Our bodies are mostly affected by several free radicals from both within us and our surrounding environs such as UV light, ionizing radiations, cigarette smokes, harmful pollutants, industrial wastes and reactive oxygen species that are chemically reactive molecules containing oxygen.
Interestingly, these free radicals can be minimized and extracted from our bodies through the defensive abilities of antioxidants. Moreover, these antioxidants are usually present in certain food we eat such as vegetables and fruits etc. Among the groups of vegetables that have been reported to be an excellent source of antioxidants is the seaweed. The question is, why eat seaweed? Several studies carried out in the past have revealed the immense benefits of eating seaweed.
To a larger extent, it is believed that regular consumption of seaweed is beneficial for protecting our bodies against environmental stresses and various diseases. Besides, this algae is economically, commercially and ecologically valuable for our ecosystem.
What is a Seaweed?
Seaweed simply refers to either brown (Phaeophyta), green (Chlorophyta) or red (Rhodophyta) algae. It has same semblance with a non-arboreal terrestrial plants. Seaweeds are biologically categorized as macroalgae and are often consumed habitually.
A seaweed comprises of a sorus (spore cluster), thallus (algal body), float (floatation organ present between the stipe and lamina), lamina or blade (leaf-like flattened structure), holdfast (basal structure for attachment to a surface), haptera (finger-like extension of the holdfast), air bladder (floatation organ on the blade) and stipe (stem-like structure). Both the blade and stipe are commonly referred to as the frond.
Seaweeds are mostly eaten by individuals living in the coastal regions especially in Korea, Japan, Thailand, China, South Africa, Scotland, Vietnam, Taiwan, Scandinavia, Singapore, Ireland, Brunei, Wales, Belize, Burma, Canadian Maritimes, California, Indonesia, Cambodia, England, Malaysia, Peru, Chile and the Philippines.
Seaweed is an excellent source of dietary fibers, minerals, carotenoids, proteins, amino acids, proteins, lipids, carbohydrates (fucoidan, cellulose and laminaran), trace elements, polysaccharides, vitamins, polyphenols and dietary iodine (main component of the thyroid gland hormone that regulates body metabolism). Seaweed is high in nutrients and very low in calories thus very valuable for the healthy functioning of the body.
How to make seaweed flakes
Seaweed flakes can be prepared by firstly washing the seaweeds thoroughly, bleaching them and then soaking them in water for few hours. Afterwards, the seaweeds are boiled in water until softened before being roughly blended. The blended seaweeds are then poured into molders, which are then allowed to dry under the sun before being packaged.
Seaweed has recently gained more popularity due to its numerous benefits, which are discussed below;
1. Antioxidant Properties of Seaweed
Seaweed is an excellent source of antioxidant, which is very vital for hindering environmental stresses. Being a natural antioxidant, seaweed is more safe for use in producing medicine, cosmetics, dietary supplements and nutraceuticals. It is more preferable than the synthetic antioxidants because it is a natural form of antioxidant.
2. Maintains Healthy Heart
Scientists reveal that the intake of wakame seaweed is highly important for preventing high blood pressure. Moreover, the fibre present in brown seaweed also helps to reduce blood pressure as well as prevents the risk of stroke attacks especially in individuals prone to cardiovascular problems.
3. Culinary Uses of Seaweed
Seaweeds can be used for preparing meat, sausages, spaghetti, poultry steaks, pasta and bakery products respectively. Seaweeds can be combined with vanilla, milk, nutmeg and cinnamon for making sweets or dulce. Both Japanese, Korean and Chinese people use seaweeds for producing nori, gim and zicai respectively. These seaweed products are used for wrapping sushi and for cooking soup.
The Welsh people usually use Porphyra, which is a red alga for making laver. Irish moss (Chondrus crispus), gigartinoid seaweeds and Kappaphycus can be used for making food additives such as hydrocolloids. Carrageenan seaweeds are used for salad dressings and for making sauces. They can also be used as a preservative in food products.
4. Inhibits Cancer Growth
Researchers reveal that seaweed contains a high quantity of lignan, which is a substance that converts to phytoestrogens in the body. This helps to block the chemical oestrogens that can expose people to cancers such as breast cancer. It is also believed that eating kelps i.e large brown seaweeds (Phaeophyceae) helps immensely in reducing the onset of breast cancer.
5. Filtration ability of seaweed
CO2, ammonia, copper, ammonium nitrate, iron, nitrite and phosphate are mostly consumed by growing seaweeds due to their strong photosynthesis. The strong photosynthetic ability of seaweed facilitates the removal of unwanted nutrients from water.
6. Boosts Digestive System
Seaweed is an excellent source of dietary fiber thus very effective for maintaining an healthy digestive system. Researchers agree that alginate, which is a substance found in brown seaweed strengthens the gut mucus thereby protecting the gut wall. This substance also slows down digestion thus making an individual not to feel hungry for a longer period of time. High seaweed consumption increases the presence of good bacteria in the gut.
7. Commercial Products
Seaweed is a powerful ingredient for producing commercial goods such as gels, paints, cosmetics, textile printing, paper coatings, adhesives, dyes, paper sizing, explosives and toothpastes.
8. Use of Seaweed for Producing Fertilizer
Certain species of seaweeds can be used for producing fertilizer. They can also be used as a natural compost manure.
9. Erosion Control
Seaweed is very helpful for controlling beach erosion especially when present in beach dunes.
10. Detoxification Properties
Studies reveal that seaweed extracts can be used for detoxifying the body from any bodily impurities.
11. Wound Dressing
Seaweed can be used for producing herbal medicines for wound dressings. It can also be squeezed and applied directly on wounds to prevent swelling and inflammations of the affected body parts.
12. Antifungal Properties of Seaweed
The seaweed extracts contain anti-fungal properties thus can be used for treating fungal infections that are mainly found on the nails, skin and hair.
Side Effects of Eating Seaweed
It is important to note that rotting seaweed is a potential source of hydrogen sulfide, which is a very toxic gas that causes hydrogen-sulphide poisoning. Consuming excessive seaweed can cause diarrhea and vomiting. There is a documented incidence report that lactating mothers in Korea and Japan who consumed high amount of seaweed to aid breast milk production ended up with neonatal iodine toxicity and subsequent hypothyroidism.
It is also noteworthy that seaweed can also be contaminated in polluted water with harmful heavy metals that can be detrimental to health if ingested.
Having read through this post, it will be highly appreciated if you leave your opinion or ask related questions in the comment section. Every opinion counts!!!
This post is for enlightenment purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for professional diagnostic and treatments. Remember to always consult your healthcare provider before making any health-related decisions or for counselling, guidance and treatment about a specific medical condition.
1. Abirami R. G and Kowsalya S. (2012), Phytochemical screening,microbial load and antimicrobial activity of underexploited seaweeds.International Research Journal of Microbiology ,3(10), pp. 328-330.
2. Artteacher (2015), Accessed online https://pixabay.com/en/seaweed-sea-shore-410893/ Accessed date: 26/09/2015 3. Batista Gonzalez, A. E., Charles, M. B. and Mancini-Filho, J. (2009), Vidal Novoa A. Seaweeds as sources of antioxidant phytomedicines, Revista Cubana de Plantas Medicinales. 2009; 14:1–18.
4. Chapman, V. J. and Chapman, D. J. (1980), Seaweeds and their uses. Chapman and Hall, London.3rd Edition, p.334.
5. Chandini, S.K., P. Ganesan and N. Bhaskar, 2008. In vitro antioxidant activities of three selected brown seaweeds of India. Food Chem., 107: pp.707–711.
6. Fitton, J. H. (2006), Antiviral properties of marine algae. In:. Critchley AT, Ohno M, Largo DB (Eds) World Seaweed Resources, Windows & Macintosch,ETI Information Services, Workingham, UK, p. 7.
7. Francesca Cappitelli & Claudia Sorlini (2008), Microorganisms attack synthetic polymers in items representing our cultural heritage, Applied and Environmental Microbiology 74 (3), pp. 564–567.
8. Gupta S. and Abu-Ghannam N. (2011), Recent developments in the application of seaweeds or seawedd extracts as a means for enhancing the safety and quality attributes of foods, Innovative Food Science and Emerging Technologies. 12: pp.600-607.
9. Hebsibah Elsie B., Dhanarajan, M. S. and Sudha, P. N. (2011), Invitro screening of secondary metabolites and antimicrobial activities of ethanol and acetone extracts from red seaweed Gelidium acerosa. International Journal of Chemistry Research, 2(2), pp.27-28.
10. Heo, S., E. Park, K. Lee and Y. Jeon, (2005), Antioxidant activities of enzymatic extracts from brown seaweeds. Bioresour. Technol., 96: pp.1613–1620.
11. Karthikaidevi, G., Manivannan, K. and Thirumaran, G. (2009), Antibacterial properties of selected seaweeds from Vedalai Coastal Waters; Gulf of Mannar Marine Biosphere Reserve, Global Journal of Pharmacology, 3(2), pp.107-110.
12. Kayalvizhi, K., VasukiSubramanian, Anantharaman, P. and Kathiresa, N. K. (2012), Antimicrobial activity of seaweeds from the gulf of Mannar, International Journal of Pharmaceutical Applications .3(2) pp.306-310.
13. Kumaran, S., Deivasigamani, B., Alagappan, K., Sakthivel M. and Karthikeyan R. (2010), Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Medicine, 3: p.977.
14. Lewmanomont, K., (1998), The seaweed resources of Thailand, p. 70-78. In: Critchley A. T. & Ohno M., (1998), Seaweed resources of the world. Japan International Cooperation Agency, Yokosuka, p.429.
15. Lobban, C. S. and Harrison, P. J., (1994), Seaweed Ecology and Physiology. 1st ed., Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, p.366.
16. Manivannan K., Thirumaran G., Karthikai Devi G., Hemalatha A. and Anantharaman P. (2008), Biochemical composition of seaweeds from Mandapam coastal regions along southeast coast of India. American - Eurasian Journal of Botany, 1(2): 32-37.
17. Matsukawa, R., Z. Dubinsky, E. Kishimoto, K. Masaki, Y. Masuda, T., Takeuchi, M. Chihara, Y. Yamamoto, E. Niki and I. Karube, (1997), A comparison of screening methods for antioxidant activity in seaweeds. J. Appl. Phycol., 9: pp.29–33.
18. Monzales, O. (2006), Seaweed: Market Potential and Challenges, Sabah International Business Conference, Pacific Sutera Hotel, Kota Kinabalu, 9.
19. Prashantkumar, P., Angadi, S. B. and Vidyasagar, G. M. (2006), Antimicrobial activity of blue-green and green algae, Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, 68, pp.647-648.
20. Rao, P. P. S. (1995), Biological investigation of Indian Phaeophyceae. Antimicrobial activities of frozen samples of genus Sargassum collected from Okha, west coast of India. Seaweed Res. Utilin, 17, pp. 105-107.
21. Ronile (2015) Pixabay, accessed online https://pixabay.com/en/seaweed-beach-seaweed-on-beach-270426/ Accessed date: 26/09/2015
22. Santoso, J., Y. Yoshie and T. Suzuki, 2004. Polyphenolic compounds from seaweeds: Distribution and their antioxidative effect. Dev. Food Sci., 42: pp.169–175.
23. Stachowicz J.J., Graham M., Bracken M.E.S. & Szoboszlai, A.I., (2008), Diversity enhance cover and stability of seaweed assemblages: the role of heterogeneity and time. Ecology, 89: pp.3008-3013.
24. Trono, Jr. G. C. (1999), Diversity of the seaweed flora of the Philippines and its utilization. Hydrobiologia 398/399, pp. 1-5.
25. Vallinayagam, K., Arumugam, R., Kannan, R. R. R., Thirumaran, G. and Anantharaman P. (2009), Antibacterial activity of some selected seaweeds from Pudumadam coastal regions, Global Journal of Pharmacology, 3, pp.50-52.
26. Yan XJ., Chuda Y., Suzuki M., Nagata T. (1999), Fucoxanthin as a major antioxidant in Hijikia fusiformis, a common edible seaweed, Bioscience, Biotechnology and Biochemistry, 63: pp.605-606.
27. Yangthong, M., N. Hutadilok-Towatana and W. Phromkunthong, (2009), Antioxidant activities of four edible seaweeds from the southern coast of Thailand. Plant Foods Human Nutr., 64: pp.218–220.