Embracing Seaweed as a Super Food

Seaweed – we know these marine plants as salty, seemingly slimy, and offering ocean fish and other sea life a place to shelter and feed. Still, did you know that red, brown, green, and blue-green sea vegetables are also considered a superfood for humans? With over 145 varieties used worldwide, the plants and algae are most prevalent in Asian cuisine and cultures, and coastal populations have consumed marine vegetables since prehistoric times.
Referred to scientifically as Rhodophyta, Phaeophyceae, and Chlorophyta, you might know these edible seaweeds as kelp, kombu, nori, dulse, chlorella, sea lettuce, and arame. However, imagining these intensely flavored ingredients as part of a daily Western diet may be challenging. So, why would consumers and manufacturers include them in snacks, soups, and salads?
Why Eat Seaweed?
As a superfood, seaweed offers numerous health benefits but with a limited environmental impact, meeting two increasingly dominant consumer demands.
Typical nutrients include vitamins A, B1, B2, C, E, and K, antioxidants, iron, manganese, copper, calcium, potassium, folate, and protective pigments such as tocopherol, lutein, violaxanthin, and astaxanthin. For plant-based products and consumers, a variety called purple laver also provides substantial amounts of B12, usually only available from animal products.
It is a significant source of the vital trace mineral iodine and amino acid tyrosine, not manufactured by the body but essential for a healthy thyroid, brain, and overall functioning. Other typical nutrients include vitamins A, B1, B2, C, E, and K, antioxidants, iron, manganese, copper, calcium, potassium, folate, and protective pigments such as tocopherol, lutein, violaxanthin, and astaxanthin.
Seaweed agars, fucoidans, and carrageenans may help boost probiotic gut colonies, acting as prebiotics and increasing the proliferation of short-term fatty acids critical to maintaining a healthy gut lining. In addition, sea vegetables may improve heart health by reducing total and LDL cholesterol levels and helping regulate blood sugar levels (thanks to the fucoxanthin found in brown varieties). They may also support better immunity against viruses, decrease high estrogen levels, and potentially reduce the risk of certain cancers.
Importantly, from an eco-friendly angle, seaweed is among the few foods that positively impact the environment. It helps to detoxify seawater and reportedly absorbs 20% more carbon than produced1. In addition, most seaweeds are safe to consume. However, note that some varieties, such as any starting with “Laminaria,” may contain toxic amounts of iodine, while the hijiki species contains arsenic.
Seaweed Is Sublime in Sushi, Soups, Salads, Snacks, Sprinkles, and Substitutes
The food is ideal in soups (kombu, kelp), salads (wakame, arame), snacks (nori), as a ground kombu-dulse,-nori sprinkle, homemade sushi, and plant-based alternatives such as nori-flavored vegan “tuna” salad.
In addition, beyond its clear advantage as a seafood flavor replacement, the food source can add taste and protein content to vegan meat analogs. Red seaweeds offer a protein level approximately five times higher than soy. At the same time, their umami-like taste lends substitutes a meat-like flavor profile. Also, red seaweed agar is a viable plant-based alternative to beef gelatin in numerous food products.
Salty and sustainable, seaweed is a tasty, textured, and nutritious ingredient across various dishes and offerings. So, why not leverage this versatile, value-adding food to your products and portfolio? Then, accentuate accompanying flavor profiles with our advanced, 100% natural taste and odor extracts.
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Enhance Seaweed Containing Innovations With Advanced Biotech Flavorings and Aromas
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1 https://www.ecoandbeyond.co/articles/what-are-the-benefits-of-seaweed-for-health-and-the-environment/