Eating healthy can be made tasteful and flavorful in many ways and does not have to be a repetition of same types of food. Mother Nature has provided us with abundant food resources that have high nutritional value and astounding health benefits. Choosing such nutrient-dense foods promote good health and averts certain types of illnesses. Experts say that consuming beneficial nutrients from a wide spectrum of foods gives us an unique combination of compounds that works wonder to promote vitality and longevity.
Sea vegetables are one such category of nutrient-dense foods that are often overlooked by most of us when we plan on a healthy diet. They are easy to cook, easy to incorporate in everyday menu and have interesting nutrients. Described below are the top 5 ocean foods that have therapeutic value apart from their nutritional benefits that help in longevity and quality health.
Five Interesting ocean foods
1. Ecklonia cava
Origin: It is a type of brown algae that is common in Japan and Korea. It is harvested from the coastal regions and are a part of traditional Japanese and Korean cuisine.
Key ingredients: Polysaccharides, polyphenols and phlorotannins. Other nutrients include iodine, calcium, niacin, vitamin A, potassium, phosphorus.
Anti-inflammatory: This species of brown algae exhibit anti-inflammatory properties due to the presence of the polysaccharide component. The polysaccharide component of this algae was found to decrease the production of nitric oxide which is critical in the inflammatory conditions. One study showed that the polysaccharides extracts from the fermented ecklonia cava exhibited anti-inflammatory properties by down regulating the pro-inflammatory reactions in the body. (1)
Anti-bacterial: The Japanese included plenty of this brown algae in their traditional food owing to its potent anti-bacterial effect. A study showed that ecklonia cava demonstrated potent anti-bacterial activity against two strains of bacteria staphylococcus aureus and salmonella(2)
Potent antioxidant: The phlorotannins and the polyphenol components in ecklonia cava exhibit antioxidant effect against reactive oxygen species and oxidative stress. A recent 2011 study revealed that a specific natural antioxidantive compound pyrogallol-phloroglucinol-6,6′-bieckol (PPB) isolated from the algae effectively inhibited the DNA damage caused by the free radicals (3).
Origin: It is a type of seaweed from a red algae that belongs to the genus Porphyra. It is an integral part of Japanese cuisine and is consumed fresh or as dried sheets in sushi preparations. The Japanese traditionally value Nori for its health effects of longevity and well-being.
Key ingredients: Rich in protein, vitamins A, B1, C, D, calcium, iron and iodine. It is also high in eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), inositol, and choline. It also contains high amount of copper, selenium and zinc.
Decreases blood cholesterol: Nori is rich in the aminoacid taurine, the compound that is responsible for preventing gallstones in liver by controlling blood cholesterol levels. The water soluble dietary fiber galactan, is responsible for decreasing the high blood cholesterol levels(4).
Improves heart health: The high levels of the essential fatty acid EPA, presence of the beneficial compounds porphyosins and betaines help in preventing blood clot and are significant in maintaining heart health. The presence of all essential aminoacids is considered as one of the factors for the profound heart health benefits of Nori.
Beneficial as a diabetic dietary supplement: Most diabetics are nutritionally deficient in minerals such as selenium and copper which play a role in glucose metabolism. Including nori as part of diabetic effect may eliminate fatigue and acts as a good food supplement.
Origin: Arame is a dark brown sea weed that imparts a mild semi-sweet taste to the cuisine. It is predominantly used in Japanese cuisine in salads and in marinades.
Key ingredients: Iodine, zinc, iron, folate, calcium, manganese, vitamin A, K and lignans.
Immune support: The nutrients present in Arame form the essential raw material for the immune building. They nourish the immune system and aids in its optimal function.
Anti-cancer effect: The compound pheophytin from Arame was identified to exhibit anti-cancer effect. The presence of lignans, a class of polyphenolic compound demonstrates antioxidant effect and deter the development of certain types of cancer.
Origin: It is a type of reddish-brown sea weed and grows in the northern coasts of Atlantic and Pacific ocean. It is a part of traditional Japanese cuisine for more than hundred years. The Dulse has a strong odour and taste in its fresh form.
Key ingredients: Vitamin B12, Potassium, iron, iodine, magnesium, enzyme pyruvate carboxylase. Dulse has been found to be the potential protein source from plant foods, because a serving can yield about 15 -20 grams of protein(5).
Aids in weight loss: Dulse is a low calorie, nutrient-dense food. It is high in protein and fiber content. The fiber rich component adds bulk to the diet which stimulate the hunger pangs at a slower rate. The enzymes also help in the digestion and decrease the risk of gastro-intestinal disorders such as constipation.
High nutritional value: The nutritional profile of Dulse is diverse and is an important source for vitamin B12, C, B and A. The nutrients in Dulse helps enhance the activity of the immune system. ?Promotes thyroid health: It is naturally rich source of iodine and helps to maintain thyroid. It is also a good source of other trace minerals that are required for optimal secretion of hormones and promotes hormonal health.
Origin: It is a type of brown sea algae that grows in shallow waters of the sea and bay regions. It is a popular coastal vegetable in Japan and parts of Europe.
Key ingredients: High in iodine, vitamins B complex, D, E, K and C. Primary aminoacids are alanine, glutamic acid, glycine and aspartic acid.
Rich in antioxidants: Kelp is an excellent source of antioxidants vitamin C, E, A as well as betacarotene and hence is a rich source of mix of antioxidants.
Rich in minerals: A 100 gram serving of kelp provides about 168 mg of calcium, 120 mg of magnesium, 89 mg of potassium and 230 mg of sodium along with traces of iron, zinc, copper and selenium.
Sea foods have an unique taste and they add in a distinct flavor to a cuisine. The above mentioned sea vegetables are all easy to incorporate in every day casseroles, soups, salads and some of them can also be consumed as a healthy snack. For instance kelp can be simple pan fried and consumed as chips, which will be a great healthy low calorie snack. Sea vegetables can also be a healthy replacement for some common ingredients in our every day cuisine. The dried or powdered form of these vegetables can be used as a replacement for table salt or artificial seasoning for soups. Sea vegetables do not require cooking, however some of them need to be soaked in water for about 10 minutes prior to adding to the dishes. Ocean vegetables not only add taste to the cuisine but also support health.
- Lee WW, et.al; A polysaccharide isolated from Ecklonia cava fermented by Lactobacillus brevis inhibits the inflammatory response by suppressing the activation of nuclear factor-κB in lipopolysaccharide-induced RAW 264.7 macrophages; J Med Food. 2011 Dec;14(12):1546-53.
- “Foodborne Pathogens and Disease”; “Antibacterial Activity of Ecklonia Cava Against Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus and Salmonella”; JG Choi et al; April 2007
- Kang SM, et.al; Evaluation of antioxidant properties of a new compound, pyrogallol-phloroglucinol-6,6′-bieckol isolated from brown algae, Ecklonia cava; Nutr Res Pract. 2011 Dec;5(6):495-502. Epub 2011 Dec 31.
- Hiroyuki Noda; Health Benefits and Nutritional Properties of Nori; Journal of Applied Phycology, 1993, Volume 5, Number 2, Pages 255-258 , April 1993.
Galland-Irmouli AV, et.al; Nutritional value of proteins from edible seaweed Palmaria palmata (dulse); J Nutr Biochem. 1999 Jun;10(6):353-9.