Sea vegetables or seaweed are edible algae that provide many health benefits, including increased fiber and mineral intake and reduced risks of cancer.
Algae, or sea vegetables, used in the diet can provide many nutritional benefits. They contain excellent amounts of dietary fiber, both soluble and insoluble, that help both increases the health of the digestive tract as well as ensure proper regulation of insulin and blood sugar levels. Sea vegetables also contain many mineral nutrients and provide a fair amount of minerals such as iodine and iron. Some complexes present in sea vegetables can help clear the body of toxins. Sea vegetables also contain novel antioxidants that may help prevent certain types of cancer.
Seaweed is a term used to refer to algae that grows in or near the sea. Certain types of seaweed and other algae have been eaten as food for thousands of years, and occupy important places in some cousins', especially Asian. Several companies sell seaweed and other algae as food supplements, either individually or in combinations, and call them sea vegetables. They have some special uses in medicine and as food additives. Sea vegetables are easy to use in cooking and add a specific sea flavor to dishes. They are full of nutrients and can be very beneficial for health.
All of the 56 elements essential for human health can be found in sea vegetables in certain amounts, including calcium, magnesium, potassium, iodine, iron, and zinc, together with important trace elements such as selenium that are often not present in land vegetables due to soil demineralization.
One of the primary benefits of sea vegetables is their natural dietary fiber content. Dietary fiber is very important in nutrition. Presence of dietary fiber ensures proper functioning of the digestive tract and makes sure that food is passed along the bowels at appropriate speed. Dietary fiber also has an effect on insulin levels and carbohydrate absorption, slowing it down and regulating it. This means it is important for both weight loss as well as early prevention and regulation of diabetes type II.
There are two types of dietary fiber, soluble and insoluble. The presence of both types is important in proper nutrition, as both in combination make sure that food is properly processed in the intestines. Sea vegetables contain both types of dietary fiber and are an excellent addition to use in a healthy diet to increase the levels of fiber. The nutrients, especially fiber, in sea vegetables appear to cleanse the colon and improve digestion and absorption.
Scientists at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne have found that alginate, the sticky starch present in brown sea vegetables, can strengthen gut mucus, slow down digestion and make food release its energy more slowly. Alginate is considered a special type of soluble dietary fiber. The special combination of soluble and insoluble fiber found in algae also contributes to the health of the gut flora and works in combination with probiotics to ensure a healthy and functional gut flora.
Sea vegetables may be a better source of bioavailable iron than previously thought. Minerals usually cannot be absorbed into our bodies in their 'elemental' state and have to be in forms which can be absorbed by our intestines, usually bound up into proteins or complexes. Such forms, which can be absorbed by our digestive tract are called bioavailable forms. One tablespoon of dried sea vegetable will contain between 1/2 milligram and 35 milligrams of iron, and this iron is also accompanied by a measurable amount vitamin C. Since vitamin C helps increase the bioavailability of plant iron, this combination in sea vegetables may offer a special benefit to dietary iron absorption. In addition to that, seaweed contains large amounts of dietary available iodine. Iodine is important for proper thyroid functions, and eating seaweed in addition to normal nutrition can assure healthy levels of iodine.
Sea vegetables have shown to be able to bind heavy metals and radioactive pollutants that are present in the environment from industry and help transport and remove them from the body. Scientists at McGill University in Canada showed that sodium alginate can help remove the radioactive element strontium, along with heavy metals such as cadmium and aid in removing them from the system.
Sea vegetables also contain a variety of antioxidants. Most other types of vegetables depend solely on several types of antioxidants. However sea vegetables do not appear to depend only on common polyphenol antioxidants (like flavonoids) or terpenoid antioxidants (like carotenoids, like most plants, for their total antioxidant activity.
Recent research from India makes it clear that a variety of non-flavonoid and non-carotenoid antioxidant compounds are present in sea vegetables, including several different types of antioxidant alkaloids. This means that sea vegetables may be able to help combat antioxidative stress, which is the primary reason for may conditions, including most types of cancer and coronary disease.
One recently noted potential benefit of seaweed seems to be its ability to lower the risk of breast cancer. A recent study done to compare the risks of breast cancer in woman in Japan and the USA showed that women from Japan have a much lower risk of breast cancer. the researchers speculate this might be due to the dietary differences between women in America and women in Japan, hypothesizing it may have something to do with seaweed, specifically the antioxidants present in sea vegetables. Sea vegetables are highly recommended for inclusion in the diet.
For people who do not have time to prepare their meals and include seaweed, or people who would just like a boost in the benefits provided by sea vegetables supplements are available. 'Passion Projects' products Complex Green and Triple Green contain sea vegetables in an easily consumable form, and can provide all the benefits of eating sea vegetables for much less effort.