10 Reasons To Love Seaweed

Sharon Walker tells us why embracing seaweed can make you live longer and stay slimmer.

Harper’s Bazzar, Sharon Walker | writes about 10 Reasons To Love Seaweed (

It might be being fêted as the latest ‘hot’ ingredient, but seaweed is far from a culinary flash in the pan; it has long been a dietary staple in the East where it is credited with an ability to bestow a long life, health and beauty.
In fact, say scientists, marine-algae was man’s first food and as a sustainable resource it’s brilliant for battling both hunger and obesity.
You don’t have to dine on sushi alone to enjoy seaweed’s many health benefits – Michelin-starred foodies are all starry-eyed over this versatile ingredient and its unrivalled potential for “adding deliciousness to any meal”, to quote the superchefs at Denmark’s Noma. And for anyone who wants to try it at home, seaweed is making a splash at the Harrods Food Hall this winter with the launch of Seakura (already available in Planet Organic), the world’s first organic seaweed and a programme of tastings and cooking demos to enlighten algae-inquisitive shoppers.
Not for nothing has seaweed been named the goddess of greens (though in fact edible seaweed comes in three varieties: green, brown and red): it is loaded with dietary fibre, minerals (ten times that of vegetables grown on land), antioxidants, and the perfect balance of essential fatty acids – the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3s thought to reduce the risk of psychological illnesses.
It is also one of nature’s richest sources of protein, containing all the essential amino acids, including taurine needed for bile salts, which remove cholesterol from the body and is one of the few non-animal sources of vitamin B12, needed for healthy nerves and blood.
The French have long-recognised seaweed’s detoxifying benefits, relying on it’s diuretic properties for smoothing cellulite-mottled thighs, while recent studies suggest seaweed’s potential for mopping up heavy metal pollutants found in exhaust fumes and cigarette smoke.
Sometimes referred to as ‘the woman’s’ ingredient, nutritionist Vicki Edgson says seaweed’s high quota and ideal ratio of bone-building minerals magnesium and calcium is a brilliant weapon in the battle against osteoporosis (try Seakura’s Sea-Lettuce from Harrods or Planet Organic, or Clearspring’s Wakame). And when it comes to hormones seaweed is, once again, a female ally, containing high levels of lignans, plant chemicals, which block the effects of oestrogens, reducing their cancer-stimulating qualities.
Loaded with both insoluble and soluble fibre, that work together to increase feelings of satiety, studies show seaweed can even put a break on the rate at which carbohydrates are absorbed, so reducing blood sugar spikes by as much as 14% (blood sugar spikes are associated with cravings and energy slumps).
There’s plenty of evidence for seaweed as a fantastic fat fighter too – animal studies show that fucoxanthin found in wakame seaweed burns fatty tissue, while mice on a high-fat diet experience less weight gain when their food is supplemented with seaweed.
As one of your five-a-day seaweed could prove a major factor in preventing heart disease. A study of the long-lived Okinawans found that seaweed was one of the ten vegetables they consumed regularly and could help account for their fur-free arteries, low levels of cholesterol and low homocysteine (a heart-damaging chemical) levels. It’s widely accepted that omega 3s reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. What’s more using seaweed in foods to give a satisfying salty taste has the advantage that is high potassium content does not interact with the salt in the bloodstream and therefore does not elevate blood pressure as does ordinary table salt.

How to cook with seaweed:
Fortunately, the most readily available seaweeds can be used in a huge variety of ways: in salads, soups, in desserts, in bread, pies, snacks, or as a herb or flavour-enhancer.

Toast nori strips in a low heat oven. Crumble over salads or use spread with rice and carrots, avocado and wasabi for homemade sushi.
Soak strands of arame then toss into a winter veg stir-fry, with turnip and squash. Mix Seakura sea-lettuce pecorino for a piquant pasta pesto.

Recipe: Sea-Lettuce pesto


1 pack sea-lettuce
1 clove garlic
25g pine nuts
100ml extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
60g freshly grated Pecorino cheese

Preparation method
1. Combine the sea-lettuce, garlic and pine nuts in a pestle and mortar and grind until a course paste.
2. Add half the oil and grind further.
3. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
4. Add the remaining oil.
5. Transfer the pesto to a large serving bowl and mix in the cheese.
The pesto can be used with pasta as a salsa, dip or accompaniment to fish and chicken.