The concept of functional foods has been revolving and evolving for some time. The term refers to foods that contain certain ingredients that can have an impact on your health in a positive way. You’ve probably seen foods that have omega 3 fatty acids added, or labels that indicate an additional fiber boost, thanks to ingredients that get added during the manufacturing process. You create a functional food, in a sense, when you take a muffin recipe and decide to include nuts and berries!
Seaweed has recently been identified as a healthy food because it contains certain substances that are considered important for reducing cardiovascular disease.
Adding seaweed to processed foods such as fresh and frozen pizzas, breads and dried pasta will reduce cardiovascular diseases, concludes a new scientific article. One suggestion is to replace 5 percent of the flour in pizza dough with dried and granulated seaweed. Seaweed has been identified as having:
- Potassium salts that unlike traditional salts do not raise blood pressure
- Beneficial plant-based protein
- Trace elements
- Heart-healthy polyunsaturated fats
- Umami, the fifth basic taste that is associated with satiety and food regulation
Experts suggest that about 5-10 grams of dried seaweed daily is probably an optimal goal if you’d like to target health benefits. Food manufacturers may be looking to seaweed as a functional ingredient that they can add to the flour of dry pasta, bread, pizza, and even snack bars. Adding seaweed to meat may also be an option, in an effort to provide consumers with an additional benefit of dietary fiber and antioxidants. What leading health organizations like the WHO (World Health Organization) do not want to see is minimal addition of seaweed to unhealthy foods in order to label them as healthy. Seaweed should not be used by the food industry to create a food health halo. Just adding a bit will not have health influences.
Seaweed is somewhat main stream these days, so you can find products at most local supermarkets. It’s a low calorie food rich in essential amino acids, dietary fiber, minerals, trace elements, vitamins and saturated fats.
In one study researchers asked a group of overweight but otherwise healthy men to taste bread that had added seaweed in its ingredient list. The taste was acceptable to the group as long as up to 4% of seaweed content was maintained. Over that threshold, taste was affected and the bread ingredients did not rise well before baking. The researchers noted that the seaweed content allowed the men to achieve better dietary fiber goals and also seemed to keep them fuller, so they consumed fewer calories that day.
Past studies have identified seaweed as a new potential source of heart-healthy ingredients. In fact, the article published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry suggested that it could rival milk in terms of its “bioactive peptides.” These peptides have been credited as possible helpers in lowering blood pressure.
How can you use and add seaweed in your daily diet?
- Experts suggest you can add up to 5% of dried seaweed to dough you are using for bread or pizza without impacting flavor or ability of the dough to rise.
- You can store dried seaweed for months or even years in a cool, dark area and it will retain its flavor and nutritional value.
- You can add dried seaweed to egg dishes, salads, mashed potatoes, vegetables and fish dishes.
- You can put dried seaweed in your traditional salt shaker which would help you to cut down on heavy use of salt.
- Experts recommend avoiding Hijiki which can contain levels of arsenic.
- You can also buy seaweed typically at counters where sushi is sold and eat it alone, or on a salad.
- You can also find seaweed papers in snack packs or in larger sheets that are used in making sushi.
- You should be aware that some types of seaweed have high levels of iodine, so check with your health professional if you have a risk of thyroid disease, or if you’ve been diagnosed with thyroid disease and take medication for it.
- Do not assume that the raw seaweed that may wash up on certain shores is safe for consumption. It is not.
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Known as The HealthGal, expert contributor Amy Hendel is a popular medical and lifestyle reporter, nutrition and fitness expert, columnist, and brand ambassador, as well as a health coach. Trained as a physician assistant, she maintains a health coach private practice in New York and Los Angeles. Author of The Four Habits of Healthy Families, you can find her on Twitter @HealthGal1103 and on Facebook at TheHealthGal. Her personal mantra is “Fix it first with food, fitness, and lifestyle.”