Also known as seaweed, sea vegetables resemble plants but are actually varieties of algae that grow in the ocean as well as in fresh water. The most popular varieties that are used as food are kelp, nori, dulse, wakame, kombu, and hijiki.
I’ve recently started adding sea vegetables to my green smoothies because they have some great health benefits. And no, they don’t make your green smoothies taste “fishy”.
Sea Vegetable Nutrition and Health Benefits
Sea vegetables are a good source of minerals and trace minerals. They also contain good levels of magnesium, potassium, folate, vitamin K, calcium and iron as well as protein.
But the biggest reason to blend sea vegetables in your green smoothies is that they are especially rich in iodine. Iodine is a crucial mineral for healthy metabolism and thyroid function.
If you are vegan, vegetarian, or do not use iodized salt, then you need to have some sea vegetables in your pantry!
Just one serving of dulse or kelp provides more than 100% RDA of iodine!
While many sea vegetable packages list daily value amounts for vitamin B12, the type of B12 is sea vegetables is not bio-available. Please do not consider seaweed as a source of B12.
How To Use Sea Vegetables In Green Smoothies
Kelp powder and dulse flakes are the easiest of the sea vegetables to use in a green smoothie. Simply add a half to a full teaspoon to your smoothie and blend.
If you buy whole dulse or kelp, just tear off a small piece and toss it in your blender.
Since most seaweeds have a somewhat salty, “ocean” flavor, you don’t want to add too much. Plus, too much iodine in your diet is just as problematic as not enough.
However, a teaspoon or so doesn’t negatively impact the flavor of a fruit smoothie at all. I actually really like it. It cuts the overall sweetness of the fruit without asserting any sort of saltiness or “marine” flavor. It won’t make your smoothie taste “fishy”.
Other sea vegetables are available as dried whole leaves or strands and if you have a high speed blender like the Vitamix, you can probably add a piece and blend. Otherwise, it’s probably best to soak in water for a bit to soften up and then add them to your green smoothie.
Re-hydrated kelp is delicious and not salty. Add a few strands and blend up in any smoothie recipe and feel free to combine with other leafy greens. Nori sheets (the ones typically used for making sushi rolls) are not the most nutritionally-rich choice, so I don’t use them in green smoothies.
You can add sea vegetables to just about any green smoothie recipe.
How To Select and Store Sea Vegetables
Sea vegetables can be found at most health food stores, Asian markets, and in some regular supermarkets. You will most often find them in the “International” section with Asian foods like noodles and tofu. They come dried and pre-packaged. Most need to be soaked before consuming, although you can eat most of them as-is.
Dulse also comes in dried flakes which makes it easy to sprinkle. Kelp comes in powdered form which is convenient for adding to smoothies, but I prefer whole kelp to powder for overall freshness and potency of nutrients.
It is vitally important to choose organic sea vegetables whenever possible. The reason for this is that seaweeds have a great ability to absorb minerals from the water around them. Unfortunately, they also absorb all the bad stuff in the water around them too including heavy metals (mercury, arsenic) and other contaminants.
Certified organic sea vegetables should be tested for heavy metals, fuel oil residues, PCBs, pesticides, herbicides, and bacterial contaminants.
When selecting sea vegetables, choose organic and check the packaging to see that the company tests for contaminants. Also, look for brands that dry using low temperatures. Choose untoasted over toasted whenever possible to preserve any nutrients that might be affected by exposure to heat or cooking.
Store sea vegetables in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight.
The brand I use is Main Coast. They regularly test their products for contaminants.
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