really nice, savory flavor. Hijiki is high in metals and should be avoided.

    While you’re picking up seaweed at your local Asian grocer’s, you might also toss into the cart some wood ear mushrooms, which are reputed to have powerful blood cleansing properties. I use reconstituted wood ear and fresh shitake mushrooms in miso and hot and sour soups. If there’s a produce section, grab some Chinese or Indian bitter melon, but be warned – it IS bitter. You can also get Chinese bitter melon in dried form, and decoct it into a tea. Dried seaweed and mushrooms all keep very well.

    If you have thyroid problems, you’ll want to avoid all seaweeds, except for nori, as they are exceptionally high in iodine.

  5. Hi Migraneur,

    What they’re referring to is “free oleic acid”, which means fatty acids broken off their glycerol backbone. It’s just another way of describing the free fatty acid content, since oleic acid is the major fatty acid in olive oil.

    As a side note, if their oil had more than 1% free oleic acid, they couldn’t call it extra virgin, so that’s not a very impressive figure.

  6. Sonagi – I was glad to hear that hijiki should be avoided – I tried the stuff years ago and I couldn’t stand it. 🙂 It reminded me of very dark, squishy, starchy noodles.

    Sasquatch – thanks for the clarification. If you’re still following this post – what the problem with free fatty acids? I know that, in my blood stream, they are preferable to triglycerides, but my bloodstream is different from a bottle of olive oil. Though with the amount of the stuff I consume, maybe it’s not THAT different. 😉

  7. Migraneur,

    I think the percentage of free fatty acids is just a proxy for the amount of damage the oil has sustained during processing and storage. Anything that has been chemically traumatic enough to separate a fatty acid from its glycerol backbone may have also had other chemical effects. Maybe it affects the flavor as well; I don’t know.

    I think triglycerides are the main form of fatty acid transport in the blood. The only times the fatty acids are separated from the glycerol are during absorption through the intestinal lining, and during transport from the blood across your cell membranes. So except for these brief periods of membrane crossing, fats are typically triglycerides.

    Interestingly, your blood level of triglycerides depends mostly on how much carb you consume, rather than fat. It’s counterintuitive, but it’s because your liver synthesizes triglycerides from carbs.

  8. Aye… I’ve gotten requests from dudes who were vegetarian yet wanted to get bigger, sea vegetables was heavily endorsed… no, more like shoved down their throats by moi!

  9. I read about another potential use of sea lettuce..


    By Thomas Djursing, Friday 22nd June 2007 kl. 00:00

    By turning his eyes away from shore and dive below sea level, researchers from NERI discovered a huge potential for biofuel.

    NERI-scientists suggests that ethanol extract from green algae søsalat. In the future, we must cultivate the algae in large ponds, which are constantly fed exhaust gases from power stations.

    Søsalat is an extremely fast-growing algae, which operates around the ocean without getting stuck on the seabed. Green algae grows twice over four days and has a carbohydrate content similar to corn.

    60 percent of algens dry weight consists of carbohydrates, making it extremely suitable for producing ethanol by fermentation.

    Another advantage is that søsalat can be harvested several times a year because it grows like a lawn that is constantly being cut, explains idemanden behind the project, senior adviser Michael Bo Rasmussen.

    Korn has two major drawbacks: You can only harvest once a year, and while it is food for many people. That is not to søsalat. Here is really a non-utilized energy resource with tremendous potential, “he says.

    While cereal yields are around 10 tonnes per hectare, so can be harvested between 200 and 500 tons søsalat per hectare, and a liter of ethanol must be used only five kilograms søsalat.

    In exchange, green algae and large quantities of CO2 in power plant flue gas are 15 percent CO2, which would eat the algae.

    ‘In this way, there is also the possibility to reduce CO2 emissions, “said Michael Bo Rasmussen.

    Research around søsalat done in collaboration between NERI, Department of Biology and Faculty of Agricultural Sciences at Aarhus University. Research Foundation at Aarhus University has just supported the project with 400,000 dollars

    The first step is to examine algal growth in more detail in a laboratory and see how the algae perform when exposed to exhaust gases, which contain a wide range of pollutants.
    Residues could be used to kylligefoder

    Researchers will also let søsalaten ferment and see if some of the residues from ethanol production can be used in biogas plants or chicken feed.

    At the same time, they will investigate whether manure from pigs can be poured into the ponds with algae to enhance their growth while helping the farmers with an environmental problem.

  10. That is very interesting that sea vegetables have all 56 minerals that our body needs. I have yet to try any sea vegetable outside of the few sushi rolls I tried a few weeks ago.

    I will have to look more into this and locate sources where I can buy them. Thanks for reminding me about this food goldmine!

  11. The mixed sea veggie bag sold by the Sea Tangles company (and usually the best price at iherb with a bulk discount) is amazing.

    I highly recommend these.
    Sea veggies can be life changing.
    Thanks for posting.