Kelp may not immediately sound like a delicious or desirable addition to your diet, especially if you were born and bred near the ocean as I was. Some of my earliest memories are of carving lumps of it into smooth balls with my father’s pocket knife. We would occasionally visit the more desolate areas of our nearby coastline to go hiking and spot sea lions. Kelp grew abundantly there, in underwater forests, with huge swathes of the shiny brown tendrils swaying in the tide.
In the wild, kelp (also known as brown seaweed) provides a haven for numerous sea creatures. In fact, it is an essential part of the ecosystem, feeding invertebrates like crabs, starfish and anemones. These creatures attract a lot of fish, who in turn, are dinner for the colonies of fleshy seals and sea lions that my family would encounter.
Why Should I Eat Kelp?
While the area of New Zealand that I grew up in boasts a wild coastline, it is also home to many dairy farms and so, the importance of a dietary intake of calcium was something constantly pushed upon us. Ironically though, kelp has the highest natural concentration of calcium of any food – 10 times more than dairy milk.
As a sea vegetable, kelp extracts components from the seawater and so we find high concentrations of minerals like iodine, iron, potassium and phosphorus. Thus, kelp can help us to regulate the thyroid hormones and therefore our metabolism and energy levels.
It is a natural source of vitamins A, B2, B6, C, D, E and niacin; and, as it is also filled with phytochemicals, kelp will help your body to detox heavy metal contaminants and radioactive elements.
Kelp is perhaps best known for it’s naturally high iodine content and therefore its use in treating thyroid issues. One of the most common thyroid issues is an underactive thyroid, which means that a thyroid gland is not making enough of the thyroid hormones that your body needs. An underactive thyroid can present itself as fatigue, depression, dry skin, cold intolerance or muscle pain or constipation. As just one serving of Kelp contains around 415 micrograms of iodine, it is often used as a treatment for thyroid issues. Increasing your intake of iodine, can your boost thyroxine (a thyroid hormone) levels.
For those of you who are aiming for diets low in salt, kelp serves as a great salt replacement. It contains glutamic acid that brings out the flavour and tenderises food.
Kelp is also naturally anti-inflammatory as it contains fucoidan, which is a type of complex carbohydrate that has been extensively researched for it’s ability to fight inflammation and even cancer.
How Can I Eat Kelp?
As such a nutritionally dense food, it is a staple in Asian cuisine. Kelp tea is a great option. Konbu is a Japanese kelp tea, which has a very unique flavour and is universally popular. I also recommend wakame salad, which is not technically kelp, but it is seaweed and so still offers many of the fantastic benefits that kelp does. In Korea, dasima is an important ingredient in the base broth of many Korean recipes.
You can also try some kelp noodles, just soak them in water to hydrate and and cover in your favourite sauce. However, my favourite way to consume kelp is in soups. Simply adding dried kelp or seaweed to any vegetable soup will increase its flavour and nutritional benefits.
While all seaweed is edible, bull kelp and giant kelp consist of carbohydrates that cannot be digested. So, it is recommended to buy kelp products, rather than harvest your own unless you are well aware of which variety you have on your back doorstep.
We wish you well on your healing journey. Let us know your experience with Kelp in the comments below!