Seaweed The Superfood
Seaweed is not only an excellent topical therapeutic agent for the skin, it is also a highly nutritious food that is bursting in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and essential fatty acids, whilst boasting unique and extensive therapeutic activities. Here are three nutrients of particular significance:
Nori Seaweed (Porphyra sp) has been found to be an excellent source of vitamin B12 (cobalamin), a nutrient that is hard to acquire in plant based diets. It was previously thought that B12 could only be found in animal derived foods (Meat, eggs, dairy, fish, shellfish), but it has now been confirmed that nori contains bioavailable amounts of B12 and may prevent B12 deficiency in vegans. Plants do not contain B12 because they are unable to synthesize the necessary enzymes, however due to the unique nature of nori seaweed being an algae, it is able to synthesise B12 as a microorganism. Nori has been said to contain as much B12 as liver, approximately 59 mcg per 100 g of dry weight. Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient for all cellular function and is especially important or the nervous system where it is needed to form the myelin sheath and nerve cells.
Brown species of seaweed such as kombu/kelp, wakame, bladderwrack and arame are an abundant source of Iodine. Iodine is an mineral deemed as essential for life, and in 2009 Australia made it mandatory for all bread (excluding organic) to be fortified with iodised salt as a means to prevent insufficient dietary intake. Brown seaweeds are so rich in iodine that only 5 grams can provide you with up to 500% of your daily recommended intake. Like with all foods, moderation is key and consuming foods in their most natural state is also important - this theory was put to the test when a well known soy milk brand reformulated their product, swapping out pure kombu seaweed for a kombu powder, resulting in excessively high iodine levels and collateral damage in the form of 50 consumer thyroid health problems and following law suits. Such incidences are often individual and circumstantial in nature, as in most individuals after the required amount of dietary iodine that has been utilised by your thyroid gland, excess is eliminated via the kidneys. Iodine is an essential trace mineral required for normal thyroid function and healthy brain development in pregnancy and childhood development.
Fucoidans are naturally occurring molecules (sulphated polysaccharides) found in the cell walls of brown seaweed that have been found to have remarkable therapeutic actions that include, but are not limited to; anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiviral, anticancer and anticoagulant. Thereby benefiting a range of health conditions including cardiovascular disease, joint inflammation, and viral disorders such as herpes simplex. One of the most profound fucoidan research subjects being conducted, is the potential anti-cancer and anti-tumor properties, and its ability to work synergistically with current chemotherapy agents in lessening the toxic effects to the individual. Whist the results are promising, more research is needed to refine the fucoidan source and its use.