Is Seaweed the New Green Leaf?

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You may be comfortable with green veggies like spinach and kale, but how about eating a veggie from another part of the food chain? Find out why the popularity of this sea vegetable is on the rise.

Seaweed By the Numbers (and Colors)

According to a report published by the United Nations, almost 25 million tons of seaweed were farmed in 2012. While most of this farming was done in Asia, there has been an increasing amount of seaweed harvesting taking place all across the United States. With this has come a spike in local chefs seeking out seaweed farmers to make marine-inspired creations.

The most-common varieties of edible seaweed include kelp, nori, wakame and dulse.

Kelp (aka kombu) is a brown algae used for sushi and as a flavoring for soup. Nori is technically classified as a “red” seaweed, but sheets appear dark green or purple. Nori boasts a high mineral content and is a staple in sushi rolls. Fresh wakame is bright green and often used in soups and salads. The briny flavor of dulse makes it a nice fit for miso soups and condiments.

Nutrition Facts

One ounce of wakame contains 13 calories, 244 mg of sodium, 14 percent of the daily recommendation for folate, a healthy dose of magnesium, plus some calcium and iron. Kelp has a similar nutrient profile but is significantly higher in vitamin K.

Seaweed also contains a tremendous amount of iodine, an important mineral for metabolism and immune function. Too much of this nutrient can be harmful, though, so seaweed lovers may want to keep their intake in check. Three ounces of shrimp contains 23 percent of the daily recommendation, but one sheet of seaweed packs anywhere from 11 to 2,000 percent depending on the source.

Healthy Ways to Get More Seaweed Into Your Life

Sushi rolls may be to thank for your current intake of seaweed, but there are plenty more ways to enjoy this green, whether you’re in your kitchen or on the go.

Recipes to Try:

Kimchi Fried Rice

Vegetable Sushi

Ahi Poke and Seaweed Salad (pictured below)

Miso Soup

Goodies to Buy:

Annie Chun’s Seaweed Snacks and Seaweed Crisps

Kelp Crunch Bars

Trader Joe’s Roasted Seaweed Snacks

Related Links:

Favorite Spots for Poke Bowls from Coast to Coast

New-School Spins on Old-School Healthy Dishes

Veg Out: 20 Top Vegan Restaurants from Coast to Coast

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition.