Seaweed Salad / 100 gm of seaweed provides more than the daily requirement of vitamins A, B12, and two-thirds of the vitamin C requirement. (Source: Thinkstock)

Seaweeds are also impressive in their nutrient profile. Seaweed, edible algae from the sea such as agar, alginates, carrageenan and nori,are popular delicacies in some Asian cuisines and are an integral part of Japanese diet, particularly Sushi. They also play an important role in modulating chronic diseases as they are rich in special bioactive compounds which are not found in regular agricultural produce.

Seaweeds are also impressive in their nutrient profile. They are rich in fibre, essential amino acids, omega-3 fats and vitamins A, B, C and E. Seaweed are the only vegetarian source of vitamin B12, recommended for effective functioning of the nervous system and as treatment for the effects of aging, chronic fatigue syndrome, and anaemia.

A study reported that 100 gm of seaweed provides more than the daily requirement of vitamins A, B12, and two-thirds of the vitamin C requirement. Major minerals found in seaweed include sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium along with certain trace minerals such as iron, zinc, manganese and copper. Seaweeds are one of the most important vegetarian sources of calcium especially useful for vegans, pregnant women, adolescents, and the elderly.

The fibre content in seaweeds is impressive and in fact is higher than most fruits and vegetables, weight by weight. The fibre present in seaweed is soluble, which helps in lowering cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels besides improving digestion. Besides nutritional benefits, seaweeds have been found to have anti-cancer, anti-infective, anti-clotting and anti-inflammatory benefits. Seaweed has received significant attention by scientists as it is a novel source of compounds with several applications in human health. It is also being put in the category of functional foods.

Interestingly, a compound present in Seaweed called Fuco-xanthin has been found to have anti-obesity ie fat burning effects and may potentially modulate the expression of the fat burning genes and control appetite. A recent study reported that fucoxanthin extract suppressed body weight gain and improved lipid metabolism.Low in calories, high in protein, nutrients and special bio-active compounds, seaweeds certainly offer an alternative food address nutritional challenges being faced by us. It’s no surprise that the Japanese are one of the healthiest and slimmest nations in the world with abundance of seaweed in their food.
Written by Ishi Khosla  The article “Seaweed: The healthy secret in Japanese diet” was originally published on TheIndianExpress.com