It’s the underdog of salad bases like spinach, arugula and romaine lettuce, but nutrient-fortified seaweed is quickly becoming the new “green”—and brown and red. Yes, seaweed. We’re talking the leafy algae that grow in the ocean.
Firstly, we’ve all ingested seaweed at some point. America’s food industry thrives on using various extracts of seaweed as a thickening agent or emulsifier in baked goods like cakes and cookies, as well as cottage cheese, beer and other products—but it’s not such a bad thing. In its raw form, seaweed packs fiber, protein and helps cleanse the gastrointestinal tract and improve digestion.
“Seaweed has the ability to absorb whatever is in the environment, which enables it to remove the heavy metals and mucus from the physical body,” says Clayten Tylor, author of The Seaweed Jelly-Diet Cookbook Guide. He adds that the alkaline properties in the seaweed also help increase vitality, helping with a better night’s sleep and an improved ability to cope with stress.
This mysterious, and edible, algae covers the full spectrum—of color: brown, green and red. Tylor recommends buying dried seaweed since it’s more lightweight and available in most Asian markets and health food stores. Anyone new to eating seaweed may want to start with Kelp, or the “brown” seaweed, since the others, particularly the red, are far too bitter. Green seaweeds are also a great puree base for drinks.
Tylor recommends these simple ideas for cooking with seaweed:
Liquid, jelly or paste form is one of the best ways to start preparing seaweed. Seaweed jelly can be made with any species of seaweed. Kelp has been shown to be the preferred seaweed to help with weight loss, and if used in small amounts, the taste and texture can be completely disguised and you won’t even detect it once prepared. Brown (kelp) or green seaweed make the best seaweed jelly, according to Tylor. “I don’t think that seaweed made any other way, such as steamed, or powdered, would have the same gastro intestinal benefits that the jelly does,” he says. Seaweed jelly—either raw seaweed soaked and pureed or cooked and pureed, both make seaweed jelly.
In liquid form, non-fat Kelp has been shown to help with weight loss, and when added to your favorite beverage, tea, coffee or shakes—even alcoholic drinks (try a seaweed-banana daiquiri)—can be the perfect meal replacement diet. The carbohydrates in seaweed are non-digestible, so it changes into fiber.
Seaweed before a workout helps cleanse the upper intestinal tract. Cleansing this area of the body is usually only accomplished by fasting, whereas seaweed jelly does this naturally. To aid the process, add a little lemon juice to the seaweed liquid and make a weak seaweed-water mixture (one tablespoon seaweed liquid per quart of water) to drink during your workout. The lemon breaks down the mucous, enabling the vitamins, minerals and the iodine, which regulates the thyroid and stabilizes body weight, to be absorbed into the body immediately.
Since seaweed absorbs whatever is in its environment, it also blends with whatever food you mix with it, so it’s easy to hide the salty or briny taste of seaweed. For a post workout seaweed shake, use a thicker seaweed jelly (see above for jelly recipe) and mix with apple juice, egg whites, banana and some protein powder. The additional fiber from the thicker seaweed jelly prevents bloating, and the additional vitamins and minerals contributes to faster post-workout recovery. Add a little milk, and the calcium transforms the seaweed jelly into a richer, smoother milkshake without all the calories.
For salads, mix one quarter teaspoon (a single serving) seaweed jelly into any salad dressing (rather than chew it as a vegetable), to enhance the taste and add a creamier texture. The naturally occurring MSG in seaweed enhances the taste, and the alginate gels create a creaminess.
Jellied seaweed has almost zero calories and a low glycemic rate, so it’s great for replacing the more fatty butter, cream and eggs as a thickening and taste-enhancing food additive. For baking, seaweed paste is the perfect fat and calorie substitute. Using seaweed jelly gives you the tools to control your calorie intake without any loss of taste or texture. To use for baking in cookies, breads or other desserts, puree seaweed into a thicker paste. You can also make a butter-based seaweed paste, which can reduce the total butter from one half cup to two tablespoons.
As a puree with different bases, such as oil, water, milk or honey, seaweed blends perfectly in any recipe, so that a cucumber dip does not become too watery, or a homemade paté is able to stand the test of time on a cracker. Tylor even remembers trying popsicles made with Coca-Cola and seaweed jelly. “It blended so well that the bubbles still popped when I ate them.” Seaweed jelly, lemon and honey also make a great barbecue sauce and marinade.