The Power of Kelp
Most of our vegetables come from our gardens, but what if one super vegetable has been hiding just under our nose, below the surface of the ocean? Kelp has recently emerged as a superfood that can no longer be overlooked. Most of us know kelp as the green slimy stuff that washes up on the shore, impeding our morning beach walk during our vacation. Or some of you may know kelp as the stuff that your older brother used to throw on you during family beach vacations. But this vegetable of the sea, full of essential vitamins and minerals our bodies need, deserves a closer look and perhaps a place on your plate.
Kelp is a type of brown seaweed that grows in shallow saltwater near coastal fronts all around the world. It is commonly eaten in Asian countries, particularly Japan and China. Kelp grows quickly making it an ample food supply.1
Kelp can be eaten raw or cooked and also comes in powdered form and as a supplement. It is an alkaline food which helps regulate blood pH levels. It is rich in several vitamins, minerals, trace elements, and enzymes including iron, manganese, calcium, copper, zinc, riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, potassium, and Vitamins A, B12, B6, C, and K. Kelp’s mineral content promotes bone strength and can help protect against the onset of osteoporosis or other bone mineral deficiencies.2
The B Vitamins found in kelp are particularly important for your body’s metabolic function and energy production. Also found in kelp, Vitamin K promotes brain health and helps to prevent arterial clogging. Vitamin C is important in maintaining a healthy immune system and can also promote healthy skin.3
Kelp contains more than 16 different amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins in the body and help to regulate cellular growth, the healing of wounds, muscle development, and organ function. Finally, kelp has high levels of chlorophyll which has been shown to increase oxygenation in the body, promoting red blood cell production.4
One trace element, for which kelp is particularly lauded, is iodine. Iodine is a key component in thyroid hormonal function and helps to regulate biochemical reactions, protein synthesis, enzymatic activity, and also plays a role in immune system response. Seaweed is recognized as one of the best food sources of iodine. However, moderation is key as too much iodine can be toxic. The daily recommended amount of iodine is not to exceed 150 micrograms. Unfortunately many kelp capsules on the market can contain up to 500 micrograms of iodine, well above this limit.5
In the culinary world, sodium alginate, a compound produced by kelp, is used as a thickener in products such as ice cream or salad dressing. Some experts believe that this natural fiber can also halt fat absorption in the gut. Sodium alginate has also been shown to protect the body from radiation, particularly against the radioactive element Strontium-90.6
Want to add kelp to your diet? Organic dried kelp is a great addition to any soup. EatSmarter has a great recipe for Seaweed Soup which you can find here. You can also use kelp flakes as a seasoning, in lieu of salt. For you pasta aficionados, kelp comes in noodle form too!7
For EatSmarter’s take on a Vietnamese curry, check out this yummy recipe containing kelp here.
1. Kristin Buettner, "Kelp Benefits: A Health Booster from the Sea," Healthline, Healthline Media, 30 July 2015, Web, 27 Dec. 2016.; Owen Bond, "The Health Benefits & Side Effects of Kelp," LIVESTRONG.COM, Leaf Group, 15 Apr. 2015, Web, 27 Dec. 2016.; "Health Benefits of Kelp," Organic Facts, Organic Information Services Pvt Ltd., 26 Dec. 2016, Web, 27 Dec. 2016.
2. Ibid.; Angela Deckard, "Health Benefits of Kelp," Healthy Focus, Healthy Focus, 19 July 2016, Web, 27 Dec. 2016.
3. "Norwegian Kelp Benefits," The Superfoods!, The Superfoods!, 04 June 2015, Web, 27 Dec. 2016.; Buettner, "Kelp Benefits: A Health Booster from the Sea."; Bond, "The Health Benefits & Side Effects of Kelp."; Deckard, "Health Benefits of Kelp."
4. Buettner, "Kelp Benefits: A Health Booster from the Sea."; "Health Benefits of Kelp."; Deckard, "Health Benefits of Kelp."; "Norwegian Kelp Benefits."
5. Buettner, "Kelp Benefits: A Health Booster from the Sea."; "Iodine," National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 24 June 2011, Web, 27 Dec. 2016.; Bond, "The Health Benefits & Side Effects of Kelp."; "Health Benefits of Kelp."; "Norwegian Kelp Benefits."; Deckard, "Health Benefits of Kelp."
6. Buettner, "Kelp Benefits: A Health Booster from the Sea."; Bond, "The Health Benefits & Side Effects of Kelp."; "Norwegian Kelp Benefits."; Deckard, "Health Benefits of Kelp."
7. Buettner, "Kelp Benefits: A Health Booster from the Sea."