FUNCTIONAL FOOD | Finding Nori

Hello again, everyone! This week I wanted to share with you the hidden nutritional wonders of seaweed, also known as sea vegetables. I know, I know, some of you might be making a yucky face right now but please bear with me.

Sea vegetables are the superfood of superfoods, yet they are not the most popular or fashionable of “vegetables”. Oh, but that will soon change, my little grasshoppers. If sea vegetables were in the nutrition Olympics, they would probably win gold in most, if not all, categories. Sea vegetables offer the widest range of minerals of any food. I’ll repeat that: of ANY food. They pretty much contain all the minerals found in the ocean and, interestingly enough, many of the same minerals found in your blood. Maybe vampires should have just stuck to eating sea vegetables rather than biting people on the neck: less of a mess, no body to deal with afterwards and…ok, ok. Where were we? Ah, yes, sea vegetables!

Sea vegetables contain significant amounts of calcium, iron, folate, chlorophyll, B5 Pantothenic Acid, magnesium, fiber, Vitamin C, E, and K, zinc, amino acids, fatty acids, phosphorous, potassium and sodium, among maaaaany others. If this isn’t enough (some of you probably stopped after the first line of nutrients ;) they also contain lignans, which are plant compounds that have cancer protective properties; plus sea vegetables are great for detoxifying from radiation and heavy metal exposure. Additionally, they can even aid to decrease our body’s inflammatory response. Holy wow! Sea vegetables, can I marry you?

But I can almost hear you all scream: “But Gina, sea vegetables don’t taste good and they smell like seal breath!” And to that, my dear friends, I can only say that sea vegetables can be a delicious part of your meal or, even better, a refreshing and delicious meal all by themselves–perfect for a summer evening! I would never expect you to have them every day. Hell no! Variety is the spice of life. But incorporating them into your diet occasionally can provide you with many nutritional benefits!

So what makes them so special? Below is a list of a few of the nutrients found in these bad boys and why having such nutrients is important for all you sexy kittens.

Iodine: the thyroid incorporates iodine into its structure which means that it is essential to have some form of iodine in your diet (duh!). Rather than relying on processed iodized salt, why not go directly to a natural, rich source so incredibly vast in vitamins and minerals?

B5-Pantothenic acid is an energy booster, it has an important role in red blood cell production, cholesterol synthesis, sex and stress related hormones. (Damn you crazy hormones!)

Sodium: For those of us who avoid sodium as if it were the plague: I’m with you. But sodium doesn’t necessarily have to be shunned all together. Obtaining some sodium in your diet is important as it is needed to make hydrochloric acid–the stomach acid we all have that helps us break down and metabolize proteins and additionally aids us to absorb certain vitamins and minerals. (One quick note while we are on the subject of sodium: always, ALWAYS drink enough water. One quick way to calculate the amount of water you should be drinking per day is to half your body weight and drink that many ounces of water; 8 ounces equals 1 cup. This way you can help your kidneys flush out any extra sodium your body doesn’t need. And since all of you lucky souls are working out at Motivate, it would be best to drink more than that!)

Magnesium: The de-stress mineral; also known as a relaxation mineral. We could all use more magnesium in our diets. Magnesium alleviates tension and helps people to calm down. It is involved in nearly every body process, mainly inside the cells. It makes it easier for nutrients to get in, and waste to move out, and helps maintain blood sugar balanced. It can also be a great help for women going through dreaded menopausal symptoms. Let’s always make sure to be eating foods rich in magnesium shall we?!
Think green! You can find magnesium in leafy greens, seeds, whole grains, nuts and seeds, beans and legumes, avocado, cacao, among others.

Calcium: Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body; it builds and maintains bones, helps muscles contract, helps hormone production and supports the nervous system. It also helps settle nerves–we all have those days we just want to tear our hair out, don’t we? ;)

Phosphorous is necessary for energy production and required by every cell in our bodies. It works hand in hand with calcium to mineralize bones and teeth. A good smile goes a long way :)

Ok, so I could go on and on listing the minerals and amazing nutritional aspects of sea vegetables but I don’t want to risk boring you with the details. So, without further ado, here is a recipe of a sea vegetable salad that is not only filling and refreshing, but it will help replenish your bodies of all these minerals, specially after a good and hard class at Motivate!

One last side note: Buying your sea vegetables is the easy part because they are sold dried and have a long shelf life, which means you can store them in your pantry and use them whenever you like! To prepare, all you will need to do is rehydrate/soak them in water for about an hour. I’m not endorsing any particular brand here but I do enjoy the “Maine Coast Sea Vegetables” (they are wild and certified organic) and “Emerald Cove” brands. And a last friendly warning: Your kitchen may smell like the beach for just afew minutes when preparing this salad. But who doesn’t love the beach, right?

Ingredients (serves 2 hungry hippos):

photo:  Gina Mehta

photo:  Gina Mehta

1 cup Arame (soaked for at least 1 hours before preparing)
1 cup Wakame (soaked for at least 1 hours before preparing)
1 cup Kelp/Kombu (soaked for at least 1 hours before preparing)
1⁄2 cup chopped cucumber
1 ripe avocado

For the dressing (with some nutritional notes):

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar - hello healthy skin and good digestion
1 tsp organic miso -  (this fermented goddess provides our bellies with friendly bacteria that aid in our digestion, absorption of vitamins and minerals, which also contributes to healthy and glowing skin)
Juice of 1 lemon: hello vitamin C
1 inch fresh grated ginger or 1 tsp ginger powder...I could write a whole post on this amazing digestive aid, so I better not start now.
1 tbsp sesame seeds - Did someone say more calcium?
1 avocado - I’ve already professed my love for this nutritionally dense, fatty fruit. Nothing could ever break our bond. We are in a committed relationship and I hope to grow old eating many, many avocadoes.
½ cup chopped cilantro
1-2 tsp chilli flakes
Optional: 1 tbsp sesame oil


Directions:

Soak arame in a bowl with water. In a separate bowl soak your kombu/kelp and wakame with water. Let them sit for an hour.
Drain the water and squeeze the water from all the sea vegetables. Really squeeze those bad boys! Specially the Kelp/Kombu.
Put your kombu and wakame in a bowl and using a pair of kitchen scissors, cut it into small, bite size pieces. This is important as you don’t want to be chomping on massive bites of seaweed. Then add the arame and mix.
Mix the salad dressing ingredients
Add the dressing along with the rest of the ingredients and mix.
Let sit 5 minutes.
Enjoy!

And while on the subject of sea vegetables, spirulina and chlorella are other favorites and usually sold in dried powdered form and can be added to smoothies or homemade concoctions.. But I’ll shut up now andleave those recipes for another post. ;)

Love,
Gina

Every two weeks, I will be posting nutrition and wellness advice, recipes, and interesting findings worth sharing with all of you. I know that we all have different interests and needs so I will try to cover different topics with every post. I would love to read your feedback so I encourage you to share your thoughts and/or questions in the comments section below.

If you would like to know more about me, please visit my website Alimental G.