Everyone has been told to "eat your greens," but today, I'm going to go one step beyond and tell you to eat your sea greens.
Yup, sea greens, better known as sea vegetables or seaweed. Tasty, right?
If you're cringing right now, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you more than likely eaten it already. If you've eaten sushi, Asian soups, or just about any processed food, then you've had seaweed.
Sea vegetables are the richest food source of iodine. In fact, one 10-calorie serving contains 500% your daily needs, so including it just once a week is a great way to ensure you're getting adequate amounts. Iodine is critically important for thyroid health, a gland responsible for regulating metabolism. Because iodine is mostly found in animal foods and iodized salt, a plant-centric, whole-food diet (overall a good thing!) can run the risk of being low in iodine, so it's important to include a regular dose of iodine-rich sea veggies!
Most types of sea vegetables contain a nice dose of iron and because sea veggies also contain vitamin C, which enhances absorption of iron, it's an even better source of bioavailable iron.
Frucoidans are starch-like molecules with powerful anti-inflammatory action. They block another molecule that allows for the transmission of inflammatory signals. Because of this, sea vegetables are often used in the treatment of inflammatory diseases, like arthritis, and to promote cardiovascular health. This molecule also displays anti-viral activity and studies have shown it can help prevent replication of HIV and herpes simpex 1 and 2 virus.
Sea vegetables contain vanadium, a mineral that plays a role in bone health and blood sugar control. Some animal studies and small human trials have shown the mineral makes the body more sensitive to insulin and can increase the bodies ability to store excess glucose as glycogen. Most of these studies were done with large dose supplements of vanadium, so it's unclear if the smaller amount found in seaweed has the same effects. But it's still a nutrient dense food, rich in fiber and low in starch and sugar, so it's blood sugar friendly anyway.
There are many types of edible sea vegetables, including arame, kombu and wakame, but nori, the type of seaweed used for sushi, is the easiest to find. I especially love the toasted nori snacks, packs of bite sized sheets of toasted nori. It's the perfect little snack for when you want something salty and crunchy.
Filling snack, however, it is not. I can go through a bag in about 15 seconds.
To make the snacks substantial enough to last me until my next meal, I like to use them to make a quick sushi handroll. I usually mix and match the ingredients based on what I have on hand, but I try to include at least one source of protein and/or fat to keep it filling. If you're looking for a preworkout snack, make sure you include some type of high fiber carbohydrate, like a cooked whole grain.
Pictured here are nori snacks with carrots, cucumbers and sriracha baked tofu from Trader Joe's and smoked trout. Here's some other ideas!
brown rice + avocado + sriracha edamame spread + hot sauce mango + cucumber + guacamole smoked salmon + quinoa + scallions hummus + shredded carrots avocado + steamed asparagus + arugula + pickled ginger
- Toasted nori sheets
- Julienned cucumber
- Shredded carrot
- Avocado slices (optional)
- Smoked trout (or smoked salmon), or baked tofu, in chunks
- Sriracha (or other hot sauce)
- Lay nori sheets out flat on a plate. Place cucumber, carrots, avocado (if using) and a chunk of smoked trout/tofu in the center. Top with a drop of sriracha. Loosely roll and enjoy.
More creative uses for nori: