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The Nutritional Wonders of Sea Vegetables


Podcast episode cover art; medicine cabinet with natural supplements

Season 2 of the Science of Self-Healing Podcast has a NEW host! Please welcome Dr. James Odell, the Medical and Executive Director for BRMI, as well as a practicing naturopathic doctor for over 35 years.

Join Dr. Odell as he explores the nutritional wonders of various sea vegetables and provides practical tips for incorporating them into your meals.


Dr. Odell will cover a range of common sea vegetables, such as nori, dulce, kelp, ma kombu, wakame, arame, hijiki, umibudo, chlorella, and spirulina. 


Discover the numerous benefits of adding sea vegetables to your diet, including their richness in vitamins A, C, and K; minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and iron; omega-3 fatty acids; iodine; as well as unique compounds like fucoidans and fucoxanthin. 


These oceanic treasures offer a host of health benefits, from reducing inflammation and combating cancer to supporting thyroid function and lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes. 


Get ready for an enlightening journey into the world of sea vegetables and their potential to boost your well-being.


Transcript: The Nutritional Wonders of Sea Vegetables

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Science of Self-Healing podcast. For health and wellness knowledge from a different perspective. Produced by the Bioregulatory Medicine Institute, also known as BRMI. We are your source for unparalleled information about how you can naturally support your body's ability to regulate, adapt, regenerate, and self-heal. I'm your host, Dr. James Odell, the medical and executive director for BRMI, as well as a practicing naturopathic doctor for over 35 years. And remember, this podcast is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for the direct care of a qualified health professional who oversees and provides unique and individual care. The information here is to broaden our different perspectives and should not be construed as medical advice or treatment. Let's get started.


In today's episode, we'll be exploring the fascinating world of sea vegetables, commonly known as seaweed. 


So many people are missing out on this wonderful bounty from the sea, so I hope you're ready for an oceanic adventure as we talk about a few of my favorite sea vegetables, their nutritional benefits, and simple and delicious ways to include them into your diet.


Most of us have experienced eating nori when we eat sushi or maybe have ventured into eating seaweed salad at a Japanese restaurant. The truth is that there are many types of sea vegetables available that can be purchased and consumed. 


Sea vegetables contain numerous beneficial nutrients, including minerals, vitamins, amino acids, essential fatty acids, and more. 


 The Different Colors of Sea Vegetables

Their food source for the ocean life and range in color from green to brown to red. The color differences are caused by the depth of where it is grown. The shallower it gets, the color gets close to land plants, like green. As algae gets deeper, the color changes from brown to red. Each of these has a different nutritional makeup, but all produce chlorophyll by photosynthesis. When they are cooked or soaked, the red or brown pigments dissolve and some sea plants turn into green. 


Asian Culture and Sea Vegetables

Asian countries such as China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Thailand all have a long history of incorporating sea vegetables into their diet. They're extremely versatile and can be used in many dishes, including sushi rolls, soups, stews, salads, and as food supplements and even in smoothies. 


Common Types of Sea Vegetables

Nori

So let's talk about some of the more common types and start with nori, which is one of the most well known sea vegetables or seaweeds in the United States. It is a red algae and goes through extensive processing before it becomes part of your sushi roll. Turning this sea vegetable into a sheet of nori is a lot like making traditional paper. After a delicate farming process, nori fronds are washed, shredded, and combined with fresh water. This fresh water mixture is fed into a machine, pressed into sheets and toasted. Nori sheets are sold in packs and graded for quality. The best grades of nori paper are greenish black, shiny and thick. 


Nori has many uses beyond just rolling sushi. It makes a great flavor enhancer for vegan and vegetarian foods when you want to capture the unique taste of seafood. Put a few sheets of toasted nori into a food processor and add flakes to dips and soups and noodle dishes. Because of their salinity, nori flakes also make a great salt substitute in your homemade spice blends. 


It is particularly high in iodine as well as protein. Additionally, nori contains significant amounts of vitamin A, B and C as well as minerals like iron and calcium. Lastly, it is a good source of dietary fiber and contains omega three fats, which are known for their anti-inflammatory properties and potential cardiovascular benefits. 


Dulce

Another red seaweed is dulce. One of my favorites. This type of seaweed grows in the cool waters of the North Atlantic and arctic oceans and has been eaten by coastal communities in Europe and North America for centuries. During the Irish potato famine of 1845 to 1852, foraging for dolce was common in Ireland and this seaweed became a substitute, a dietary staple. Dolce has a distinctive flavor and is not only a tasty addition to various dishes, but also provides a range of health benefits. It can be described as having a chewy texture and complex taste of umami, salty – a lightly smoky flavor. 


Dulce is a nutrient dense seaweed containing essential vitamins and minerals. It is a good source of vitamins A, B6, B12, C and E, as well as minerals such as iodine, potassium, iron and magnesium. It also contains omega 3 fatty acids including the EPA and DHA. These fats are known for their antiinflammatory properties and are beneficial to heart health, brain function, and overall well being. 


Dolce is commonly sold as a dried flakes and powder and can be also added as a substitute for salt, much like nori. 


Kelp

Well, let's move on to brown sea vegetables, primarily the kelps. The kelps are a large brown algae or seaweed that are the most common types of sea vegetables consumed. There are many types of kelps. They often grow in the rocky shorelines and seawater seas that are one of the largest types of seaweed and form dense growth called kelp beds or kelp forest. A single kelp plant can grow over 200 ft in length. 


Kelp can be eaten fresh, dried, cooked, and added to smoothies and sauces as a powder or served as a food in dried granules. In Japan, dried kelp has been a staple in dashi broth, which is a combination of bonito flakes and dried kelp. It rehydrates well. You just put it in a bowl of water and let it sit for a little while, and then it could be added to soups and stir fries. 


Ma Kombu

There are several types of brown kelp, many called kombu in Japanese. One commonly consumed type is called ma kombu. It's laminaria japonica. In Japan, ma kombu is the go-to flavor enhancer. Kombu leaves are mainly used to add flavor to stalks and broths, but they can also be simmered and used as an ingredient. However, bear in mind that kombu naturally contains monosodium glutamate, that's MSG, in high enough amounts to set some people off if they're MSG sensitive. 


Wakime

Wakame is another type of brown seaweed. It is thin and silky. Delicate wakame leaves add a pleasing texture to soups and salads. Thus, wakame is commonly added to warm bowls of miso soup. So when you go to a Japanese restaurant, the type of seaweed that you see in that soup is wakame. It's not only commonly added to soups, but it's also the main ingredient in seaweed salads. 


Dried wakame comes in dark, shriveled pieces, but once it is reconstituted in water, it turns green and reveals a satiny texture. Whereas nori is a red seaweed that goes through extensive processing before being sold in paper-like sheets. Wakame is dried before being packaged and is minimally processed. 


is a nutritional powerhouse containing essential vitamins and minerals. It is particularly high in vitamin A, C, and E, as well as minerals such as iodine, calcium, iron, and magnesium. It is a plant-based source of omega three fatty acids, including the EPA and DHA, which, as I've mentioned, have anti-inflammatory properties and are beneficial for cardiovascular and brain function and also reduce the risk of other types of inflammatory diseases. In addition, it is also high in dietary fiber and contains antioxidants, including fucoxanthin, which has been studied for its potential anti inflammatory and anticancer properties, which suggest that bioactive peptides in wakame may have a potential blood pressure lowering effect. These peptides may inhibit enzymes involved in blood pressure regulation promoting cardiovascular health. 


Arame

There's also arame. It's another nutritious type of brown seaweed in the kelp family. This feathery sea vegetable is mostly hand harvested from the clean waters of a protected Japanese bay. These fawns are shredded and dried and packaged in the form of arame. Looks like a wispy black noodles. Arame has a mild, slightly sweet taste and can be added to stir fries, noodle dishes, and salads. 


Hijiki

Next is hijiki. This is a sargassum. It's another brown sea vegetable. Unfortunately, hijiki is more susceptible to absorbing arsenic than other seaweeds, but the corresponding Japanese agencies have disputed the danger of this unless we are to eat a whole bunch of it. For those still concerned about its potential arsenic content, arame is a safe substitute to use in recipes if you want to avoid hijiki. The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare in Japan has released a statement regarding the dangers of eating hijiki and has stated that eating less than 5 grams per day or in moderation, will not exceed the tolerable weekly intake of arsenic. Even still, I opt for substituting arame for hijiki.


Umibudo

Let's now discuss green sea vegetables or green seaweeds. There's umibudo, or seaweed grapes. These are a species of green algae from coastal regions in the Asian Pacific. In Japan, the word umibudo translates literally as sea grapes, which is exactly what they're called in English. Sea grapes look like a cluster of small green grapes. These tiny little green bubbles of edible seaweed have a texture and pop similar to fish row, which is why it's referred to as green caviar. Fresh sea grapes aren't widely available outside of Asia, but they can be purchased from online specialty stores. In their dried form, you can serve sea grapes on their own or with a side of soy sauce as a garnish on sushi or in rice bowls. 


Chlorella

Next green vegetable here is chlorella. It's another type of green algae that is sometimes called seaweed, but actually grows in freshwater. Chlorella products contain numerous nutrients and vitamins, including D and B12 that are absent in a lot of plant dry food sources. Chlorella contains large amounts of folate and iron, enough to really be an important source of nutrients. Chlorella supplementation has been reported to exhibit various pharmacological activities, including immunomodulatory, antioxidant, antidiabetic, antihypertensive, and antihyperlipidemic activities. 


This green algae really deserves its own podcast as it has so many health benefits. It comes in tablets, capsules, and powders. The powders make a great addition to smoothies.


Spirulina

Lastly, we have the blue green spirulina, which is actually a type of cyanobacteria. It's not an algae. It primarily grows in fresh water but can adapt to saltwater. Spirulina was consumed by the ancient Aztecs, but became popular again when NASA proposed that it could be grown in space for use by astronauts. It is rich in nutrients and has antioxidant properties. Spirulina can be eaten straight, as in tablets or capsules, or it can be as a powder added to smoothies, or a glass of water or juice. A small amount of this deeply pigmented spirulina will change the color of your drink to a deep blue green, almost black. I use it as fish food in my aquarium.


Health Benefits of Sea Vegetables

So there's many health benefits to these types of sea vegetables. I'd like to discuss some of these. Sea vegetables, or these seaweeds, as we often interchangeably call them, are plants that are not only delicious, but also packed with essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and an array of bioactive compounds, including flavonoids, phenolic compounds and alkaloids. And they are known to have anti-inflammatory and even anti-cancerous properties. 


Prebiotic Qualities

In addition, their richness in fiber acts as a prebiotic, promoting the well being of the bacteria in the small and large intestine. 


Source of Iodine

But perhaps the most beneficial health benefit of sea vegetables is their role as a great source of iodine, which is vital for thyroid health. Most sea vegetables contain trace minerals that are not present in land vegetables, particularly iodine, which is necessary, as I say, for thyroid, but also for estrogen metabolism. Without enough iodine, you may start to experience symptoms like weight gain, fatigue, swelling in the neck over time. You could develop goiters – in other words. 


The recommended dietary intake, or RDI of iodine for adults is usually about 140 micrograms per day. Iodine content varies depending on the type of seaweed, where it was grown and how it was processed, but probably kelp - brown sea vegetables - are probably one of the best sea vegetable sources of iodine. Seaweed also contains an amino acid called tyrosine, which is used alongside iodine to make hormones of the thyroid gland. Each type of sea vegetable has a unique composition of nutrients. Some types, like nori, can even have high amounts of B12. 


Good Source of Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Moreover, they're very good sources of the omega 3 fatty acids and as I had discussed in a previous podcast, we're getting way too much omega 6’s and not enough omega 3’s. And so this is a very good source of omega 3’s that can help to balance that imbalance of omega 6’s to omega 3’s. Sea vegetables are where fish get their fats, actually, and so if you're opposed to eating fish oil, then you can get sea vegetable oil. Or in other words, this is a plant based essential fatty acid, omega 3’s,  DHA and EPA. 


Sprinkling some dried seaweed on your food not only adds taste and texture to flavor your meal, but it's an easy way to boost all of your nutrient intakes, like vitamins and minerals. The proteins present in some aquatic algae, particularly spirulina and chlorella, contain all the essential amino acids. This means they can help ensure you get the full range of amino acids to ensure adequate protein synthesis. Sea vegetables also contain a variety of protective antioxidants such as A,C, E and carotenoids, as well as flavonoids. These antioxidants protect your cells from oxidative stress and toxic free radical damage. 


Sea Vegetables Contain Fucoxanthin

A lot of research has focused on one particular carotenoid called fucoxanthin, which is the main keratinoid found in brown algae such as wakame and Laminaria japonica are also called ma kombu. Studies have demonstrated the potential health benefits of fucoxanthin for the prevention of chronic diseases such as cancer, obesity, diabetes mellitus, and liver disease. Animal studies have shown that fucoxanthin supplementation has no adverse effect. 


Source of Prebiotic Fiber and Fucoidans

Sea vegetables are a great source of prebiotic fiber. It can increase the population of friendly bacteria, block the growth of harmful bacteria, and enhance the immune function of the gut. Certain brown sea vegetables, like laminaria japonica and fucus, like Bladderwrack, contain sulfonated polysaccharides called fucoidans, which may help prevent blood from clotting. Research shows that fucoidan has a chemical structure much like heparin, a drug used as an anticoagulant. But unlike heparin, fucoidans also promote the growth of vascular cells in the inner surface of the blood vessels, aiding in neuro regeneration. Thus, it helps to clean up blood vessels, reducing plaque, and preventing blood clotting. With the wide concern of Covid-19 inoculations causing microclots, consuming more sea vegetables is a natural remedy for this. Foucaudans also have an anticancer property through their targeting of several signaling pathways and molecular mechanisms within malignant cells. Thus, fucoidans from brown sea vegetables have several potential therapeutic properties, including anticoagulant activities, anti-inflammatory, as well as antiproliferative effects on cancer cells. 


Sea Vegetables Reduce the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

Lastly, sea vegetables have been shown to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by improving blood sugar management. The fucoxanthin in alginates in brown seaweed have been shown to reduce the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, thus reducing the risk of developing diabetes. While these sea vegetables offer numerous benefits, there's also some challenges to consider.


Issues to Consider

 There are unfortunate issues of heavy metal and microplastic contamination, and some sensitive crustacean allergy individuals may develop allergic reactions. Because seaweed can absorb and store minerals in concentrated amounts, they can absorb toxic metals in microplastics. Actually, the sea vegetables are ocean cleansers, so this poses a health risk, as contaminated seaweed like contaminated seafish carry various toxic amounts of metals such as cadmium, mercury, and lead. 


Also, radioactive iodine 131 for Fukushima has been found in California kelp. A recent study of microplastics was detected in nearly every sample of commercially sold nori that was examined, though the amounts were relatively small. Upon investigating nori processed in factories, researchers observed the origin of the seaweed significantly influenced the quality of the microplastics in the nori, while the manufacturing process did not appear to have a substantial impact. 


Buy Certified Organic Sea Vegetables

Okay, what all does this mean? It means just to make sure that the seaweed products you're getting are certified organically farmed sources or have been tested for heavy metal content. This is important enough to say that again, make sure your seaweed products you're getting are certified, organically farmed sources, or tested for heavy metal content. It's still good to eat that. Just make sure that they're clean. 


Find creative Ways to Incorporate Sea Vegetables Into Your Diet

Experiment with different types of sea vegetables and find creative ways to incorporate them into your favorite recipes. Not only do they bring unique flavors and textures, but they also offer a wide range of health benefits. I have added many culinary suggestions to the podcast show notes, so I encourage you to look at that. 


After diving into the world of sea vegetables today, I encourage you to consider incorporating these nutrient rich, flavorful, and low calorie ocean delights into your diet. If these products are not readily available in your area, specialty or health food stores as well as online retailers can be valuable sources, particularly looking for organically farm sources or those that are tested for heavy metals. You're probably going to have to go to an online source for this. So I hope I've inspired you to try some of these wonderful, life giving vegetables. Thank you again for joining us today. And until next time, remain curious and savor the bountiful offerings of the ocean. Be well.


Additional Show Notes: Culinary Uses for Sea Vegetables

Here are several ways to incorporate sea vegetables into your cuisine:

Sushi Rolls (Nori):

Use nori sheets to make classic sushi rolls. Fill them with a

combination of rice, vegetables, and your favorite protein (such

as fish, tofu, or avocado). Create hand rolls by wrapping nori around a mixture of rice,

vegetables, and seafood or other proteins.

Salads:

Add dried or rehydrated seaweed (such as wakame) to salads for

a unique texture and flavor. Toss them with fresh vegetables

and a light vinaigrette.


Miso Soup with Wakame:

Enhance the flavor and nutritional value of miso soup by

adding wakame. Simply rehydrate the wakame and add it to the

miso broth along with tofu, green onions, and other

ingredients.


Seaweed Snacks:

Roast nori sheets and cut them into bite-sized pieces for a

crispy and nutritious snack. You can sprinkle them with a little

sea salt or your favorite seasoning.


Stir-Fries:

Incorporate rehydrated sea vegetables like wakame into stir-

fries. It adds a unique texture and absorbs the flavors of the

other ingredients.


Sea Vegetable Side Dishes:

Prepare simple side dishes by sautéing sea vegetables with

garlic, ginger, and soy sauce. This can be a flavorful addition to

your meal.


Noodle Bowls:

Include rehydrated seaweed in noodle bowls for added texture

and nutritional benefits. It pairs well with both Asian and non-

Asian noodle dishes.


Dashi Broth (Kombu):

Use kombu to make dashi broth. It forms the base for many

Japanese soups, stews, and sauces.


Seaweed Garnish:

Crumble dried seaweed and use it as a garnish for various

dishes, including rice bowls, soups, and salads.

Seaweed Sauces and Condiments:

Create sauces or condiments using seaweed, such as a seaweed-

based pesto or a seaweed-infused dipping sauce for sushi.


Seaweed Seasoning:

Use seaweed flakes or powder as a seasoning for popcorn,

roasted vegetables, or even as a sprinkle on top of dishes like

avocado toast.


Seaweed Chips:

Make your own seaweed chips by lightly roasting seaweed

sheets. This creates a crispy, flavorful snack.


Thank you for your time today, and remember that this podcast is made possible by the Bioregulatory Medicine Institute, also known as BRMI, a nonprofit, global, non political, non commercial institute to promote the science and art of bioregulatory medicine. We extend our gratitude to each and every one of you for listening today, and if you haven't already, make sure to visit us at: brmi.online A treasure trove of invaluable information awaits you there. Connect with us across various social media platforms as well. Come and become a member of our thriving tribe. If you've enjoyed today's episode, we invite you to show your support by rating us, leaving us a review, or sharing the podcast within your circle. Our podcast and mission flourish through sharing, and your participation means the world to us. Our organization is sustained by donations, each of which is tax deductible and fuels projects like this. Visit our website, brmi.online to contribute or simply to explore the wealth of uncensored and impartial information we offer. No contribution is too small. In just two weeks, we'll be back delving into another captivating topic. Until then, we thank you once again for listening. May wellness and wisdom be your path. Be well.



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