Health Gifts From The Sea
The power of sea vegetables for creating high-level well-being and strengthening the body is unparalleled in the plant kingdom. Perhaps this is because, biologically as well as mythologically, the sea is believed to be the source from of which all life originated. Your blood contains more than a hundred minerals and trace elements found equally in the sea and in the plants that live there. Sea plants contain up to twenty times the minerals that land plants do, along with an abundance of vitamins and phytochemicals that promote good health. Much of the fiber in seaweeds is so powerful in its ability to help detoxify your body that it can even help remove radioactive and toxic metals.
SOURCE OF ALL LIFE
All seaweeds are marine algae—the oldest life form on our planet. Most have something important in common: they are filled with soothing mucilaginous gels, such as algin, agar, and carrageen. These help alkalinize your blood and clear liver stagnation. From the point of view of Oriental medicine, this activates the chi—your body’s life energy—when you eat them. Seaweeds are also great lymphatic cleansers. Even in small quantities they supply you with biologically available minerals and trace elements as nothing else can. Eating even as little as five to fifteen grams of sea plants a day (measured before soaking or cooking) will supply you with range of minerals that are so broad that it’s unlikely that you will need to take a lot of mineral supplements unless you have a specific high requirement for particular minerals.
SPOILT FOR CHOICE
Kelp, kombu, and arame seaweeds contain 100–500 times more iodine than shellfish, and up to 3000 times the iodine of fish itself—vital for the health of the thyroid and for optimum metabolic functioning. This really matters because the iodine in our soils has become so depleted that hypothyroidism is now rampant. And, sadly, mainstream medicine remains ignorant about the fact that trying to treat low thyroid with pharmaceutical drugs is not only ineffective, but in the long term it can also actually poison the body and undermine your health. Arame, wakame, and hijiki seaweeds boast more than ten times the calcium of milk—which is a lousy source of calcium anyway. Kelp and wakame contain more than four times the available natural iron found in the best beef steak.
Orientals have always made the best use of sea plants in their foods. However, in European peasant traditions you’ll find an exciting history of using seaweeds for health and delicious recipes. For instance, bladder wrack, sea lettuce, and kelp make great soups. The only problem with seaweeds—and it’s a big one—is that you need to make sure that the sea plants you eat come from seas that are relatively unpolluted by heavy metals and—post Fukushima—radiation. For wherever seaweeds grow, they tend to accumulate metals and minerals from the waters. This means looking for sea plants that come from relatively clean waters, especially in the Southern Hemisphere or off the coast of Norway, Sweden, and the Arctic and Antarctic.
STEP BY STEP
When you first introduce seaweeds to your diet, it’s a good idea to do it slowly, as it sometimes takes a week or two for the body to get used to digesting sea vegetables. Their flavor is also quite unique. Once you get to like it, you will never want to be without it. But for a few people it takes a bit of getting used to. One of my favorite seaweeds, nori, is the seaweed that comes in long, thin sheets and is used to make sushi. It makes a great snack or can be added to any salad. It has a beautiful crisp flavor. I always toast it quickly by passing it over my hob for only 10–15 seconds. Then I crumble it on a salad or munch two sheets of it to eat as a snack. (By the way, I have a cat, Gus, who is completely addicted to toasted nori. He boasts the most magnificent coat I have ever seen on a cat.) You can wrap nori around just about everything, from a sprout salad to cooked grains. You can even make little pieces of sushi with it.
DETOX AND STRENGTHEN
Another sea vegetable, agar, known in Japan as kanten, is made out of the mucilaginous fiber from several seaweeds, many of which grow to great size. In the Orient it is used to promote weight loss, improve digestion, and clear all sorts of toxic and radioactive waste from your body. It’s also a superb source of natural iron and calcium, and it makes wonderful fruit gels. However you take seaweed foods, if you’ve never used them for cooking, this is an ideal time to begin. A whole new world of flavor and texture awaits exploration.
HEALTHY MEALS GALORE
Some of my favorite salads are made from seaweed. They make great on-the-go meals. These salads are so unusual in look and in flavor that most people would never think to make them. Also, they are so concentrated in nourishment that even the smallest seaweed salad eaten once or twice a week helps rebuild your body’s supply of minerals that has been lost through years and years of living on depleted foods—foods sprayed with herbicides and pesticides and the dreadful convenience foods virtually devoid of mineral nourishment that most of the public feed on. The most important thing about seaweed salads is this: they can be absolutely delicious.
The key to making a beautiful seaweed salad is to use more than one kind of seaweed. There are many to choose from. Hijiki is one I use frequently, and I also like wakame and arami. You can, however, use some of the others, such as dulse and even nori, although when using nori in a salad it’s best to toast it very quickly—for 15–20 seconds under a grill or on a skillet—then break it up in small pieces and sprinkle them on the top—otherwise it tends to go soggy. Let me share with you a recipe for one of my favorite seaweed salads.
SEAWEED SALAD (SERVES 4)
WHAT YOU NEED
FOR THE SALAD
- 150g of dried seaweeds—dulse, hijiki, arami, kombu, kelp, wakame, and even Irish moss, the reddish-purple to reddish-green seaweed—soaked for 30 minutes in water then drained
- 1/4 cup of sesame seeds, toasted for 5 minutes on an oil-free skillet or under the grill
- 2 large carrots, julienned
- 3 small turnips, julienned (if you have easy access to them)
- A light-colored lettuce to contrast with the dark richness of the seaweeds—curly endive, little gem, iceberg (shredded), sugarloaf chicory, whatever you have to hand
FOR THE DRESSING
- 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons of umeboshi vinegar, rice vinegar, or lemon juice
- 2 shallots, chopped fine
- 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
- Himalayan salt to taste
- Black pepper to taste
After soaking and preparing the seaweeds and washing the lettuce, chill both for 15 minutes if possible, since this salad is more delicious chilled than at room temperature. You can serve it at room temperature as well, which is one of the reasons why this salad makes such an excellent picnic food. Unlike most salads it does not go limp—especially if you choose a good, crisp, light-colored lettuce.
Line your salad bowl with the lettuce, then, after draining the seaweeds, add the julienned carrots and turnips. Now make your dressing by placing the vinegar or lemon juice, the chopped shallots, garlic, and oil into a jar and shake well. Pour over the seaweed, carrot, and turnip mixture and toss. Arrange this on your bed of lettuce (I do not put dressing on the lettuce because this prevents the lettuce from going limp and is particularly important if you are going to use this salad for a picnic.) Now sprinkle your toasted sesame seeds over everything and serve. This salad will keep in good condition for several hours if you want to take it on a picnic. Even the next day it is still delicious if you store it in the fridge overnight.