Rumor has it that lawyer, philanthropist, and mother of two Amal Clooney eats seaweed soup for breakfast. It’s a fact I consider almost as important as her human rights awards and her perfect hair.
Maybe she heard about it from my grandmother, who lived to 103 and used to always tell me, “Eat seaweed and your hair will grow just as thick and black.” I’m not sure if that’s true, but it has been proven that seaweed is rich in dietary fiber, amino acids, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins A, B12, C, and E. It also has significant amounts of calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc, copper, selenium, fluoride, manganese, boron, nickel, and cobalt. It goes without saying that it’s a superfood.
“I certainly recommend eating seaweed regularly [to my patients],” says Sonia Reyes, a board-certified family nurse practitioner and doctor of nursing practice. “It’s a rich source of healthy antioxidants and minerals that promote longevity.”
When it comes to incorporating seaweed into your diet, you aren’t limited to Korean birthday soup or nori-wrapped sushi every day. (Remember to watch your mercury levels—large fish are a risk factor.) I was raised on everyday Japanese seaweeds like silky wakame in miso soup or crunchy nori around a lunchtime rice ball. Poke would not be poke without limu, the Hawaiian word for seaweed and a mainstay of the indigenous diet. Nori, wakame, kelp, and their various iterations are loved across East and Southeast Asia. Furikake—a crunchy Japanese sprinkle of seaweed, sesame seeds, dried fish, and other goodies mixed together—tastes good over rice and even better over a big salad or plate of pasta. Or boil beans with kombu kelp the macrobiotic way, which helps with their digestibility and adds flavor. Many traditions recommend some type of sea vegetable as part of a postpartum diet—for their restorative effects.
Seaweed also has a long culinary history in Europe and the Americas. It’s a traditional Irish delicacy, affectionately known as sleabhac and harvested wild from the coasts. Spirulina (an algae from lakes—like seaweed’s cousin) was a pre-Hispanic favorite (and more recently, a popular supplement) that is being rediscovered as a food throughout the Mexican diaspora, mixed into everything from smoothies to guacamole.
Now, seaweed has gone totally mainstream. You won’t just find it at Japanese specialty stores, but also inside Erewhon smoothies and even at Costco. With so many ways to enjoy it, there’s no reason not to make it a staple—you might just live to be 103.
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