If you don’t already know, seaweed is quite simply a wonder food. But then we in the West are slow to catch on. Currently, two of the world’s oldest people are Japanese, and globally Japan boasts the highest life expectancy.
Studies show that women in Japan have up to four times lower risk of breast cancer than those in the United States, and rarely suffer from thyroid or prostate disease. This could be because seaweed has been a staple of Japanese culture for over 10,000 years and to this day still forms ten percent of the average person’s diet (approximately five grams of seaweed per day). Have we been missing a trick here in the West? Hopefully all this is about to change as seaweed is becoming widely available in the UK and Europe.
So where do we start? Red and green seaweeds are primarily composed of carbohydrates and provide a good energy source for the body, whilst brown seaweeds (kelps) are high in fibre and iodine. They are an excellent low-calorie, high-energy food. Researchers have concluded that the shorter life spans in the West result in part from the near total absence of dietary fucoidans. Fucoidins help the immune system, block cancer cells from spreading, help with tissue regeneration, relieve arthritis pain and help combat cardiovascular disease by thinning the blood and guarding against blood clots and lower cholesterol. Wakame (the seaweed commonly found in miso soup) and kombu (dashi stock, the basis of miso soup) are both a rich source of fucoidans and grow in plentiful supply around the UK coastline. That is good news for those of us who want to live a long seaweed-eating life!