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Try Sea Veggies

By Alana Sugar, October 12, 2009  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Alana Sugar
guide-seaveggies Growing up in Hawaii gave me great exposure to Asian culture and food. I remember my first "Hawaiian" Thanksgiving. We were invited to a large gathering at a friend's home. We had a turkey, but we also had sushi, sashimi, steamed pork buns, umeboshi (pickled Japanese plums), and plenty of seaweed -- something I had never had before. I soon became a fan of these ocean vegetables and often found myself munching on the many different varieties. I think we can all agree that seaweed is not a terribly appealing or appetizing word. As such, many enthusiasts refer to them as sea vegetables or ocean vegetables. Whatever you want to call them, these amazing ocean plants are packed with valuable, time-honored nutrition. According to Margaret Wittenberg in her book New Good Food, "Seaweeds have long been known for their nutritional attributes. Traditional Chinese medicinal texts as far back as 2700 BCE mention seaweed's medicinal qualities," including its ability to nourish the thyroid. lentil_soupSea veggies are classified as marine algae. They contain chlorophyll in varying amounts but unlike land plants, they don't have stems, roots or leaves. They rely on the sun's energy and its various wavelengths of light for food. Because of this, they contain different pigments and fall into one of three color categories: red, green or brown. Nutritionally, sea veggies can vary greatly. However, they all deliver a wide assortment of valuable trace minerals including iodine, an essential trace mineral required by the thyroid gland and critical for normal cell metabolism. Brown sea vegetables are especially packed with iodine, and it is because of this that they have a long history of use for keeping the thyroid healthy. Although the health benefits of sea vegetables date back to ancient times, modern-day scientists are focusing on the phytonutrients, including the lignans. These are plant nutrients that have powerful antioxidant properties. While the green sea vegetables deliver the highest amounts of chlorophyll, red and brown varieties have shown significant antioxidant activity. As you can imagine, sea veggies are often quite high in sodium. Because of this you will want to rinse them off in water before using. You can also use less salt in cooking when you add them to your recipes. Be sure to purchase sea veggies from companies that are very conscious about where the sea vegetables come from and how they are harvested and stored. A little bit goes a long way with sea veggies. Because they often expand in volume when cooking, only a small amount of dried is needed. Some varieties will need to be rinsed and soaked before use, such as when adding to cooked foods or when cooking time is shortened. Otherwise, for soups, stews and simmering, rinsing is important, but no soaking is required. Some common varieties and ways to use them are:
  • Agar - Made from many varieties of red algae, it is processed into bars or flakes and is used as a thickener or gelling agent. Here's a vegan version of Chocolate Mocha Pie and a delightful Coconut Cream Tapioca -both thickened with agar.
  • Arame - Brown sea veggie great in stir fries, salads and casseroles. Here's a recipe for Arame Mushroom Pasta Salad and this recipe calls for Chicken with Sea Vegetables and Noodles.
  • chickentostada
  • Dulse - Reddish sea veggie that can be eaten raw or cooked. Add to sautés or dry it out in a dry skillet and add to sandwiches or crumble and use over salads, cooked grains, popcorn or pasta. Try it in this Chicken Tostada Salad.
  • Kelp - My favorite way to use this: Buy the Kelp sprinkles that our stores carry. Sprinkle over salads, grains and beans. Use it instead of salt for seasoning.
  • Kombu - Best added to soups, stews, broths and water for cooking grains as it needs to simmer for a while to become tender. Try Vegetarian Lentil Soup made with kombu.
  • Nori - This is what sushi is wrapped in. I love nori lightly toasted (you can buy it this way or run it over a flame from your stovetop for a few seconds - it will turn green) and crumbled over eggs, grains, and salads, or eat as a cracker! Here's a recipe for making your own California Rolls with nori (don't toast it when rolling sushi!)
  • Wakame - This is a common sea vegetable used in miso soup in Japan. Can be added to any soups, stews or veggies.
Learn more about the different varieties in our Guide to Sea Veggies. You can also look for products that have added sea veggies:
  • Purchase tempeh with added sea veggies.
  • Look for crackers such as brown rice with added sea veggies.
  • Check out the Eden brand of canned beans - they have added the kombu for you (kombu is said to help in the digestion of beans so they are less gassy!).
  • You can buy sea veggies to sprinkle on salads: Dulse and kelp are usually available in the seasonings aisle.
  • Try some Gomasio - this is a blend of sea salt and lightly toasted sesame seeds. Look for the version with added sea veggies - great on salads and cooked grains.
  • Munch on roasted nori snacks - pre-packaged in the Asian food section.
Dried sea vegetables will last a very long time, as long as you store them in a tightly sealed container in a dark pantry. Are you a fan of ocean vegetables? Got a favorite? Let me know!
Category: Healthy Eating

 

14 Comments

Comments

Amy says ...
I'm looking for a micro-nutrient profile of the commonly available seaweeds. I've contact several companies that sell to your store, but none have been able to provide these. I'm sure it can vary considerably depending on where harvested. I just want a general idea on nutrients by variety; Any advice?
10/13/2009 1:27:13 PM CDT
Nalini says ...
What can I do with wakame that wont taste overwhelmingly of the ocean?
10/15/2009 11:50:59 AM CDT
yvonne says ...
I just love wholefoods and your wonderful ideas I cant understand why other stores dont follow your lead. Yvonne.
10/15/2009 1:31:37 PM CDT
Erika says ...
Hi, It was a very informative topic. I am Japanese and we have been eating these marine things forever, but it's fun to see how we can cook them differently. If your wakame has ocean smell, try to wash them in a bowl filled with water, then drain it. If you repeat this a few times, I think the smell will go away. Of you might want to use "Yuzu, the asian citrus" dressing if you are putting the wakame in your salad. The flavor of yuzu will let you forget the smell of wakame.
10/16/2009 7:40:06 AM CDT
Monica says ...
I love those Sea Gift roasted seaweed snacks for $0.79. Have a five-pack a week habit, can't get enough of them. Tastiest thing I have ever eaten.
10/14/2009 9:17:34 AM CDT
Gillian says ...
Trader Joe's just started carrying something called "roasted seaweed snacks" -- the box is filled with a stack of paper-thin, crispy,crunchy, salty, flat greenish-black squares of seaweed, and I am completely addicted. The first time I saw them, I bought one box. After eating that box, I went back and got 5 boxes. After finishing those over the next two days, I went back and bought TEN boxes, and four days later, I returned to TJ's, and they were gone. Completely gone. They said even their warehouse was out, so ALL the TJ's were out of the stuff. Ohhhhh I miss them SO MUCH! 99 cents a box and only 2 carbs per serving -- the Magic Food! Now I'm trying to figure out where else I can find these things -- maybe they're your roasted nori snacks? I sure hope so!
11/20/2009 3:20:22 AM CST
Jenna says ...
Using Agar-agar is our family's way of not only making much healthier jelly for our kids, but also cheaper then to buy the jelly at the store. My children without a dout will ALWAYS ask for PB&J for lunch everyday. So we make our own jelly to cut out the sugar and preservitives found in store bought jelly. The easiest way (but not the healthiest) to make jelly with agar is to let it soak for about 15 minutes (1/4oz agar to 1 & 1/4 cup of water) then boil it, turn it down to a simmer until flakes are dissolved. Then add in your favorite juice 1 & 1/4 cups worth. Pour into a mold like a jar or container set aside to cool, then refridgerate until its set. We like to puree our fruits for jelly though, but juice is another way too.
02/14/2010 3:58:58 PM CST
Leia Syal says ...
My husband is in a Paleo Diet, where no carbs are allowed. I was looking for alternatives for filler and side dishes. This information is wonderful,gave me so many choices, I've never even thought of seaweed as an ingredient. Thank you! Leia Syal
01/15/2011 1:35:08 PM CST
enk dorj says ...
Do you sell seaweed vegetable Kelp?
05/13/2011 12:36:22 PM CDT
bepkom says ...
@Enk: Our product selection varies from store to store so please check in with the store where you shop. Thanks!
05/13/2011 1:38:22 PM CDT
Kelly Knapp says ...
I am very confused. I have a ton of health problems and am being asked to try Limu. Tongan seaweed and other things. Do you know about this product? What is your opinion?
11/30/2011 4:24:42 PM CST
janejohnson says ...
@Kelly Sorry, Kelly, we're not familiar with this particular product.
12/01/2011 11:40:38 AM CST
Patricia says ...
I am looking for kelp noodles to replace regular noodles. I was told you may have them.
02/27/2014 11:52:28 PM CST
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@PATRICIA - Our options can differ but most stores should have these. Make sure to check with your store first and ask for it in the dairy department as my local store keeps them in the fridge!
02/28/2014 6:26:54 PM CST