Seaweed also known as sea vegetable draws an extraordinary wealth of mineral elements from the sea that can account for up to 36% of its dry mass. The mineral macronutrients include sodium, calcium, magnesium, potassium, chlorine, sulfur and phosphorus; the micronutrients include iodine, iron, zinc, copper, selenium, molybdenum, fluoride, manganese, boron, nickel and cobalt.
Seaweed is a loose, colloquial term encompassing macroscopic, multicellular, benthic marine algae. The term includes some members of the red, brown and green algae. Seaweeds can also be classified by use (as food, medicine, fertilizer, industrial, etc.).
Seaweed is a source of iodine necessary for thyroid function and to prevent goitre. However The high iodine content of seaweed can produce iodine toxicity if large amounts of seaweed are consumed.
Aside from iodine, seaweed is one of the richest plant sources of calcium, but its calcium content relative to dietary requirements pales in comparison to the iodine. The calcium content of seaweeds is typically about 4-7% of dry matter. At 7% calcium, one gram of dried seaweed provides 70 mg of calcium, compared to a daily dietary requirement of about 1,000 mg. Still, this is higher than a serving of most non-milk based foods.
Protein content in seaweed varies somewhat. It is low in brown algae at 5-11% of dry matter, but comparable in quantitative terms to legumes at 30-40% of dry matter in some species of red algae. Green algae, which are still not harvested much, also have a significant protein content, i.e., up to 20% of dry matter. Spirulina, a micro-alga, is well known for its very high content, i.e., 70% of dry matter.
Seaweed contains several vitamins. Red and brown algae are rich in carotenes (provitamin A) and are used, in fact, as a source of natural mixed carotenes for dietary supplements. The content ranges from 20-170 ppm. The vitamin C in red and brown algae is also notable, with contents ranging from 500-3000 ppm. Other vitamins are also present, including B12, which is not found in most land plants.
In ancient Egypt seaweed used as a treatment for patients with breast cancer but the modern use of chemotherapy and radiation therapy makes the health benefit of seaweed far more obvious because it provides a natural detox. Over the past few years seaweed has been used as part of a protocol for the extraction of mercury amalgam detoxification and can help where there is evidence of mineral imbalance and thyroid disorders.
Cholesterol, blood pressure, heart disease is any medical conditions that are familiar in our modern society and the link has been frequently made to a high salt intake. Very small amounts of salt as a whole, ideally in the form of seaweed has been proven as an antidote to excess sodium consumption. In addition, seaweed may prove useful for bronchitis and other respiratory infections because it is a natural multivitamin contains soothing, mucilaginous gel that specifically rejuvinate the lungs and digestive tract.
Another problem seaweed can assist by helping the body to maintain acid / alkaline balance in the blood, lymph nodes and cells. Modern diets tend to support the carbohydrates, proteins and fats, which all could be a surplus of acid deposits if our bodies do not have the means to complete their metabolism. Often this produces food allergy and intolerance, with acids build up in the system which is the cause of heartburn, indigestion, and ulcers. Seaweed can neutralize acids so that they can be safely eliminated and help restore balance.
Seaweed has very little fat, ranging from 1-5% of dry matter, although seaweed lipids have a higher proportion of essential fatty acids than land plants. Green algae, whose fatty acid make-up is the closest to higher plants, have a much higher oleic and alpha-linoleic acid content. Red algae have a high EPA content, a substance mostly found in animals, especially fish. Seaweed has a high fiber content, making up 32% to 50% of dry matter. The soluble fiber fraction accounts for 51-56% of total fibers in green (ulvans) and red algae (agars, carrageenans and xylans) and for 67-87% in brown algae (laminaria, fucus, and others). Soluble fibers are generally associated with having cholesterol-lowering and hypoglycemic effects.
Sources: itmonline.org, wikipedia.com, sciencedaily.com, frut-veg.blogspot.com