Most people are surprised to learn kelp is a food staple and not just for fish and whales. It’s abundant in several vitamins including vitamins C, B, A, E and the mineral iron. Consider these reasons to include kelp, also known as seaweed or leafy algae, in your diet:
- provides iodine, an important trace element for a healthy thyroid gland
- contains antioxidants, which help protect the body from the damaging effects of inflammation at the cellular level
- is rich in fiber, which has benefits for digestion, metabolism, and risk factors for some chronic illnesses
Kelp is a highly sustainable food source. Giant kelp, for example, is one of the world’s fastest growing plants, gaining as much as 300 feet in just one year! While it relies on sunlight for its energy source, it only needs a hard surface (not sand) on which to grow. This means kelp can be grown outside the sea provided the water tank it’s grown in provides the natural conditions the plant requires (salinity of the water, for example).
Though not conclusive, some studies indicate that people who regularly consume kelp have a lower risk for illnesses such as heart disease, Type-2 diabetes, obesity, gastrointestinal distress, and certain cancers.
Raw, cooked, or dehydrated, you can easily add kelp to your menu. It’s often found packaged as crackers, chips, or flakes; in its raw, natural state for salads and sushi; and in gluten-free noodles. Kelp makes a great addition to soups, salads, rice and bean dishes, or even wraps for sandwiches using a “kelp sheet.” Depending on where it’s harvested, kelp may be labeled by different names: Nori, Kombu, Dulse, Hijiki, Irish moss, and Wakame are just a few.
If you have concerns about your thyroid, it’s important to speak to a physician before incorporating any form of kelp in your diet. The iodine in kelp can interact with a pre-existing thyroid condition, as well as the medication used to treat the thyroid.
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