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What are the health benefits of seaweed?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Seaweed is not just a pretty wrapper for sushi, it is a serious anti-aging power food. Packed with the broadest range of minerals of any food known on earth as well as loads of anti-inflammatory B vitamins, seaweed is hailed for its anti-wrinkle properties. So much so, it is often an ingredient in high-end wrinkle creams, but it provides the most benefit in a bowl. You can find a variety of seaweed at Asian markets. Add nutrients and instant flavor by serving it in a broth-based soup, munch on it as a snack, or sprinkle some into a smoothie.

This content originally appeared on doctoroz.com.
Maoshing Ni, PhD, LAc
Geriatric Medicine
Seaweed and marine algae have more concentrated nutrition than vegetables grown on land and they have long been considered to possess powers to prolong life, prevent disease, and impart beauty and health. For thousands of years, this mineral-rich vegetable has been a staple in Asian diets.

There are over 20 types of edible seaweed and even more are being discovered. Common types of seaweed include nori, kombu, kelp, dulce and Irish moss. Some types of seaweed have more calcium than cheese, more iron than beef, and more protein than eggs, plus seaweed is a very rich source of micronutrients. Traditionally, its healing properties are said to include everything from treating cancer, lowering cholesterol, shrinking goiters, dissolving tumors and cysts, detoxifying heavy metals, reducing water retention, and aiding in weight loss.
Ms. Ashley Koff, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics
Seaweed, a staple of longevity diets such as the Okinawans, offers an array of nutrients that makes it top the list of many healthiest foods lists. It's rich in iodine (critical for thyroid hormones), vitamin K (bone health), and very good sources of folate (heart health, fetus brain development), magnesium (motility, relaxation, bone health), as well as providing other B vitamins, calcium, and iron. Seaweed also contains lignans which play a role in appropriate estrogen metabolism and cancer prevention.
Julie Daniluk
Nutrition & Dietetics
5 reasons to eat seaweeds such as nori:
  1. Add nori to your diet to help reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes: The iodine in nori has been shown to improve thyroid function, to decrease insulin resistance and allow glucose into your cells to be burned for energy.1 This keeps your blood sugar levels manageable so your pancreas doesn’t have to work overtime.
  2. Nori is high in vitamin A: Vitamin A is one of the major antioxidants that prevents ocular degeneration and night blindness, but did you know that vitamin A is also used by your lung tissue to guard against the same kind of tissue degeneration?2 We may not think that our lungs need upkeep but, they are one of the major exit doors of our body, so it’s imperative to keep them in tip-top shape.
  3. Nori is high in vitamin C: Vitamin C is not just for colds anymore. It can actually decrease healing time of skin wounds and decrease inflammation applied both topically and internally.3 Combining the known antioxidant properties of vitamin C with its anti-inflammatory action makes vitamin C the ultimate regenerator for cellular cleansing and renewal. 
  4. Use nori to clean out cholesterol: Nori is high in niacin, which has been shown on its own and used as a complementary supplement to decrease low density lipoproteins (LDL) cholesterol levels especially in people suffering from type 2 diabetes. Niacin can increase the metabolism of triglycerides (the chemical form of fat in food and in the body) on the arterial walls and cleanse the blood stream.4
  5. Nori can help your headache: Nori is high in magnesium. Magnesium has a relaxing effect on your muscles and has been shown to decrease muscle cramping and pain after exercise. New studies show that magnesium can also relax the small arterial and skeletal muscles in the head and neck to relieve cluster headaches and migraines.5
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  1. http://eje-online.org/content/161/4/599.full.pdf+html
  2. http://www.ajcn.org/content/40/5/1090.long
  3. http://www.scielo.br/pdf/bjb/v69n4/v69n4a26.pdf
  4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2890983/pdf/11892_2010_Article_124.pdf
  5. http://www.aafp.org/afp/2009/0715/p157.pdf

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.