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Kelp: Nutritional Facts and Health Benefits

Kelp (scientific name: Laminariales) is a large brown seaweed. Seaweeds claim to contain at least 10 times the amount of minerals compared to the plants grown on soil. This is because the seaweeds absorb minerals from their surrounding marine environment. Seaweeds are a typical food in the Japanese style of cooking. Various kinds are edible and very nutritious. One of them is kelp. It grows only in saltwater. Therefore, since it grows in shallow waters, it is found chiefly along coastlines. There are approximately 30 varieties of kelp that grow in different oceans in different parts of the world. This seaweed is popular across the globe because of its nutritional value and the growing popularity of kelp noodles.

The following article provides information on the nutritional benefits of kelp, its side effects, different varieties, ways to store, and ways to add kelp to your day-to-day diet.

Varieties of Kelp

There are different varieties of kelp that grow in various parts of the world. Listed below are some types of kelp that grow in different oceans.

Bull Kelp (Scientific name: Nereocystis luetkeana)Giant Kelp (Scientific name: Macrocystis Pyrifera)Sea palm (Scientific name: Postelsia palmaeformis)Kombu (Scientific name: Laminaria Setchellii)Wakame (Scientific name: Alaria Marginata)Sea Cabbage (Scientific name: Saccharina sessilis)Bladder Chain Kelp (Scientific name: Stephanocystis Osmundacea) 

Kelp: Nutritional Profile

As per a USDA, 100g of kelp consists of the following properties:

Calories: 43kcalProtein: 1.68gFats: 0.56gCarbohydrate: 9.57gFolate: 180µgMagnesium: 121mgIron: 2.85mgVitamin A: 6µgVitamin K: 66µgCalcium: 168mgZinc: 1.23mgVitamin C: 3mg Pantothenic acid: 0.642 mgSodium: 233mgPotassium: 89mgPhosphorus: 42mgManganese: 0.2mg 

Health Benefits of Kelp

Kelp provides important health benefits because it is high in numerous nutrients. Several of them are listed below. 

Good for Thyroid

Kelp has a high amount of iodine necessary to prevent a condition known as hypothyroidism. This condition disrupts metabolism and leads to abnormal thyroid gland enlargement. As per research, a specific amount of iodine is necessary to maintain thyroid health. However, your body cannot produce iodine by itself. Therefore, one must take it from outside sources, and kelp is a suitable source. 

Improves Immune Response

Studies have proven kelp consists of reasonable amounts of antioxidants. It helps fight diseases by combating free radicals in the body and reducing oxidative stress. These help maintain heart health and effectively prevent colon and breast cancers. 

Many studies highlight the effectiveness of kelp in preventing the spread of prostate and lung cancer. Kelp has fucoidan, polyunsaturated fatty acids, and polyphenols, which help prevent cancer spread. However, the subject requires more research.

Helps in Weight Loss

In addition to being low in fat content, kelp consists of a natural fibre known as alginate. Alginate stops the gut from absorbing fat. It blocks the fat-digesting enzyme lipase. Research has claimed that alginate can block lipase by up to 72%. When the fat does not get digested, it is not absorbed and ejected out of the body, leading to weight loss. Another mineral known as fucoxanthin may also be effective in weight loss. 

Prevents Anaemia

Kelp has reasonable quantities of iron. Investigation proves iron is essential for preventing anaemia which occurs when the number of red blood cells in the body is less. As a result, the body’s tissues do not get sufficient oxygen.  

Effective Against Diabetes

Kelp has some quantities of a mineral known as vanadium. Some studies have shown that vanadium helps regulate blood sugar levels. 

Regulates Blood Pressure

Studies show that compounds like fucoidan and folate help maintain healthy blood pressure levels. Fucoidan and fucoxanthin are also beneficial for the same. Since kelp is a seaweed, seaweeds are proven to have beneficial effects on health. 

Possible Allergies 

Food allergies are not uncommon; since every individual is unique, one may not know how their body will react to a particular food or ingredient. Allergies occur due to various genetic and epigenetic causes. However, anaphylaxis causes significant allergic reactions. Some of the allergic reactions that are observed just after its intake include

Low blood pressureBreathing problemsVomitingItching on skinStomach acheDiarrhoeaNausea

The mild symptoms include a runny nose or itchy eyes. It is best to avoid kelp altogether if diagnosed with an allergy. Also, occasional consumption of kelp is better than daily. 

Potential Side Effects

Although kelp is a good source of various nutrients, you should be careful about a few things. The first thing to check is overconsumption. Your body needs a compact amount of iodine to function correctly. To be exact, you need only 150 micrograms of iodine per day. The upper limit for this quantity is 1100 micrograms. If you eat more iodine than this, it may negatively affect goitre and thyroid gland inflammation. In extreme cases, it may also cause thyroid cancer. 

Heavy metal is a problem associated with kelp. This problem becomes cautionary precisely when kelp gets harvested from industrial areas. The results of taking metals like aluminium, arsenic, lead, and cadmium can be fatal.

Due to the above reasons, it is advisable to take kelp supplements only after a doctor’s guidance. In addition, pregnant women and thyroid patients should avoid kelp. 

Ways to Incorporate Kelp into Your Diet

Kelp is highly nutritious. As a result, it is perfect for health. So here are a few tips that will help you add kelp to your regular diet:

Stir it in a smoothie or juiceMix kelp noodles in a saladBlend it into dipsUse it as a seasoning along with common spicesAdd dried kelp into stews and soupsServe it with oil seeds or sesame seeds

Healthy Recipes using Kelp

Kelp Salad 

Servings: 2

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Ingredients: 

Fresh kelp: 2 cups(250g)Light soy sauce: 2 tbspVinegar: 1 tbspGarlic cloves: 3Thai pepper: 1-2Scallions: 2Salt: ¼ tspSugar: 1 tspVegetable oil: 3 tbsp

Method: 

Chop kelp into thin shreds.Then wash the kelp in cold water several times. Boil the water, put the shredded kelp in, and cook for about 2 minutes in a large pot. Drain the water and transfer the kelp to a skillet.Add light soy sauce, vinegar, chopped scallion, chilli peppers, and garlic. Heat cooking oil, and pour the hot oil over the chopped garlic. Toss it well. Garnish with some coriander.

Nutritional Facts: 

Calories: 278kcalCarbohydrates: 18gProtein: 4gFat: 22g

Kelp Noodle Salad

Servings: 2-3

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Ingredients: 

Kelp noodles: 1 packetCarrots shredded: 2 cupsScallions: 1-2Lime wedges: 1-2Sesame seeds: 1 tsp

Dressing

Natural peanut butter: 3 tbspApple cider vinegar: 2-3 tbspTamari: 1 tbspMaple syrup: 1 tbspGarlic clove: 1Fresh ginger: 2 tsp (grounded)

Method: 

Mix the dressing in a small bowl. Keep it aside for some time for flavour enhancement. Add noodles, carrots, and dressing to a large bowl, and mix well.Since they are not as soft as regular noodles, it will consume some time to coat well with the dressing. Garnish with scallions and sesame seeds, and fresh lime juice. Enjoy!

Nutritional Facts: 

Calories: 162kcalCarbohydrates: 19.2gProtein: 5.2gFat: 8.5g

Note: Add tofu (cubes) for protein. You can keep leftovers for 3-5 days in the refrigerator (must be covered). 

Kelp: Storage

Storing kelp may turn out to be a tricky affair. Fresh kelp becomes damp if kept in the open air. So try to finish fresh kelp within seven days. If you want to store it for longer, you can dry it. Then, you can keep the dried kelp in an airtight container and refrigerate it. This way, you can store it for up to 6 months easily. 

Conclusion

Kelp, like most other seaweeds, is very healthy for the body. It is very nutritious and rich in a variety of vitamins and minerals. Iodine is an essential mineral that kelp contains in rich quantities. The human body cannot produce iodine, therefore should only be taken from external sources. Eating kelp can have many health benefits. It is good for the thyroid, improving immunity and helping in weight loss. Some other benefits of kelp include preventing anaemia and regulating blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

Furthermore, it is easy to add kelp to your diet and get all its benefits. However, too much kelp can be detrimental to your health. Therefore, eat it in moderation to maximise the health benefits and minimise the adverse effects. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. Is kelp good for hair growth?

A. Some of the minerals that kelp contains are considered essential for hair growth. These include vitamins A, vitamin D, Vitamin C, iron, and zinc. The compound that kelp contains is called laminaria angustata. It is known to increase hair thickness and density. 

Q. Who eats kelp?

A. Seaweeds are a staple food in the Japanese style of cooking. Hence, kelp is also an essential part of Japanese food culture. However, it is becoming popular in different parts of the world due to increased awareness among the masses about the nutritional value of seaweeds. Other than humans, many animals feed on kelp. Abalone, crabs, opaleyes, and prawns are examples of animals that eat kelp. 

Q. Is kelp safe to take?

A. Kelp is a very rich source of minerals and vitamins. Because of its rich and diverse nutritious profile, kelp is good for the thyroid, improving immunity and helping in weight loss. Other benefits of kelp include preventing anaemia and regulating blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and many more. As with everything you eat, mindful eating is essential; excess kelp may have adverse effects. 

Q. What’s the difference between seaweed and kelp?

A. Three different kinds of seaweeds grow across oceans—the red, green, and brown marine algae. Kelp grows only in saltwater. Moreover, seaweeds(paraphyletic) belong to the algae family, whereas kelp belongs to brown algae(laminaria).  

Q. What is kelp good for?

A. Kelp contains rich quantities of vitamin K1, folate, magnesium, iron, vitamin A, pantothenic acid, calcium, iodine, and small amounts of thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin. In addition, kelp is rich in other nutrients like fats, carbohydrates, proteins, and fibre. Therefore, it is good for health.  

Q. What does kelp do for your skin?

A. Kelp has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. There is some proof that antioxidants protect the skin against the sun’s harmful UV rays. Anti-inflammatory properties help in reducing redness and irritation from the environment. It also prevents the skin from flaring. It also helps fight cellulite and keep the skin tight and moisturised.  

A. Kelp grows fast and sometimes can grow up to one foot per day. It can also grow up to 100 feet. Kelp or other seaweeds help in maintaining the ocean’s health.  It grows 20% along the world’s shoreline.  

Q. Who should not take kelp?

A. People with thyroid conditions should avoid taking kelp. Similarly, pregnant women, lactating women, or patients suffering from any disorder should restrict eating kelp. And those diagnosed with its allergy must avoid kelp as much as possible. 

Q. What are the side effects of taking kelp?

A. Your body needs only a tiny amount of iodine to function correctly. You need only 150 micrograms of iodine per day. The upper limit is 1100 micrograms. If you eat more iodine than this, it may negatively affect goitre and thyroid gland inflammation. In extreme cases, it may also cause thyroid cancer. Another problem with kelp is the large number of heavy metals. This problem becomes even more severe when it is harvested from industrial areas. Metals like aluminium, arsenic, lead, and cadmium can be fatal if taken in excess.  

Q. How do I add kelp to my diet?

A. There are various ways you can take the nutrition from kelp. For example, you can stir it in a smoothie or juice, mix kelp noodles in a salad, blend it into dips, use it as a seasoning along with common spices, and add dried kelp into stews and soups even serve it with oil seeds or sesame seeds.

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