What Are the Health Benefits of Eating Seaweed?

Seaweed can enhance nutrient intake and overall health.

Seaweed can enhance nutrient intake and overall health.

If you're seeking a nutritional powerhouse to enhance your diet, seaweed may fit the bill. Dina Aronson, a registered dietitian and contributing writer for "Today's Dietitian," calls seaweed a highly valuable nutrient source with tremendous health-promoting benefits. She suggests adding it to soups, salads and noodle dishes. Because of its rich sodium and iodine content, seaweed may not be suitable for salt-sensitive individuals and people with thyroid disease. For specified guidance, consult your doctor or dietitian.

Reduced Risk for Breast Cancer

Seaweed may have a beneficial impact on women's hormone levels and hormone-related cancers. In a study published in the "British Journal of Nutrition" in May 2010, the eating habits and breast cancer incidences of 362 women in Korea, where seaweed is a staple, were analyzed. Researchers found a significant link between seaweed consumption and a reduced risk for breast cancer. Korean populations tend to eat fewer processed foods and more vegetables than Americans, so incorporate seaweed into a whole foods-based diet for best results.

Improved Magnesium Intake

All of your organs require magnesium, and most Americans do not get enough, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Seaweed is a valuable source of the mineral. Increasing your magnesium intake may provide a variety of benefits, such as reduced premenstrual syndrome and migraine pain and improved bone health and blood pressure levels. While specific magnesium content varies, dried seaweed can provide 8 to 32 percent of an adults' daily recommended intake per serving.

Improved Vitamin B-12 Intake

Two types of seaweed, dulce and alaria, are high in vitamin B-12 and iron -- nutrients that allow for proper red blood cell development and oxygen transport throughout your body. Because vitamin B-12 and iron are most prevalent in animal products, Monica Reinagel, a registered dietitian with Nutrition Diva, describes dulce and alaria as excellent options for vegans. One serving of alaria fulfills 18 percent of an adults' RDI of vitamin B-12 and 15 percent of an adults' RDI for iron. Dulce provides 35 percent of the RDI for adults of vitamin B-12 and 29 percent of the RDI for iron.

Reduced Body Fat

In a study published in "Biotechnology Journal" in September 2010, mice were fed a high-fat diet supplemented with a modest or moderate dose of seaweed extract for six weeks. By the study's end, both groups of mice showed significantly reduced body fat and reduced triglycerides. They also released more fat through bowel movements. Researchers believe that humans will reap similar benefits, but more studies are needed.

 

About the Author

August McLaughlin is a health and sexuality writer with more than 10 years of experience as a nutritionist. Her work is featured in the Huffington Post, DAME Magazine, The Good Men Project and more. She specializes in eating disorders and loves connecting with readers and writers via her blog and social media.

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