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Health Benefits of Sea Greens

Beverley has a degree in science and additional certifications in nutrition and aromatherapy. She's published on and offline.

Kelp

Kelp

Most of us have heard of kelp, the edible seaweed. It is an example of sea greens. They are loaded with macro and micronutrients, and bioactive compounds. Some scientists even label them “superfoods.”

Their nutritional components may provide an array of human health benefits, according to research. The compounds in kelp, for instance, may offer thyroid protection, bone health improvement, anticancer, weight loss, and anti-aging activities.

Nori, dulse, samphire, and sea moss also fall under the “superfood” sea greens category. What are the potential benefits of their compounds? And how are sea greens consumed?

Dulse

Dulse

1. Dulse

Dulse grows wild on the northern coast of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Its scientific name is Palmaria palmata. Other common names include red dulse, sea lettuce flakes, and dillisk. Fresh dulse resembles red lettuce in appearance and consistency. Dry leaves may look like thin sheets or flakes.

Regional monks, the Scots, and the Irish have considered it a food source for eons. It has a large fan club because of its salty, bacon flavor.

Beneficial Compounds in Dulse

Dulse’s beneficial compounds have been listed as dietary fiber, protein, B vitamins, minerals iodine, iron, potassium, and phytonutrients. Its potassium and iodine concentrations are quite high.

Potential Health Benefits of Dulse

Research findings indicate that the compounds in dulse may:

- Fight diabetes and other metabolic conditions

- Fight inflammation

- Show antioxidant activity: protect cells from stress-related issues by removing harmful free radicals.

- Help the body maintain electrolyte and fluid balance, necessary for the proper functioning of organs like the brain, the heart, and bone growth.

- Stimulate the function of certain hormones, for example, thyroxine which helps to regulate the thyroid gland. Iodine is necessary to produce this hormone.

Sushi with dulse wraps

Sushi with dulse wraps

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Side Effects of Dulse

Overconsumption of dulse puts excess iodine into the body. This may cause thyroid gland disorders or further deteriorate existing disorders.

Consuming too much dulse may also lead to extra potassium in the body. This may exacerbate poor kidney health.

Using Dulse

Dulse seaweed can be eaten raw or cooked, sprinkled on popcorn, salad, in soups, or added to eggs, bread, pasta, and stir-fries.

Nori sheets

Nori sheets

2. Nori

Another red sea algae. Nori thrives in cold, nitrogen-dense waters. Scientifically called scientifically Porphyra sp., has been eaten by the Japanese and the Scots for thousands of years.

The Japanese created a mid-eighteenth-century process, similar to papermaking, for drying nori. It gave them another way to enjoy the sea green besides eating it as a paste. The darker green and smoother sheets are considered top grade.

The flavor has been described as “briny” because it is strong, salty, and smoky.

Beneficial Compounds in Nori

Nori’s beneficial nutrients are: protein, dietary fiber, vitamins A, C, and B-12, minerals iron and iodine, EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids

Potential Health Benefits of Nori

Researchers believe that these compounds may furnish the following benefits of nori:

- Anemia prevention, especially in individuals who consume vegan or vegetarian diets. Those foods are often depleted of iron and B-12.

- Proper thyroid function and metabolism

- Boosts cell growth

- Boosts the immune system

- Balance blood cholesterol levels (omega-3 fatty acids)

- Cardioprotection (omega-3 fatty acids)

- Antioxidant activity

- Cancer protection

- Maintain healthy body weight

Side Effects of Nori

In addition to the good nutrients, researchers found that nori contains toxic substances like arsenic and cadmium. Excess consumption of these heavy metals can cause poisoning and other adverse effects, including hyperpigmentation, cramps, kidney and heart disease, cancer, and osteomalacia.

Using Nori

Nori sheets are used to roll sushi, garnish soups, noodles, and in stir-fries. It’s also available in readymade seasoning mixes which you can sprinkle on eggs, in dips, and in other dishes.

Sea Beans

Sea Beans

3. Samphire

Samphire, also called sea beans, sea asparagus, pickleweed, glasswort, or scientifically Salicornia, starts life as clusters of bright green young’uns before turning red. Individual “beans” are fleshy, crisp, and round. They shoot out between tiny, scaly leaves on stems that grow woody over time.

Sea beans are indigenous to North America, Europe, South Asia, and South Africa. They love salty marshes, mangroves, and beaches. The seaweed is actually classified as a halophyte because of its penchant for salt.

Beneficial Compounds in Samphire

Samphire is loaded with bioactive nutrients, especially protein, dietary fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium, fatty acids, polysaccharides, and polyphenols including flavonoids and phenolic acids.

Potential Health Benefits of Sea Beans

Scientific reports suggest that the salty halophyte may benefit human health in several ways:

- Boosting the immune system

- Promoting weight loss

- Supporting diabetes control

- Promoting hepatoprotective activity

- Promoting bone growth and bone health

- Supporting antioxidant activity

- Supporting lung, liver, and colon cancer cells apoptosis

- Supporting antimicrobial activity including asthma

- Promoting anti-aging activity

Side Effects of Samphire

Besides salt, heavy metals like arsenic, cadmium, and chromium, saponins, and oxalates have been found in sea beans. The high salt concentration may cause hypertension. The high iodine content may interfere with thyroid function. The saponins could harm the liver, kidney, and digestive tissues. The oxalates may cause kidney stones, stunt bone growth, and inhibit blood coagulation. And as we’ve learned heavy metals may cause poisoning.

Sea Bean Salad

Sea Bean Salad

Using Sea Beans

Sea beans' crunch makes it a perfect salad ingredient, a sauteed side dish, a crunchy snack, or a pickled delight. Some Asian countries make beverages like wine and vinegar.

Irish Moss

Irish Moss

4. Sea Moss

Scientifically known as Chondrus crispus, sea moss or Irish moss is native to the Atlantic beaches of the Caribbean, in Northern Britain, Europe, and North America. Like nori, it prefers cooler temperatures. History dictates that in the 1800s, the sea green was used by the Irish to treat respiratory, gastrointestinal, and kidney issues.

Growing up in the Caribbean, I remember my parents occasionally making a deliciously thick smoothie from this red alga. If you’ve consumed anything with carrageenan, for instance, ice cream, you too have consumed sea moss.

During my childhood, the rumor was that Irish moss was nutritious. Current-day research shows that it does contain beneficial nutrients.

Beneficial Compounds in Sea Moss

Sea moss is pack-full of protein, dietary fiber, polyphenols, including flavonoids like carotene, polysaccharides including carrageenan, omega-3 fatty acids, minerals calcium, sodium, potassium, iodine, iron, copper, and zinc.

Potential Health Benefits of Irish Moss

Research studies also imply that sea moss health benefits may include:

- Prevention of cardiovascular issues due to the polysaccharides’ anticoagulant properties

- Antioxidant activity

- Anticancer activity

- Neuroprotective activity

- Strengthening the immune system by boosting good gut bacteria proliferation

- Weight loss support

Side Effects of Sea Moss

Excess iodine can have adverse effects on the thyroid. And like the other sea greens, Irish moss can have high concentrations of harmful heavy metals.

Sea Moss Drink

Sea Moss Drink

Using Irish Moss

Sea moss can be used in smoothies and custards, and as a thickening agent for jellies, desserts, soups, and stews.

Sea Greens Potential Benefits

Sea Greens - Edible SeaweedPotential Health Benefits

Dulse

Fights diabetes and inflammation, shows antioxidant activity, helps maintain electrolyte and fluid balance, stimulates bone growth, and function of certain hormones including thyroxine

Nori

Prevents anemia, especially in individuals who consume vegan or vegetarian diets, supports thyroid function and metabolism, and cardio protection, balances blood cholesterol levels, boosts cell growth, the immune system, antioxidant, anticancer, and weight loss activities

Samphire/ Sea Beans

Boosts the immune system, weight loss, bone growth, antioxidant, anticancer (colon, lung, liver), hepatoprotective, anti-aging, and antimicrobial activity, and fight diabetes

Irish Moss

Prevents cardiovascular issues, promotes antioxidant, anticancer, neuroprotective, and weight loss activities, strengthens the immune system, boosts growth of good gut bacteria

Bottom Line

Sea greens or sea vegetables are edible seaweed. Scientists call them “superfoods” because they have nutrients that are important to human health. Dulse, nori, samphire, and sea moss are four sea greens with high concentrations of dietary fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals, omega-3 fatty acids, polysaccharides, and polyphenols.

Research shows that these compounds may boost our immunity, promote bone health, support anticancer, antioxidant, neuroprotective, cardioprotective, and anti-aging activity, and suppress diabetes and weight gain.

Sea greens also contain compounds like heavy metals, high salt, oxalates, and saponins which may cause adverse effects such as poisoning, thyroid, liver, and kidney issues.

Note there is no medical evidence to support dulse, kelp, nori, sea greens, and sea moss curing, treating, or preventing diseases. Always consult your healthcare provider for diagnoses, accurate medical information, and permission before consuming any nutraceuticals or supplements.

Sea greens are sold raw, fresh, dried, powders, seasoning mixes, gels, and capsules. They can be used in salads, soups, desserts, beverages, snacks, and as dietary supplements.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2022 Beverley Byer

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