What is a Kelp?
Kelp is one of the largest and fastest growing seaweed or marine algae that belongs to the brown algae family known as Phaeophyta. This is why even though kelp resembles an underwater plant, it is, in fact, a protist and belongs to the same family of organisms such as amoebas and molds.
Kelp is a large type of seaweed that has numerous health benefits and kelp is today, already there in many of the things we are using on a day to day basis, from ice cream to toothpaste.(1)
Kelp grows in kelp forests in shallow oceans and it can reach up to great heights, nearly 250 feet to be exact. There are nearly 30 different varieties of kelp and the most common ones are kombu, bongo kelp, and giant kelp. These three types of kelp account for almost 21 percent of Japanese meals and the regular intake of kelp is believed to be one of the main reason behind the above average life span of the Japanese population(2).
Kelp has many health benefits, ranging from its cancer-fighting properties to playing a big role in balancing the hormones in the body.
Health Benefits of Kelp
Kelp is perhaps one of the most nutrient-dense foods that are also low in calories and in fat. Several studies have shown that kelp has a powerful effect on obesity and weight loss, although there is a lack of consistent findings from these studies. The presence of natural fiber alginate that is found in kelp is known to act as a fat blocker and stops the absorption of fat in the gut itself. At the same time, kelp is an excellent source of many vitamins and nutrients, including:
However, kelp is also known to excel at its iodine content. In fact, this superfood is one of the best natural sources of iodine that can be found in any type of foods, giving kelp its hormone-balancing capabilities.
The high iodine content in kelp plays an important role in the manufacturing of thyroid hormones, which helps manage the body’s metabolism and also helps the female body during a healthy pregnancy. On the other hand, a deficiency in this critical mineral iodine has been known to have a huge role to play in disorders and diseases such as prostate disorders, polycystic ovarian disease, autoimmune diseases, thyroid conditions, and even diabetes. Since your diet is the only exclusive source of getting the body’s required iodine content, it is, therefore, extremely important that you pay close attention to eating foods that are rich in iodine.(3)
Research done by the Hanyang University as well as the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) has shown that kelp has some incredibly powerful cancer-fighting capabilities, especially against colon and breast cancer.(4) The high levels of antioxidants present in kelp not only help in fighting free radicals but also helps people with diabetes.(5)
Ways to Include Kelp in Your Diet
There are many ways in which you can incorporate a healthy dose of kelp in your diet. These include:
Make Noodles In A Low-Carb Style
Kelp noodles will not only be delicious, but they are now easily available at most health food stores as well as in grocery stores. They can also be bought online. You should try to swap out your regular pasta in favor of this low-carb alternative. You can use them to create a delicious kelp noodle salad.
Have Tacos With Kelp Salsa
While you must have tried all types of salsa, have you ever thought of trying kelp salsa? Some companies are now making different types of seaweed salsa such as Sea Verde, Original, and Campfire. The company Barnacle Foods is also making tangy kelp pickles.
Seaweed snacks can make for a crunchy morsel that has umami flavor. Kelp chips can be found at many grocery stores, or you can even try to make them at home by yourself.
Use Kelp For Seasoning
You can change your regular seasoning to shift to using the kelp for seasoning. Seaweed seasoning is also readily available online and can also be found in many grocery stores and health stores. Kelp seasoning makes a great flavor addition to popcorn, stir-frys, and marinades.
Kelp Soup or Salad
You can also use kelp in soups and salads. Making kelp stock, kelp-infused soups, are both fantastic ways to include kelp in your meals. In Korean tradition, kelp soup is served after pregnancy due to its high nutrition value.
Conclusion: Try To Keep It Natural
When you have decided to consume kelp, it is best to try and have it in its natural form. There is a chance that kelp supplements can have some serious side effects and post health risks. Furthermore, the excessive amount of iodine in kelp supplements can also harm your thyroid.
According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) (6), dietary intake of 150 micrograms (mcg) of iodine per day. A pound of raw kelp is known to contain nearly 2,500 mcg of iodine, so you should eat kelp in moderation and read the label on the package before you start taking kelp.
- ceanservice.noaa.gov. (2019). How do people use kelp?. [online] Available at: https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/pplkelp.html [Accessed 13 Jun. 2019].
- Zava, T.T. and Zava, D.T., 2011. Assessment of Japanese iodine intake based on seaweed consumption in Japan: a literature-based analysis. Thyroid research, 4(1), p.14.
- Ahad, F. and Ganie, S.A., 2010. Iodine, iodine metabolism and iodine deficiency disorders revisited. Indian journal of endocrinology and metabolism, 14(1), p.13.
- Kim, M.S., Kim, J.Y., Choi, W.H. and Lee, S.S., 2008. Effects of seaweed supplementation on blood glucose concentration, lipid profile, and antioxidant enzyme activities in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Nutrition research and practice, 2(2), pp.62-67.
- Aceves, C., Anguiano, B. and Delgado, G., 2013. The extrathyronine actions of iodine as antioxidant, apoptotic, and differentiation factor in various tissues. Thyroid, 23(8), pp.938-946.
- Ods.od.nih.gov. (2019). Office of Dietary Supplements – Iodine. [online] Available at: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iodine-HealthProfessional/ [Accessed 13 Jun. 2019].