Seaweed is a nutritious and sustainable food source. | Silas Baisch via Unsplash

Although it’s now hailed as a “superfood” across the West, eating seaweed is nothing new. The slippery sea plant has actually been consumed across Asia for thousands of years, particularly in China, Japan, and Korea. Seaweed is popular for a number of reasons. Firstly, it’s tasty. It’s also versatile, and it’s nutritious too. But what exactly is seaweed? How many types are there? And, most importantly, what’s the best way to eat it?

What Is Seaweed?

There is no one single type of seaweed. The term is very general, and it encompasses a number of species of algae, as well as plants that live in the sea, rivers, lakes, and other waterways. According to BBC Good Food, there are actually more than 10,000 species of seaweed. On land, humans cook or consume only a small selection.

What Seaweed Can You Eat?

While you likely think green when you think of seaweed, edible varieties occur in a plethora of colors, including red, blue, and brown. The most common types of edible seaweed include sea lettuce, kelp, arame, wakame, dulse, and nori. If you enjoy Japanese cuisine, you’ll likely already be familiar with the latter, which is used to wrap sushi.

Is Seaweed Good For You?

Seaweed is incredibly nutritious. While each type has a different nutrient content, on the whole, all types are a good source of vitamins and minerals, including vitamins C, A, B, and E, iron, and iodine. Seaweed also contains protein, fiber, carbohydrates, and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Dried algae is particularly nutrient-dense, whereas spirulina and chlorella are particularly high in protein.

Seaweed is also a good source of antioxidants; these are essentially free radical-fighting molecules. Free radicals are damaging to the body’s cells and can increase the risk of certain diseases, including cancer.

Registered nutritionist Jo Lewin notes that if you want to see proof of the health benefits of seaweed, you need only look to where it is consumed the most: Japan. She writes for BBC Good Food: “The Japanese have one of the highest life expectancies in the world, and one significant, standout dietary habit is their regular consumption of seaweeds.”

Seaweed is packed with nutrition. | Frank Zhang via Unsplash

Is Seaweed Good For the Environment?

So, while we know seaweed is good for us humans, is it also good for the planet? Even more good news: it is. Seaweed is a sustainable food source for a number of reasons. For a start, it doesn’t need any extra resources, like soil or freshwater. Plus, it doesn’t require any chemicals to grow. On top of this, seaweed helps to keep the ocean healthy, by absorbing carbon and releasing oxygen into the water.

5 Vegan Recipes With Seaweed

Eager to try seaweed but you’re not sure how to cook with it? These five recipes will give you some inspiration and help you get started.

Here's Why Seaweed Is So Good for You
These rolls are paired with sweet and spicy sauce. | Full of Plants

1. Spicy Seaweed Tofu Rolls

These tasty spicy seaweed tofu rolls by Full of Plants feature nori. Compressed and dried into sheets, nori is commonly used to wrap sushi in Japanese cuisine. It has a strong, distinctive flavor, and it’s high in calcium too. In this recipe, the tofu is wrapped in the nori, and then cooked in sweet and spicy lemongrass and chili sauce. Recipe blogger Thomas, founder of Full of Plants, writes: “The seaweed gives the tofu a sea flavor and adds a nice crispy texture while the tofu inside stays chewy.”

Get the recipe here.

Here's Why Seaweed Is So Good for You
Don’t skip the miso dressing. | Just One Cookbook

2. Miso Seaweed Salad

Salty-sweet and fragrant, this tasty salad by Just One Cookbook the perfect lunchtime pick me up. It features a dried seaweed mix and has a sweet yet strong flavor. It’s high in minerals, like iodine, folate, and magnesium. This tasty seaweed salad works as a standalone dish, or you can enjoy it as a dinner time side or starter.

Get the recipe here.

Here's Why Seaweed Is So Good for You
Don’t worry—this smoothie doesn’t taste like seaweed. | Denis Tuskar/Unsplash

3. Berry and Seaweed Smoothie

While a smoothie may not be the first dish that springs to mind when you think seaweed, this recipe by Seaspoon is a delicious way to start the day. It contains the brand’s Seawood Boost mix, which includes nutrient-dense dulse (high in potassium and iron), sea spaghetti (high in calcium and vitamin C), and flavorful Sea Lettuce. The latter is high in protein and iron.

Get the recipe here.

Here's Why Seaweed Is So Good for You
This healthy noodle salad is packed with flavor. | Sharon Palmer

4. Seaweed Soba Noodle Salad

Add any seaweed you like to this tasty soba noodle salad by Sharon Palmer, which also features dried shiitake mushrooms, buckwheat noodles, and seitan. The recipe suggests using nori or kelp. A large brown seaweed, the latter is a good source of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin K, vitamin A, and iron.

Get the recipe here.

Here's Why Seaweed Is So Good for You
Pair this miso soup with rice. | From My Bowl

5. Miso Soup

A traditional Japanese dish, miso soup is a nourishing, tasty lunch option. This recipe by From My Bowl uses two different types of seaweed: wakame and kombu. The latter, a form of edible kelp, is nutrient-dense and low in calories. It’s particularly high in iodine.

Get the recipe here.