You have surely heard how important and beneficial algae are; however, are you familiar with their particular health benefits?
Do you know how to use them in your everyday nutrition?
Do you know in which forms they come?
Should you opt for red, brown or green ones?
Did you know that seaweed (marine algae), a term used to refer to some members of red, brown and green algae, are widely used in medicine, nutrition, and food industry? You probably did, but the question is how.
Moreover, did you know that kelp, a type of seaweed, is in many ways important for a healthier lifestyle?
All the answers to these questions and much more you will find out in this article.
Question No. 1: What are algae?
No specific definition for algae exists, at least not the one that is generally accepted. Algae are commonly explained as a large group of organisms, that “have chlorophyll as their primary photosynthetic pigment” and that they “lack a sterile covering of cells around their reproductive cells” (this definition comes from Introduction to Botany, written by Murray Nabors). When it comes to seaweed, they are described as macroscopic multicellular marine algae, and red, brown and green algae are included as members. Seaweed is also a colloquial expression, and in a way lacks definition as well. Whether we have a definition or not, what interest us the most are a certain type of seaweed called kelp, and for these brown algae, we have numerous reasons to get more familiar with, and plenty of scientifically researches to confirm their benefits.
Question No. 2: What is Kelp?
Known as brown algae, kelp comes from the deep oceans. Atlantic and Pacific oceans are primarily sources of these algae. Due to the sunlight, kelp thrives, and due to the water, it takes essential nutrients and minerals present in the water. The surroundings in which it grows, makes this algae nutrient-rich plant, especially important for us and our organism. From water, kelp takes minerals such as iodine, and has other trace minerals that are not usually found in the soil.
Being the natural source of iodine, it is considered much safer for the body than chemicals.
We need kelp for many reasons, most importantly for
Regeneration (nails and hair)
Bloodstream and red blood cells
Kelp comes in tablet form and as a powder. Kelp can also be made into a tea.
Question No. 3: In particular, what are the benefits of kelp?
#1 Benefit: Metabolism and body temperature regulation
Thyroid is responsible for metabolism regulation and body temperature. Keeping our metabolism strong is beneficial in numerous ways; one of the most important benefits is weight regulation. When metabolism is strong, we can control our weight, and strong metabolism is important for those who want to maintain healthy weight or lose a few pounds.
Incorporating kelp in daily nutrition will certainly improve weight management. Optimal body temperature is one of the signs of optimal health related to our organism in general. When our body temperature is normal, other functions of our body are synchronized as well. Kelp can keep our body temperature optimal. As a natural diuretic, kelp is excellent for those troubling with water weight and flushing the toxins out of the system.
#2 Benefit: Hair and nail growth and regeneration
Kelp is no stranger for cosmetic industry, many products focused on hair and nails include kelp as their primary substance. By now kelp has been used for strengthening nails and supporting hair growth. When taken orally, kelp supports the regeneration of nails. Many use kelp to hasten the buildups of the nail bed, especially when natural nail bed is damaged. Kelp is also used to strengthen hair and stimulate hair growth due to its support of the pituitary gland. It is a natural supplement for nails and hair.
#3 Benefit: Fighting off infection
Kelp is a natural antibiotic, and it helps the body fighting off infections. During cold and flu season, kelp is great in numerous ways when it comes to sinus congestion. Due to iron and magnesium, this alga is beneficial for bloodstream, because it supports the creation of red blood cells. Kelp gives us energy we need to fight of infection.
#4 Benefit: Lowering LDL cholesterol
Numerous studies were done in order to determine the benefits of kelp powder for lowering bad cholesterol. One study, published in the journal of the Pharmaceutical Biology in 2010, showed that kelp or Laminaria japonica could lower cholesterol levels. The study confirmed that kelp reduced levels of triglycerides and raised good cholesterol. Adding kelp powder into your diet may be very beneficial; however, before including the powder in daily nutrition, consult with your doctor.
#5 Benefit: Lowering blood sugar
Another study published in 2008 in Nutrition Research and Practice researched the effects of seaweed in lowering blood sugar levels in patients diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. In the study, the researchers concluded that eating seaweed influences glycemic control. They did emphasize that kelp powder should not replace the common medicine; it should instead offer additional support.
#6 Benefit: Lowering breast cancer risk
According to the American Cancer Society, the risk of breast cancer among Japanese women is lower due to the diets rich in sea vegetables, especially kelp. Studies showed that sea vegetables, in particular kelp, have substances that initiate the death of cancer cells in rats. Although studies that tested kelp supplement with humans still have no conclusive evidence, it is however important to notice the potential of this sea vegetable.
#7 Benefit: Important for women
Kelp has many important nutrients (iron, calcium, potassium), and due to these nutrients, it is seen as a great vitamin for women that should be included in daily nutrition. Kelp is especially beneficial during monthly cycles. However, one should always discuss taking kelp with a physician.
The kelp we find in health food stores includes different species than those eaten in Japan; however, health nutritionists believe that these species offer similar benefits. Although it has been recently introduced to our diets and lifestyle, kelp has a long history of usage in nutrition and as a prevention herb.
Seafood Choices: Balancing Benefits and Risks (2007). National Academic Press.
McConnaughey, E. (2012). Sea Vegetables, Harvesting Guide. Naturegraph Publishers.
Images by:123RF Photo Stock