By Carol Anne Wasserman
Sea vegetables, commonly referred to as seaweed, grow in the ocean, and are one of the most nutritious foods on the planet. Nori is probably the most common type of sea vegetable New Yorkers eat; it’s the black paper-like substance sushi is wrapped in.
High in antioxidants, B vitamins, calcium, iron and many trace elements, sea vegetables are one of nature’s best medicines. Our blood is loaded with minerals; seaweeds are too, which is why they are so adept at making strong and healthy blood; the first step towards a healthy body! Seaweeds also detoxify the blood, and help to rid the body of the radiation we receive from cell phone, computer, and microwave oven use. Snacking on just 1 sheet of nori per day (purchased at any health food store in the city) helps clean the blood of radioactive elements. After a while you may notice you have a clearer head and feel a little less foggy come mid-afternoon.
Sea vegetables are excellent for bone health too. Women are especially prone to osteoporosis as we age. Cup for cup, sea vegetables and dairy foods have comparable amounts of calcium. But, only 12 percent of the calcium in dairy foods is usable by the human body, whereas 98 percent of the calcium in sea vegetables is absorbed and used by our bodies! Oil aids in our ability to absorb calcium, so it’s always beneficial to cook seaweed with a little oil, or enjoy alongside a dish that has been made with oil.
Besides nori, another common type of sea vegetable we eat in New York is wakame, which are the slick and tender black or dark green pieces floating in miso soup. Arame and hijiki are likely served as side dishes in Japanese restaurants; picture a small bowl of 1 inch pieces of black spaghetti. Kombu is used in cooking to make dashi, a flavorful Japanese soup broth, and when cooked with beans, makes them more digestible and less gaseous forming.
Some people immediately love the taste of seaweed and others of course, can’t stand it. Interestingly, once the body gets a taste of it, it will start to want more, even crave it, just the way you might crave chocolate. I’m proof, as I actually get cravings for sea vegetables. The minerals in seaweed are so abundant and essential for health, that it’s only natural the body will desire more once it gets a taste.
Purchasing dumpling wrappers and making a filling that includes seaweed is a great way to sneak sea vegetables into kids who won’t eat it otherwise. Cooking dried beans with a stamp-sized piece of kombu, for the entire cooking period, then removing it at the end, will impart tons of nutrition with none of the seaweed taste (this method is especially good for getting someone who doesn’t like seaweed to start enjoying it, though it will take a little while).
Super Quick, Nutritious, Delicious Dinner, For the Whole Family
• Toss a few dried shiitake mushrooms and a stamp-sized piece of kombu into a stock pot with 4 cups water (less or more depending on how much soup you want).
• Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.
• Remove and discard kombu (or, if you don’t mind the taste, mince the kombu and add back into the stock). Chop the shiitakes and put them back into the stock.
• Add dried noodles (I like Japanese style soba or udon, but anything will do, including leftover rice) and thinly sliced or chopped vegetables and/or tofu cubes if desired.
• When the noodles and vegetables are almost tender add soy sauce, shoyu, or tamari to taste, you want the soup slightly salty. (Go to the health food store or Whole Foods and purchase a brand of soy sauce without sugar in the ingredients list).
• Optional: stir in 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil at the end of cooking, for an extra special rich, complex, nutty flavor.
• Pour soup into individual bowls and garnish with chopped scallions, parsley, or cilantro.
Trick of the trade: Next time you or a loved one gets a cut, take a small piece of nori seaweed, place it on the cut, then put on the band-aide. The minerals in the nori will stop the bleeding and rapidly heal the cut. I do this all the time and it really works!
Carol Anne Wasserman is a Macrobiotic Counselor specializing in weight loss and women’s health. She has a private practice in Manhattan. Visit her website at www.GetHealthyWithCarol.com.