Seaweed is an extremely nutritious food with many applications
There is an increasing interest in algae in the world for nutrition and preparation of seaweed dishes. Algae are a natural source of health, but they are also popular for returning to traditional values (as in the Far East, where algae are actually always in trend). There is already a lot of scientific knowledge and evidence about the health potential of algae. Many people consider algae to be a mine of health.
Seaweed can be used to prepare soups, salads, chips, pasta, croquettes, risotto and even cakes. Algae are considered a foodstuff of modern times, even though they have always been a part of people’s diet. The first traces of the use of algae in food come from ancient Japan 10,000 years ago. There is evidence that seaweed was also used on the coasts of England and Iceland. Seaweed is also called sea grass. Today it is used in all parts of the world along the seas and oceans (Ireland, Scotland, Norway, South America, Polynesia, Australia, New Zealand, China, Hawaii and especially in Japan).
Algae have a specific sea taste and contain a lot of nutrients. They contain about 50% to 60% complex sugars, 7% proteins, 30% minerals and vitamins, 10% to 20% water and only up to 2% fat. They contain more minerals and vitamins than any other food (including vegetables and dairy products). All nutrients from algae are easily absorbed by the human body. They affect the reduction of fats and cholesterol in the blood, strengthen bones, nails and hair and restore the reproductive system.
In Japan, algae are used in everyday food, given that the Japanese are historically oriented towards the ocean (due to lack of land). The most famous research on the influence of algae on human longevity was published in the book “Okinawa Diet”. It confirms the medicinal properties of algae. It is known that the longest-lived people on Earth live on the island of Okinawa, who are very active even after 70 years of age.
The research was carried out for 12 years. It was found that Okinawans eat 20% to 30% less than other Japanese residents but eat more algae than others. Algae are used in folk Eastern medicine. They are useful against swelling, high pressure, gynecological problems, problems with veins, stomach, weak blood and for purification.
Research carried out in the 50s of the last century shows that algae have the effect of a natural antibiotic (because they contain fatty acids, terpenes, tannins and bromophenols). Professor Yuichi Nakazawa’s (from Hokkaido University in Japanese city of Sapporo) research from 1974 shows that algae act as tumor growth inhibitors. It has been proven that they normalize the work of the thyroid gland.
Cultivation and production of algae
The industry of growing and producing algae (for domestic and foreign needs) has been developed in Japan. That’s why Japanese seaweed can be found all over the world. In Japan, there are seaweed companies on clean parts of the coast. There, algae are grown, extracted, dried in the sun, and cut and packed according to needs. Muso and Mitoku are two of the largest and most famous Japanese seaweed producers. These companies guarantee high quality, so they are recognizable all over the world.
6 types of algae are used in cooking
These are arama, hijiki, kombu, wakame, nori, dulse and agar-agar. Microalgae spirulina is used in tablet form. Algae can mostly be purchased in 50 gram packages. It is best to keep algae in well-closed bags (after opening) so that they do not collect moisture. Thus, they lose their taste and nutrients.
Algae are eaten in small quantities. One spoonful with a meal is quite enough – nutritionists recommend.
On the market, you can find food supplements made from natural astaxanthin and the most famous algae-spirulina (known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that strengthen the body). These products contain the most powerful antioxidants obtained from algae (astaxanthin) which have 550 times greater effect than vitamin E and 10 times greater effect than beta-carotene. Astaxanthin also protects against sunlight, harmful effects of pollution, UV radiation and immune stress. It has a beneficial effect on the beauty, health and protection of the skin.
NASA has considered spirulina as a possible supplement for food that would be used in space. Many people call spirulina a superfood because it has a good effect on athletes, children, pregnant women, nursing mothers, convalescents and other people (and who use special nutritional regimes due to the increase of natural energy potential).
Spirulina contains all essential amino acids. Complete and easily digestible proteins make up 60% of spirulina. It contains B group vitamins, minerals (such as organic iron and selenium), and 28 times more non-toxic biological iron than beef liver. Spirulina is an excellent source of GLA (gamma linoleic acid), contains three times more protein than fish, poultry and red meat, contains 5 times more calcium than unprocessed milk, and 25 times more beta-carotene than carrots. Spirulina is an alkaline food that helps maintain a normal (ideal) pH of the organism.
Albala, Ken, ed. (2011). Food cultures of the world encyclopedia. Santa Barbara, California, USA