Of all the edible plants available to us, sea vegetables (otherwise known as seaweed or algae) are considered to be one of the most ancient and nutritious plants. Rich in micro minerals not found in land vegetables, these sea dwellers are indigenous to every shoreline on the planet. Seaweeds are varied in their species; Nori, Kombu, kelp, the wracks, come in various shapes, sizes, and colours (red, black, brown and green), offering numerous health benefits and have been consumed as food for thousands of years in different cultures of the world.
It is well-established that our close ancestors, Homo erectus, did not evolve on the dry warm grasslands in Africa, but in coastal regions near the ocean or at great lakes. Apart from archaeological testimony, the most crucial argument for this statement is that only with access to plenty of marine food supplies would our ancestors be able to acquire sufficient amounts of those essential fatty acids. They include the super-unsaturated omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, in addition to certain micronutrients, like iodine, iron, copper, zinc, and selenium, which are critical for building a complex neural system and a brain with the very large brain/body weight ratio (2.1%) that is characteristic for humans.
Seaweeds main claim to fame is being a key element of the Japanese and Okinawa longevity diet, sea vegetables are just as important for maintaining marine ecosystems as they are for human and animal health. Sea vegetables offer a rich bounty of nutritional and health benefits.
Seaweed is commonly known as a detox and weight loss aid and yet this marine plant has so much more to offer. Seaweed is a unique source of iodine and tyrosine ideal for thyroid health, (your thyroid relies on iodine to make hormones; vital for damaged cell repair, metabolism and energy production). Iodine is supported by key nutrients found in sea vegetables that help the uptake of iodine to the thyroid. Its iodine content varies greatly depending on the type, where it was grown and how it was processed. In fact, one dried sheet of seaweed can contain 11–1,989% of the RDI.
Kelp is most commonly known for its high iodine content. Kelp is a deep sea plant while the brown wracks are more shallow plants. Rich in iodine supporting micro minerals, the brown wracks offer a balanced source of iodine and a rich source of important antioxidants polysaccharides, heavy metal chelators and are natural prebiotics.
Wild wrack seaweeds such as the brown wracks provide nutrient-dense, mineral-rich natural whole food ingredients, which in the daily diet, can deliver iodine sufficiency with no adverse effect on thyroid function. They also reduce the glycaemic response to a carbohydrate load, assist in the digestion of fats, reduce hunger via lowered gastric emptying with a positive effect on nutrition and potentially in diabetes.
The brown wild seaweeds are considered to be the most nutritious but are still hugely under-potentialised and mostly alien to the British diet due to our culture.
The consumption of seaweeds offers impressive dietary benefits to the human diet having long sustained sea and land animals. They include Ronaldsay sheep of the Outer Hebrides and the marine iguanas of the Galapagos who adapted and evolved to subsist entirely on the local Seaweed and in the diets of dogs, cats and racehorses to improve their teeth and coat health.
There are stark differences between farmed and cultivated seaweeds and the wild seaweeds of our shorelines.
Much of the standard Japanese and Chinese offerings sold in commercial outlets are intensely farmed and fed fertilisers lacking the energetic and nutritional benefits (over 90% of seaweed used for human food is grown by aquaculture using many new technologies, mainly in Southeast Asia).
Wild seaweed is often classified as one of the most crucial parts that compose the ocean ‘forests’. They may occur in small or large amounts, depending on which area of the ocean they grow. Sea vegetables are not entirely a plant but are otherwise known as algae.
Bladderwrack, caragheen, dulse and dabberlocks; murlin, thongweed and sea tangle – their names conjure a different world, a gigantic vegetable garden beneath the sea. These are the sea vegetables that grow in the shallows of the shoreline of the British Isles and the Nordic region. Unlike deep water kelp they don’t have excessive iodine content, so they can be consumed regularly or in larger quantities to tackle specific health conditions. These sea vegetables offer many health benefits:
- Provide high levels of Minerals, Vitamins & Trace Elements in a highly bio-available form so a little goes a long way.
- Trace elements and improve nutrient absorption from other foods eaten.
- A natural wholefood, fully recognisable and easily assimilated by the body.
- Provide a broader range of nutrients than conventional, manufactured vitamin & mineral supplements.
- Ideal for kidney nourishing and anti-Candida diets.
- A natural pre-biotic; enhances the growth of beneficial intestinal bacteria.
In the digestion they are effective prebiotics, help protect the gut lining and are high antioxidant free-radical scavengers. They are a comprehensive source of nutrition that may help to ameliorate numerous risk factors associated with diabetes, obesity, endothelial dysfunction, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and human cognitive disorders including dementia, depression and bipolar diseases.
Amid a potential existential environmental crisis, there is a collective feeling that we are being nudged towards adopting a more sustainable diet produced with little environmental impact, as we are faced with soil erosion, deforestation and pollution. Marine vegetables can offer a nutritious and sustainable alternative to our destructive and unhealthy consumption of planetary resources if we harvest wisely.
Given the diversity of colour texture, taste and nutrition, sea vegetables can be eaten in all sorts of ways and in all sorts of dishes. Go from experimenting with the larger offerings with wraps and rolls to throngs and sea salad to mixing fine food granules in your everyday sauces, soups, and stews. Just a gram a day of the wild brown wracks can make a huge difference to the human diet
Good organic and wild sustainable sources of Sea vegetables
For wild and indigenous brown wracks;
http://www.seagreens.co.uk/ Seagreens® seaweed is wild harvested, sustainably at remote locations in the British Isles and Nordic region.
Charlotte Palmer is a seasoned food specialist and health writer with over 20 years spent in the natural health industry as a consultant. She now runs her own wellness boutique in Crouch End.
 (Crawford and Marsh,1989; Cunnane et al., 2014).
 (Cunnane et al., 2014; Cornish et al., 2017).
 The recommended dietary intake (RDI) for iodine is 150 mcg per day