Wakame, Healthy Seaweed

Different types of seaweed have long been an integral part of many Asian cuisines. Wakame is a brown or deep green seaweed commonly used in Japanese cuisine. It has a briny and salty taste with a slight sweetness, typically used to make miso soup or seaweed salad. Although Japanese seaweed farmers farm Wakame, it’s actually one of the more invasive types of seaweed, growing as much as an inch per day. The sustainability of Wakame, coupled with its health benefits and versatile flavors, has led to a growth in popularity across the globe.

Help with weight control

Wakame is rich in plant protein and dietary fiber, yet very low in fat and calories. The fiber and protein help with satiety – feeling fuller, for longer can help those who are watching their food intake. Also, the plant protein in Wakame is a delicious source of the macronutrient for those who follow a vegetarian diet. Wakame is known for its fat-burning properties as the compound, fucoxanthin, present in wakame hinders the accumulation of fat in the cells and stimulates fat oxidation. The fiber in Wakame aids in digestion, allowing your gut to properly absorb nutrients from the food while regulating blood sugar and avoiding crashes that lead to cravings.

Lower risk of breast cancer

Wakame, like all seaweed, naturally contains iodine, a compound not found in many other foods. Iodine consumption on a regular basis has been demonstrated to lower the risk of developing breast cancer and other cancers. While all seaweed contains iodine, Wakame has unusually high levels of it. Iodine is essential to a healthy diet, and consuming it via healthy seaweed, versus salt, can be better for you. In addition to iodine, Wakame contains compounds called lignans, also shown to reduce the chances of breast cancer.

Helps manage diabetes

Diabetes occurs when your cells are unable to process insulin, the chemical that turns the food you eat into energy for your body. Regulating blood sugar and supplementing your body’s natural insulin production with additional insulin can help manage diabetes. However, Wakame also contains chemical compounds that have been demonstrated to reduce the severity of diabetes in lab testing. The naturally occurring chemical, Fucoxanthin, reduces hypoglycemia and has an anti-diabetic effect both in lab testing and through human studies. Adding Wakame to a healthy, diabetes-friendly selection of foods, can help your body reduce the severity of diabetes.

Promotes heart health

Wakame stimulates the production of DHA by the liver and essential fatty acid that helps reduce LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) in the blood. Lowered cholesterol opens up your arteries, improving blood flow throughout your body. Heart disease, or atherosclerosis, is caused by arterial blockage and high cholesterol, so adding Wakame to your diet can reduce your risk. Lower cholesterol in the body and better blood flow decreases your blood pressure, as well. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, can lead to strokes, with little noticeable symptoms.

Improve circulation

Wakame is high in iron, which stimulates the production of red blood cells.  Iron is essential to the makeup of red blood cells; higher levels lead to increased circulation in your cardiovascular system. Better circulation and a higher concentration of red blood cells provides additional oxygen to essential parts of the body, boosts energy, enhances the health of your skin, and speeds up the healing process of all the tissues and organs in your body. For those who suffer from anemia, an iron deficiency in the blood adding make to your regular diet can help increase your iron levels.

Energy booster

The mineral magnesium increases energy in your body by helping your body transfer energy more efficiently. Wakame contains a relatively high level of manganese, essential for helping your body naturally metabolize protein. As your digestive system processes the food you eat, vital minerals such as manganese help turn the energy and nutrients from the food into nutrition, energy, and materials for regeneration that your body needs. Adding Wakame to a healthy diet gives you a natural source of manganese and other vital nutrients.

Improves fetal and infant health

Folate, or folic acid, is an essential amino acid – vital building blocks for your skeletal and musculature systems. Its a vital part of a healthy pregnancy, as well as for infant development and growth after birth. It increases bone strength, helps develop muscles, and assists with proper skeletal development. For a developing fetus, having enough folic acid helps prevent spinal deformities. It is also consistently connected with lowered chances of neural tube defects in infants. Wakame contains significant amounts of folate, so pregnant women should add some Japanese dishes to their diet.

Good for strong bones

Those who follow a vegan or vegetarian diet may find it difficult to get enough calcium from their daily diet. Calcium is one of the most important minerals when it comes to protecting the integrity and durability of our bones. Wakame, with high levels of calcium – especially for a plant –  helps your body with bone growth and speeds up repair. Chemical properties of wakame also perform anti-inflammatory functions and help reduce inflammation of joints. Healthy consumption of calcium can also aid in preventing early-onset osteoporosis, especially in women.

Stronger hair and smoother skin

The rich source of antioxidants present in wakame help to rejuvenate, moisturize, and smoothen the skin. Antioxidants work by balancing unstable molecules in the body, called free radicals, that damage healthy cells and prevent proper regeneration and repair. An excess of free radicals damages organs in the body, including your skin, and shows in the form of fine and deep lines, wrinkles, and sagging. Wakame, rich in calcium, minerals, and antioxidants, also stimulates keratin formation and helps in thickening hair and nails. A diet with a healthy amount of protein improves skin resilience, muscle tone, and hair strength and shine.

Adding Wakame to your diet

Wakame is usually for sale in its dry form, typically in packages at specialty grocers and Asian markets. It needs to be hydrated in water for about 10 minutes before it can be used. Be aware that it expands significantly on rehydration, so you’ll need to cut it into smaller pieces. Wakame may be eaten in a salad with rice vinegar and soy sauce, with toppings that you desire such as pine nuts, shrimp, or eel. It can also be used instead of nori to make sushi rolls or added to miso soup for a more traditional, umami flavor.