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By Anastasia

Seaweed is one of the most nutritious foods, available today. Different types of seaweeds are excellent in soups, salads and variety of other dishes.

Seaweed absorbs its minerals and nutrients from the ocean, which has almost an identical mineral balance as the human body. Unlike fish and seafood, seaweed is relatively toxin-free. Sea vegetables have traditionally been used in Asia to treat heart disease, hypertension, cancer, and thyroid problems.

Sea vegetables contain 10 to 20 times the minerals and vitamins of land vegetables. They are higher in vitamins and minerals than any other class of food. The minerals are available in colloidal forms that make them especially available to the bodies of humans. All sea vegetables contain significant amounts of protein, sometimes as much as 48%.

The large brown seaweeds known as the “kelps” (including wakame and kombu) contain alginic acid. Studies have shown that alginic acid removes heavy metals and radioactive isotopes from the digestive tract.

So, what types of seafood are there and how to eat them?

Kelp has a fairly strong flavor and is rich in iodine and many other minerals. It has iodine for your body to function properly.

Arame - A Japanese sea vegetable, with a mild flavor, arame is dried and cut into thin strands, it can be added to soups or served as a vegetable side dish.

Hijiki - Found primarily in the Far East, contains the most calcium of any of the sea vegetables, 1400mg/100gr dry weight (compared to milk with 100mg/100gr.) In its natural state it is very tough; after harvesting it is dried, steamed and dried some more. When cooked, it rehydrates and expands about five times its dry volume.

Dulse is similar, but a little more lettucy, mild in flavor and with less iodine but plenty of trace minerals. Just a handful of dulse will provide all the vitamin B-6 you need, 66% of your vitamin B-12, all your daily required iron and fluoride, and many other minerals. It's low in sodium and high in potassium.

Nori is normally sold in dried sheets. It is one of the easiest ways to eat seaweed. Nori is best used to wrap around small rice balls, or sushi rolls which are then dipped in shoyu or soy sauce. After soaking, Nori can be added to soup or used as a salad ingredient. Crushed nori sheets make an excellent seasoning. Nori is also a good source of Lignans which help fight cancer.

Kombu is a large flat seaweed with a rich oceany taste. It makes an excellent addition to your soup stock, if you'd like to make it richer in minerals and give it a naturally salty taste.

Wakame and Alaria These seaweeds are similar in characteristics but differ in their habitats. Wakame is a good source of protein, iron, calcium, sodium & other minerals and vitamins. Alaria is high in vitamin K and the B-vitamins as well as the minerals iodine and bromine. Wakame is probably best used in salads, added to soup or broth or used as a topping for other dishes. Soak dried wakame in water and it will expand to about ten times in size. Wakame should have the central vein cut out after soaking. It can then be either simmered for 10 minutes or cut into small pieces and served as a salad.

Buy all seaweed in your local health food store or in a health-minded supermarket, in the Japanese section.