Variety is an important part of a healthy diet, which is why we suggest eating a rainbow of natural food colors each day. Trying new foods is another way to spice up your diet. Instead of just eating a typical green salad every day for lunch, why not experiment with some new ingredients? In fact, you can think outside of your garden altogether when it comes to vegetables. Sea vegetables are often underused in American diets, but they’re chock-full of vitamins and minerals including magnesium, iron, potassium and calcium.
Sea vegetables have numerous health benefits. They’ve been known to help reduce cholesterol, improve digestion and strengthen bones and teeth, according to the Integrative Nutrition book by founder Joshua Rosenthal. And soaking the vegetables in a bowl of cold water helps improve their digestibility and taste, he says.
Although sea vegetables contains many wholesome nutrients, keep in mind that hijiki seaweed has been found in studies to contain inorganic arsenic, which could increase liver cancer risk. Some countries, including Canada, have advised consumers to avoid eating this form of seaweed.
Here’s a guide to the most common varieties of sea vegetables.
Arame is a shredded, black seaweed. It has a sweet flavor and is a great starting point for those who are hesitant to try sea vegetables because of concerns about a fishy taste, suggests Whole Foods Market. Arame is very versatile, as evidenced by this Mediterranean-meets-Asian dish of arame-flecked couscous featured on Epicurious.
Wakame is also a sweet sea vegetable and is great for adding to soup or stir fry. You can also make a wakame salad by combining it with vegetables, vinegar, sesame oil, garlic and scallions. Get the scoop on this seaweed salad recipe and dressings from IIN’s blog post “7 Ways to Eat More Seaweed (and Why You Should).”
This chewy, edible kelp has the power to make beans more digestible, so go ahead and mix it into your next bean dish! You can also add it to a classic miso soup recipe, like this one from Bon Appetit that combines kombu and wakame.
You’ve probably heard of this sea vegetable because it’s often used as a wrap for sushi rolls. Nori is made from pressed sea vegetables and can be purchased in sheets. Try making your own sushi rolls at home for a light dinner, or experiment with interesting snacks like wasabi-toasted nori crisps, via The Kitchn.
What’s your favorite sea vegetable? Tell us here!