Why would anyone want to eat seaweed? Because sea vegetables offer the broadest range of minerals of any food, containing virtually all the minerals found in the ocean–the same minerals that are found in human blood. Sea vegetables are a very good source of the B-vitamin folate, and magnesium, and a good source of iron, calcium, and the B-vitamins riboflavin and pantothenic acid. In addition, seaweeds contain good amounts of lignans, plant compounds with cancer-protective properties.
Lignans have been shown to inhibit angiogenesis, or blood cell growth, the process through which fast-growing tumors not only gain extra nourishment, but send cancer cells out in the bloodstream to establish secondary tumors or metastases in other areas of the body. In addition, lignans have been credited with inhibiting estrogen synthesis in fat cells as effectively as some of the drugs used in cancer chemotherapy. In postmenopausal women, fat tissue is a primary site where estrogen is synthesized, and high levels of certain estrogen metabolites (the 4OH and 16OH metabolites) are considered a significant risk factor for breast cancer.
In addition to lignans, seaweeds are a very good source of the B-vitamin folic acid. Studies have shown that diets high in folate-rich foods are associated with a significantly reduced risk for colon cancer.
Promote Healthy Thyroid Function
Sea vegetables, especially kelp, are nature’s richest sources of iodine, which as a component of the thyroid hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), is essential to human life. The thyroid gland adds iodine to the amino acid tyrosine to create these hormones. Without sufficient iodine, your body cannot synthesize them. Because these thyroid hormones regulate metabolism in every cell of the body and play a role in virtually all physiological functions, an iodine deficiency can have a devastating impact on your health and well-being. A common sign of thyroid deficiency is an enlarged thyroid gland, commonly called a goiter. Goiters are estimated to affect 200 million people worldwide, and in all but 4% of these cases, the cause is iodine deficiency.
Nutrient Prevention of Birth Defects and Cardiovascular Disease
The folic acid so abundant in sea vegetables plays a number of other very important protective roles. Studies have demonstrated that adequate levels of folic acid in the diet are needed to prevent certain birth defects, including spina bifida. Folic acid is also needed to break down an intermediate dangerous chemical produced during the methylation cycle called homocysteine. (Methylation is one of the most important cellular cycles through which a wide variety of important chemicals are produced.) Homocysteine can directly damage blood vessel walls, and high levels of this chemical are associated with a significantly increased risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. Flavoring soups and stews with seaweeds or using seaweed in salads is a smart strategy, especially for those dealing with atherosclerosis or diabetic heart disease.
Sea vegetables pack a double punch against heart disease. In addition to their folic acid, sea vegetables are a very good source of magnesium, which has also been shown to reduce high blood pressure and prevent heart attack.
Some sea vegetables have been shown to be unique sources of carbohydrate-like substances called fucans, that can reduce the body’s inflammatory response. Plus, as noted above, seaweeds are a very good source of magnesium, the mineral that, by acting as a natural relaxant, has been shown to help prevent migraine headaches and to reduce the severity of asthma symptoms.
Relief for Menopausal Symptoms
Seaweeds’ supply of relaxing magnesium may also help restore normal sleep patterns in women who are experiencing symptoms of menopause. And the lignans in sea vegetables can act as very weak versions of estrogen, one of the hormones whose levels decrease during the menopausal period. For women suffering from symptoms such as hot flashes, seaweeds’ lignans may be just strong enough to ease their discomfort.
Seaweeds support us through stressful situations by supplying not only magnesium, but pantothenic acid and riboflavin–two B-vitamins necessary for energy production. Pantothenic acid is especially important for the health of the adrenal glands. The adrenals control many body functions and play a critical role in resistance to stress. When supplies of necessary nutrients like pantothenic acids are inadequate, stressful times can exhaust the adrenal glands resulting in chronic fatigue, reduced resistance to allergies and infection, and a feeling of being overwhelmed or overly anxious.
Sea vegetables, often called seaweed, are one of the Neptune