People have been eating seaweed for centuries, and while many of our ancestors ate it out of necessity and lack of variety, doing so was probably one of their healthiest habits.
A diet with added seaweed can improve an individual’s health significantly, and though there are many different kinds of seaweed out there, one of the most popular species is that of wakame, a brown, iodine-rich plant common in Japanese, Korean and Chinese cuisines.
What’s so special about wakame? First, it’s considered a nutritionally-dense, low-calorie food, meaning you get a bunch of health benefits at minimal cost to your waist-line, making this a growing favorite food among dieters. Second, wakame is easily incorporated into almost any food dish though it remains most popular in East Asian dishes, including miyeok guk, miso soup and tofu-based salads.
Though there has been some concern about trace amounts of radiation found in some wakame crops, most reputable suppliers of the seaweed have implemented protocols for monitoring radiation contamination. Individuals who remain concerned should look for wakame harvested in the North Atlantic Ocean rather than the Pacific Ocean.
The health benefits of wakame
Wakame contains only approximately 5 calories per serving, and like most other sea vegetables it is a significant source of iodine. According to a report from Natural News, in fact, seaweed has far surpassed land vegetables when it comes to iodine due to nutrient depletion common in over-used farm land. One hundred grams of wakame contains approximately 790 micrograms of iodine, the trace mineral essential to proper thyroid function.
But iodine and limited calories aren’t the only reasons to consider adding wakame into your diet. Mind Body Green indicates wakame is an excellent source of vitamins including vitamins A, C, E, and K. This seaweed also provides significant doses of vitamins D and B2.
Something else noteworthy among the nutritional benefits of wakame is its eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) content. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, EPA is one of several omega-3 fatty acids. A diet rich in EPA has been linked to positive effects on coronary heart disease, high triglycerides (fats in the blood), high blood pressure, depression, menopause, arthritis, and inflammation.
Most commonly found in cold water fish, 15-30 milligrams of EPA can be found in just 1-2 tablespoons of wakame. For individuals who aren’t keen on fish, this seaweed provides and excellent way to ensure fatty acid intake.
Easy wakame recipe
Looking for an easy wakame recipe? This versatile food is easy to incorporate into a meal plan, but those new to seaweed can try this easy recipe from Food & Wine Magazine:
Wakame and cucumber salad
- 2 ounces wakame seaweed
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- 1 tablespoon yellow miso paste
- 1 tablespoon finely grated ginger
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- salt, for seasoning
- 6 thinly sliced, small Persian cucumbers (or 1 large seedless cucumber)
- 2 thinly sliced scallions
Add wakame seaweed to a medium saucepan of boiling water and remove the saucepan from the heat; let stand until the wakame has softened, approximately 20 minutes. Drain the seaweed, rinse under cold water and pat dry. Slice into thin pieces and remove any hard, fibrous portions. In a medium bowl, whisk the rice vinegar, lime juice, yellow miso paste and ginger, along with the honey. Whisk in the remainder of the ingredients, saving the wakame, cucumbers and scallions until last. Toss well. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and serve immediately.