By Leyla Rose
Seaweed has been heralded as the new superfood. So is it really healthy or just media hype?
Despite the recent trends, seaweed has been used around the world for thousands of years, but has most notably been a prominent part of Asian diets for the longest period of time. There are thought to be over 10,000 species of seaweed. The most popular seaweed species are nori, which is dried in sheets and used to make sushi. Other varieties include dulse, arame, wakame, kelp and spirulina. Sea vegetables also have a long history in ancient medicine, folklore, farming and food growing in Europe.
Sea vegetables are packed with nutrients. Coming in a multitude of colours, textures, shapes and sizes, all types contain a rich supply of minerals, most prominently calcium, copper, iodine and iron. They are also rich in protein, fibre and vitamins, specifically vitamin K and folic acid, while being low in calories and fat.
Kelp is dried into sheets and added to a dish during cooking, or is soaked in water to soften them before eating.
Kombu is a brown kelp with a strong, mineral-rich flavour and used in soups.
Arame, another species of kelp, has a mildly sweet flavour and firm texture, that makes it an appealing addition to many dishes. Sometimes sold as flakes or granules, seaweeds are also used as an alternative to salt. Kelp noodles, which do not require cooking, are a greatgluten-free alternative, being low in calories but high in calcium.
Dulse is a seaweed with a softer, chewy texture. It is commonly eaten in dried form as a snack, or a healthy alternative to fried crisps.
Find seaweed in Asian supermarkets and experiment with the many varieties. Some will be ready to eat, others may need soaking. Even well-known supermarket chains are now stocking some types of seaweed – such as nori for sushi.