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Dive into sea vegetables for health.

Seaweed, algae, sea vegetables--no matter what you call them, these plants from the sea have been a delicious, nutritious part of our diet for centuries. Grown in the mineral-dense environment of the sea, they are packed with nutrients such as iodine, iron, zinc, magnesium, manganese, potassium, calcium, and phytochemicals. There are hundreds of varieties of sea vegetables, each with a unique nutritional composition--and all are nutrition powerhouses with few calories.

Seaworthy nutrients. Seaweed is an especially rich source of iodine, which is required for proper thyroid function. Because iodine levels in vegetables and the soil in which they are grown varies greatly, seaweed can be an important source of this crucial nutrient. Just two tablespoons can contain an entire day's worth of iodine.

Most sea vegetables have significant amounts of the coagulant vitamin K and non-heme (plant-based) iron, which is required for energy transport in the blood. (Note: if you are taking a blood thinner, you need to be careful about fluctuations in vitamin K intake.) These vegetables from the sea also contain measurable amounts of carotenoids and flavonoids often associated with "super-foods," such as blueberries, green tea, and chocolate. Consumption of these phytonutrients may reduce the risk for heart disease and some cancers. Certain seaweed, especially those that are brown, like kombu, contain the unique compound fucoidan, a starch-like molecule with strong antioxidant properties.

Sea vegetables In the kitchen. Sea vegetables are popular as a dietary supplement--in pill or powder form--but there's no reason to take a pill when you can easily eat the whole-food version, which is always better for you. A simple start is to add them to soup or sprinkle the flakes on Asian dishes.

There are many kinds of seaweed--typically available in dried form--with an enormous variety of tastes and textures. Look for sea vegetables in supermarkets, Asian markets, and online.

--Matt Ruscigno, MPH, RD

1/4 onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
21/4 c water
2 Tbsp dried wakame
2 Tbsp dulse flakes
1 c long grain brown rice
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 tsp soy sauce, optional
1/4 c toasted sesame seeds

1. In a medium saucepan, saute onion and garlic in two tablespoons
water at medium heat for two minutes.
2. Stir in wakame, dulse, rice, remaining water, vinegar and soy sauce,
if using. Bring to a boil on high heat, then reduce to low and cover.
Cook for 30 minutes or until rice is done.
3. Garnish with sesame seeds.

Makes 4 servings

Nutrition Information Per Serving: 230 calories, 6 grams (g) fat,
1 g sat fat, 39 g carbohydrate, 6 g protein, 3 g fiber, 32 mg sodium
Recipe courtesy Maria Clementi, Culinary Educator, Healdsburg, CA

                     Vegetables from the Sea
 While there are hundreds of varieties of sweaweed, you might want to
start with those that are more readily available, such as these below.


  Wakame            A kelp variety that       Common is miso soup;
                    looks like a stringy      serve tossed with
                    noodle and has a          sesame oil over lettuce.
                    chewy texture.
  Kombu             This kelp is high in      Common is soup broth or
                    glumatic acid, which      with sashimi in Japanese
                    is responsible for        cuisine; add when cooking
                    umami, the savory         beans to reduce
                    taste associated with     gas-producing properties.
                    Asian foods.
  Nori              A dark purple algae       Well-known for it use
                    that turns green when     in wrapping sushi, it is
                    toasted.                  produced in square, dry,
                                              toasted sheets and makes
                                              a great crispy snack.
  Dulse             Most often found as       Can be baked and eaten
                    shreded, dried flakes,    like chips or added to
                    this red algae is         foods like soup and even
                    especially high in        homemade bread.
                    calcium and is staple
                    high-fiber food of
                    Northern Europe.
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Author:Ruscigno, Matt
Publication:Environmental Nutrition
Article Type:Recipe
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2014
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