Possible Risks of Eating Kelp and Seaweed

With all things, there is an element of risk. This goes beyond the normal “if you make any large life choices please consult your general practitioner” type of thing. Seaweed is no different. In some cases, eating seaweed or taken as a supplement can even have negative consequences, so do your research before plunging in.

I’ve been lucky enough not to have any negative effects but there are particular things you need to look out for before considering supplementing your diet with seaweed or consuming large quantities of seaweed as part of your regular diet.

Risks with Seaweed

Iodine

Iodine deficiency used to be a big thing back in the 70’s, and the government has been supplementing your table salt with iodine to make up for this for quite some time. Sea kelp, like most types of seaweed, has large quantities of iodine built into it because it absorbs most of that nutrient from the ocean. Because of the government programs, most of us in more developed countries do not suffer from iodine deficiencies. However, there is another danger to consider. Some people may be allergic to iodine, or together with your regular salt intake, you might take in too much iodine, should you be heavily relying on seaweed products and supplements as part of your nutritional intake. It’s also important to note that iodine allergy is not the same is a seafood allergy, which is actually reactions to allergens in the seafood itself.

Heavy metals

Seaweed absorbs toxic heavy metals, which is one of the health benefits Seaweed offer. But this benefit can have a darker side. It is a sad fact of our modern world, that some of our oceans are heavily polluted. Seaweed grown in polluted environment absorb quite a lot of the toxic heavy metals present in the water. By eating seaweed from a source that is polluted, you ingest some of these heavy metals which can have dire health consequences for you. Because of that, make sure you can trust the source of your seaweed.

Supplements

Because many seaweed capsules and seaweed products are listed as supplements, and not as medicine, the FDA does not have a say about the quantities of nutrients present or the quality of the material in the supplement. Companies also do not need to put a lot of information on their bottle wraps, branding, labels, and advertisements. This means that unscrupulous supplement companies can put any old algae into their capsule and call it kelp. Some kelp is not as good for you as others, and some might even have not the best effects on your health. Because of this, make sure you trust the source of your kelp or seaweed if you buy it in supplement from.

By taking these simple measures into consideration, you can get the health benefits from seaweed quite easily without much risk. It might sound dire, but in most cases, if you take the precautions, you can avoid running into trouble. Make sure to keep an eye on how you feel, as well as the dosage of supplements to make sure not to exceed the daily allowance of minerals such as iodine. And of course, as mentioned before, if you’re unsure, ask your general practitioner.

Sourcing Seaward Yourself, Naturally.

Buying seaweed is all well and good, but considering that the stuff grows on all coastlines all around the world means that there is another way to get seaweed into your kitchen. Even me living under a sign shop in Las Vegas have a source pretty close at hand, the Californian coastline, to harvest. Harvesting seaweed yourself means that you are sure that it is fresh, not to mention a lot cheaper than buying it from the shop.

Bare in mind, that there are some legalities involved in harvesting seaweed, so make sure you read up on your local laws. Additionally, see that before you take yourself into the ocean, you have the permission of the local landowner or governmental agency before you continue. In California, you can harvest about 10lbs of wet seaweed a day before you require any special licenses or permits. You’d be surprised how much that amounts to.

Here Are a Few Notes on Harvesting Your Own Seaweed:

Make sure you are harvesting from the ocean.

Sounds daft, I understand, but keep in mind that seaweed sometimes grows in rivers too. These tend to be poisonous, so it will not be a good idea to eat these. Most ocean species are reasonably safe, once you familiarize yourself with the edible species. Also keep in mind to avoid polluted areas, as seaweed tend to absorb toxic heavy metals (which is actually one of its health benefits to you.)

Cut seaweed off rocks, but leave the holdfast and stem.

Using a sharp knife, it is quite easy to get seaweed of the rock it’s anchored to. However, you must be careful not to cut too close to the rock when you harvest your seaweed. Seaweed does not have traditional roots, but anchor themselves to rock using something called a holdfast. It is like a foot that grows onto the rock itself from which the seaweed sprouts. By leaving the holdfast intact, the seaweed will soon recover from harvesting and will grow back ready for the next time that you are there.

Dry your seaweed for easy transport

It may look peculiar hanging your seaweed from a clothesline, but this is actually the best way to dry your seaweed. Unlike other herbs and vegetables, seaweed actually dries best in direct sunlight. Laying it on sand free flat rocks or on a clean surface will also be sufficient. It’s a lot lighter when all the water is gone and is quite easy to store. I often use glass jars to get the job done after mine’s been dried.

Types of Seaweed to Harvest:

Nori

Dark green in color, look for it attached to rocks in the intertidal zone. It is also delicious.

Giant Kelp

This grows in dense beds and can be identified by its large leaves and berry-like bulbs. Just be sure to check for herring eggs before harvesting this kelp, as it’s illegal to harvest the eggs without a permit.

Sea Lettuce

Strangely enough, Sea Lettuce looks almost exactly like your garden variety lettuce

Purple Laver

This thin, wide-leaved seaweed grows on coastal rocks. It’s nearly translucent when underwater.

Dragon Kelp (Alaria fistulosa)

This seaweed has long, single fronds, growing up to 100 feet in length.

If you ever need to learn more, then we recommend checking this video out:

How I Changed My Life with Seaweed, and How You Can Do It Too.

If you see me now, you wouldn’t recognize pictures of me from back in the day in Cornwall. I was unhealthy to the extreme, as many of my neighbors were. We grew up in a culture where we spend most of our nights in the pubs, not really concerned about being healthy. But as I grew older, I started feeling that I was missing something. I had no energy for anything and had aches all the time, which were not a good sign. Not even mentioning the other embarrassing ailments that I had. I could not go on the way I did.

A mate of mine, after heart attack scare, for which all the signs were there clear as day, found out about these kelp capsules that was supposed to have great health benefits, including detoxing and weight loss. I had to admit that I was both intrigued and skeptical. So after a bit of research and reading a certain book on why Japanese women live longer, I decided to go all aboard the health train. I could see my own life coming to a head. The warning signs, like big over the road billboards on my path of life, were there. I had to do something, or my heart attack scare could be next, and maybe I would not be as lucky as my mate.

Health Benefits of Seaweed

I looked at all the health foods in the organic produce aisles and all that, but that Kelp capsule never left my thoughts. That was the start of my personal research into seaweed. It turns out that dried or raw seaweed is quite a lot better than the type in capsule form because it contains all the nutrients of the capsule but also some extra fiber and such. Being a no-half-measure kind of guy, I started incorporating it into my diet.

The easiest place to start with was by replacing my usual junk food choices with sushi, focusing on maki and the like, which of course were wrapped in seaweed. Other lifestyle choices followed. The first month was tough, as you would expect it to be. Month two was easier. By month three I started feeling the difference. There was still quite a lot of work to do, as it turns out I was allergic to mold and had to move to a drier climate, but I still credit the change in food and the seaweed to kickstarting this journey to a healthier me.

Fast forward a few years,  some raw organic eating as well as the drier climate agreeing with me, and you could say I’m a changed man. I’ve taken charge of my health, and as such, my happiness. It all started with one small seaweed capsule and ended in under a sign shop in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Perhaps you don’t need to be as drastic in making changes as I have. That mate of mine with the Kelp capsules still gained the benefits of living a little better. Even small things such as that can kickstart your journey to better health. It is worth it, your body is the only one you will ever have, you will not get another one.

Why Eat Seaweed, a Cornish Man’s Guide

As a young man I grew up on a diet of Cornish pasties, meat pies, quite a lot of beer and too many potatoes to count. The net result of all this was that did not feel well at all for a large portion of my life, not to mention simply being large. As I was growing older I decided to make some changes, to try and live a more healthy, whole and organic lifestyle. A big part of this came from the discovery that there was a super food growing right outside my doorstep: seaweed.

Seaweed

I read a book called “Japanese Women Don’t Get Old Or Fat”, by Naomi Moriyama and William Doyle and found that the reason for their seeming longevity had to do with very specific foods that formed a staple in their diets, seaweed. Quite a law large portion of these women’s diets consisted of foods that were low calorie, but high nutritional value foods. Because of that, they seem to handle the aging process quite a lot better than the rest of us. That realization set me on a course to try and discover what I could do to live a more healthy life. This all started back in Cornwall, where a sort of seaweed revolution was taking place. I mean, people might well have walked down the street with banners proclaiming the time for unhealthy living was over.  I’ve come a long way since that discovery almost a decade ago, but I’ve taken the lessons that have learned in my Cornish village all the way to my little flat underneath the sign shop in Las Vegas Nevada.

Here’s a list of some of the things I’ve learned:

Protein content and calories

Seaweed has a high protein content, often as high as you can expect from beef or chicken. Spirulina algae sits at a whopping 70% protein content per weight of raw or sun-dried seaweed. The percentage goes down to around 20% for green algae, but if we take into consideration that beef has 26g of protein per 100g of mass, one can see that this stuff can be taken seriously as a source of protein. A huge plus side for seaweed as well is that there is no fat content to it as you would have with beef.

Health benefits

There’s been quite a lot of research done about the inhabitants of a Japanese island of Okinawa and why they live longer than anybody else. Turns out, this can again be attributed to the amount of seaweed and other ocean vegetables that they consume. Apparently, Okinawans consume 7 to 10 portions of the stuff on a daily basis, something that I have not been able to match by any means. But what I can attest to, is that I do feel a lot better since starting this journey. The signs were all there, I was heading towards a health disaster; heart palpitations, sleeplessness, my weight was spiraling out of control, but thanks to some life choices including moving to a drier climate of Las Vegas, Nevada helped me to be a lot more healthy.

Detox properties

If you have ever been to a spa, you’d remember that they often wrap you in swaths of green stuff that helps renew your skin, at least, that’s what the missus told me. That stuff is seaweed, and the benefits don’t stop when you go from being covered in it to eating it. Apparently, even the Soviets were using seaweed to help detox people of chemical strontium after Chernobyl. With that type of credentials, it is little wonder that seaweed is thought to also help detox you from more everyday chemicals such as Cadmium and lead that can be found in mundane things like cigarette smoke.

Gut health

We all need to take extra care of the gut flora we have, and luckily seaweed is great for that. Even though store-bought nine strain probiotics is a good start to getting your gut flora back in line. Researchers at the good old University of Newcastle upon Tyne in the UK found that one of the substances in brown algae, the type most seaweed products are made from, called Alginate, helps to strengthen the digestive tract. Good news for us!

Four Great Places to Buy Seaweed in Las Vegas, Nevada

There’s been quite a lot of written on the health benefits of seaweed recently, and I’ve grown quite health-conscious as I’m growing a little older. As a Cornish man living below a sign company in Las Vegas Nevada, I found myself quite far away from my usual haunts for healthy foods, principally my favorite superfood, Seaweed. I’ve driven around and found four places close to me that have the best selection of seaweed related products I could find.

Greenland Supermarket

Greenland Supermarket is a Korean grocery store where I go should I need to buy dried seaweed in a larger quantity. The only downside is most of the packaging is in the Korean or in Japanese! However, the great prices make it worth it. I mean, I can buy enough dried seaweed to span a road banner made out of for the same cost that more popular health foods stockists have for a small amount. They also have a great selection of other interesting Oriental health foods to have a look at.

Whole Foods

Anyone who is even slightly health-conscious knows about Whole Foods, and the one in Las Vegas is a pretty good one. Once, I even saw a van with a PETA car wrap standing outside that branch. Those guys are pretty serious about their health foods, so I took that as a good sign. It is a little bit more pricey than some of the other options on this list, but what can you do? Sometimes you have to buy from the best.

168 Market

This is another Asian style grocery store, more focused towards Chinese clients. They’ve got a great selection of seaweed and all the things that relate to it, as you would expect, but the main draw is the food court they have inside the building. It may be worth your while to go inside to try their signature Dim Sum, roast duck or bubble tea, if that’s your fancy. Their produce section is quite extensive as well. This is the primary place where I’m going should I have a hankering for Dragon fruit. Just be sure to not expect to find parking easily, this place is quite popular and the parking lot is not the best.

Trader Joe’s

For more general store feel, I head to Trader Joe’s. The great thing about this place is that it feels just like the little country stores that I used to visit while in the UK. Cornwall had all these little shops where one could buy organic produce from and Trader Joe’s is the only place in Nevada that I’ve found it recreates that feeling. I’ve had some trouble with the product’s expiry dates though, so it may always be a good idea to look at the labels they’ve printed on the packaging. Apparently, this is an issue not only with Las Vegas’ Trader Joe’s, but with all of them.

If you would like to know more about Seaweed harvesting, then you should definitely check the video below: