Cooking to Control Pain: Seaweed

by Christina Lasich, MD Health Professional

Eating better always seems to be a process of elimination. While eliminating sugars, simple carbohydrates, and artificial chemicals can help improve health, some foods should be added to the diet. In particular, adding the superfoods can really enhance a balanced nutrition plan because these foods are packed with minerals, vitamins, protein, and omega fats. Some superfoods like avocados and walnuts are very familiar to most Americans. Other superfoods like quinoa and seaweed are more familiar in other parts of the world. As all the cultures in the world blend, meals should also blend new ingredients which provide all the health benefits that nature has to offer.

The sea offers many nutrient rich products. For thousands of years, our neighbors to the east and west of us have been utilizing a very special food source found in the sea-seaweed. In Japan, people know it as "Nori." In Europe, people know it as "Laver."
While most Americans crinkle their noses at thought of eating seaweed, a second look at the potential health benefits might iron out a few of those crinkles. Of primary interest is seaweed's potential ability to reduce pain and inflammation.

Until now, the anti-inflammatory properties of seaweed have been considered a folk lore of unconventional medicine. Mainstream food scientists are now discovering that seaweed does indeed contain some powerful chemicals called the phenolic compounds. Examples of well known phenolic compounds are the cannabinoids, active constituents of cannabis. Both red and brown seaweed have its own set of phenolic compounds which may have both anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant powers. Some of this research is driven by potential financial gains, so everything needs to be digested with a bit of sea salt.

Beyond the promise of reducing pain in millions of people, seaweed also has a number of other potential health benefits because of all the nutrients it contains. Those with anemia will find seaweed a rich source of iron. Those with osteoporosis will find seaweed to be a green source of calcium. Vegetarians have a complete source of protein by eating seaweed. In fact, seaweed is such a nutrient rich superfood that more Americans should be eating it.

How can seaweed be added do the diet without crinkling noses? Many cultures have been eating it for centuries. So, adding seaweed to the American diet should not be that hard. Some varieties are known to taste better than others and can be added to salads, soups, and smoothies. A particularly tasty recipe for a Japanese Seaweed Salad might just expand the horizons of culinary delight.
By freeing the mind and taste buds, health will follow with the addition of certain superfoods like seaweed. Nature has provided a bounty of anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant chemicals for all creatures to consume. By expanding the list of possible edible ingredients, nutritious eating becomes a process that embraces everything that nature intended humans to eat.

Christina Lasich, MD
Meet Our Writer
Christina Lasich, MD

Christina Lasich, M.D., wrote about chronic pain and osteoarthritis for HealthCentral. She is physiatrist in Grass Valley, California. She specializes in pain management and spine rehabilitation.