Wakame seaweed is a type of edible seaweed that has been cultivated in Japan and Korea for centuries. In addition to adding a unique flavor and texture to soups and salads, it appears to provide several essential nutrients for health.
Wakame seaweed (Undaria pinnatifida) has been associated with several health benefits, including lower cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, increased weight loss, and lower blood sugar.
It is a bright green edible seaweed with a distinctive flavor and texture. The sea vegetable is one of the three most common seaweed varieties in Japan.
Wakame seaweed properties
Wakame seaweed is low in calories but provides a good amount of important nutrients. Even in small amounts, it can help increase our intake of minerals like iodine, manganese, folate, magnesium, and calcium to help meet our nutrient needs.
Just two tablespoons (10 grams) of raw wakame seaweed offers:
- Energy: 5 calories
- Protein: 0.5 grams
- Carbohydrates: 1 gram
- Iodine: 280% of the reference daily intake
- Manganese: 7%
- Folate: 5%
- Sodium: 4%
- Magnesium: 3%
- Calcium: 2%
Like all algae, it is very low in carbohydrates . A typical 2-tablespoon serving provides less than 1 gram of carbohydrate. But even a more substantial half-cup (100-gram) serving provides only about 9 grams of carbohydrate. Most of the carbohydrate is starch. Wakame’s estimated glycemic load is zero if your serving size is two tablespoons, making it a low-glycemic index food.
There is hardly any fat either. Even the largest serving has less than 1 gram of fat, and most of it is healthy polyunsaturated fat. And luckily, wakame seaweed can boost the protein content of any dish, depending on how much you use. A small serving has less than 1 gram of protein, but the largest serving of 100 grams provides 3 grams of protein.
It’s also a good source of iodine, providing about 42 micrograms per gram of seaweed. A two-tablespoon serving would provide 420 micrograms of iodine, or nearly three times the recommended daily intake for adults. Other minerals include manganese, magnesium and calcium.
Of course, it also provides vitamins. Each two-tablespoon serving of wakame provides 5% of the recommended daily intake of folate. It also provides smaller amounts of vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin E, and pantothenic acid.
Consuming this type of algae has numerous health benefits. It is recommended not to avoid its intake when added to Japanese dishes.
Improves thyroid function
Wakame seaweed is a good source of iodine. In fact, it contains about 42 mcg of iodine per gram, which is about 28% of the recommended daily allowance. Iodine is an essential mineral that the body uses to make thyroid hormones, which help support growth, metabolism, protein synthesis, and cell repair.
Still, iodine deficiency is incredibly common, with some reports estimating as many as two billion people worldwide are affected.
A deficiency of this key micronutrient can contribute to hypothyroidism, a condition in which the thyroid cannot produce enough thyroid hormone to maintain normal function. Symptoms of iodine deficiency can include weight gain, fatigue, hair loss, and dry, scaly skin.
lowers blood pressure
High blood pressure is a condition that puts extra pressure on the heart and blood vessels, weakening the heart muscle and increasing the risk of heart disease.
Some research suggests that eating wakame seaweed may help keep blood pressure under control and optimize heart health. However, more human studies are needed to assess how it may affect blood pressure among the general population.
Lowers cholesterol levels
Cholesterol plays a role in many aspects of health, from hormone production to fat digestion. However, excess cholesterol in the blood can build up in the arteries and block blood flow, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Although current research is limited to animal studies, some studies have found that wakame may lower cholesterol levels and help improve heart health. Despite these promising results, understanding how wakame seaweed may affect cholesterol levels in humans requires more research.
Helps lose weight
If we want to lose some extra kilos, we can consider incorporating wakame in the diet. Not only is it high in several key nutrients, it has also been shown to promote weight management in animal studies. One study found anti-obesity effects and was able to reduce fat tissue.
Some studies have also noted that diet plans that regularly include seaweed can reduce body weight and waist circumference. Since most of the research has been done in animals, additional high-quality studies are needed to look at how wakame seaweed may affect weight in humans.
Although wakame seaweed is normally healthy, consuming excessive amounts can cause adverse side effects in some people. Certain brands may contain high amounts of sodium , which can increase blood pressure in people who are sensitive to its effects.
It is also high in iodine , containing about 28% of the RDA per gram. Although iodine is necessary for the production of thyroid hormones, consuming excessive amounts can harm thyroid health and cause symptoms such as fever, stomach pain, nausea, and diarrhea.
Seaweed may also contain some heavy metals and pollutants, but several studies have found the amounts to be too low to be of concern.
How to use wakame seaweed?
Wakame seaweed is enjoyed around the world for its smooth texture and mild flavor. It is also very versatile and can be used as an ingredient in a variety of dishes and recipes. In general, cooking seaweed reduces the iodine content. We can also eat more seaweed after boiling it, as the texture softens, making it easier to eat.
It is usually found in dried form, but it only needs to be soaked in water for about ten minutes before consumption to help soften and remove excess salt. After soaking, it can be used to easily replace green leafy vegetables like lettuce, spinach or arugula in our favorite salads. If we buy it fresh, we will have to cut the strips and hang them to dry.
We can also add the strips to soups to obtain an explosion of flavor and nutrients, as well as sushi or poke. Many of the Japanese restaurants serve wakame as a side dish topped with a little soy sauce or rice vinegar.