New research touts health benefits of seaweed



PORTLAND — A new scientific article published in the journal Phycologia reveals what many Maine seaweed growers have been saying for years: adding seaweed to your diet is great for human health.

According to the article, which reviewed existing data on the health effects of at least 35 different seaweed species, adding seaweed to foods such as pizzas, hot dogs and pasta can help reduce cardiovascular diseases, the number one cause of premature death worldwide.

The research adds new credibility to Maine’s burgeoning sea greens industry, which has seen a recent upsurge with an expanding industry that now includes aquacultured sea greens, an annual seaweed festival and recent national and regional media attention.

A host of observations made in a recently published Danish article support a strong case for seaweed consumption.

Among them:

  • Seaweed salt is healthier salt. Seaweed’s content of potassium salts does not lead to high blood pressure, unlike the sodium salts typically encountered in processed food. Potassium is also an important nutrient.
  • Some seaweed species contain large amounts of natural iodine, which is critical to human health.
  • Seaweed contains beneficial proteins, antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, trace elements, dietary fiber and polyunsaturated fatty acids.
  • Seaweed contains umami — the fifth basic taste — which is known to promote satiety and hence regulate food intake in addition to reduce the craving for salt, sugar and fat.

“I’m not surprised that researchers are suggesting we incorporate more seaweed into the human diet,” said Seth Barker, co-founder of Maine Fresh Sea Farms, which grows and harvests seaweed in Walpole. “Our understanding of seaweed reveals an abundance of human health benefits, not to mention the fact that seaweed adds a delicious flavor and a conversation piece to foods.”