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10 Sea Vegetables You Have Probably Eaten, but Didn’t Know It

Most Americans would probably not seriously consider adding sea vegetables to their diet. Many have a difficult time trying to down broccoli or spinach, so the thought of eating any underwater vegetables most likely wouldn’t fly. However, if you are fond of Asian cuisine, chances are you have probably eaten and obliviously enjoyed many types of sea vegetables, as these products of the ocean have been a staple in the Asian diet for millennia.

  1. Nori – This vegetable is usually the wrapping around sushi. Nori is dark, purplish-black in color and comes in sheets. It is edible seaweed of the red alga species, and has been used as food in Japan since ancient times. Originally, it was made in a paste form; however, with the rise of paper making, nori began to be made into sheets. It is shredded, formed into sheets and left to dry before culinary use.
  2. Kelp – This seaweed is rather popular in health food stores. It can be light brown to dark green in color, and is most often used in flake form. Some people have been known to use kelp to alleviate arthritis problems, lower cholesterol and boost the immune system. It can be found in toothpastes, dairy products, cakes, salad dressings and even in some shampoos due to the algin it contains, which is an emulsifier and bonding agent.
  3. Agar Agar – This Japanese gelatin usually comes in flakes and is comprised of a combination of sea vegetables for use as a thickener in desserts such as pies, puddings and jellies. It is colorless and tasteless, and is often used as an alternative to other gelatins.
  4. Arame – Often used in such foods as quiches, salads, stir-fried food and omelets, these little shreds have a very mild, rather sweet flavor with a thin, wiry appearance. They are also full of healthy nutrients like calcium, iodine, potassium, vitamin A and contain a healthy measure of dietary fiber.
  5. Wakame – This sea vegetable can be eaten raw as a snack, added to soups or stir-fried foods or sprinkled on salads or stews. Wakame is one of the more tender sea vegetables available. When re-hydrated, it expands to about seven times its original size and the long, silky strands are grayish-green in color.
  6. Kombu – Found in many bean dishes, this dark purple sea vegetable actually makes beans easier to digest. Nutrient-wise, kombu introduces many vital minerals into the diet, including magnesium, iron, iodine and calcium. Dried kombu soaks up lots of liquid, and actually doubles in size when added to broths or stock.
  7. Sea Palm – Used in soups and salads, the sea palm is also known as American arame. It is found off the Pacific coast of America and looks much like a little palm tree. It has a sweet and salty taste and is brownish green in color. It can also be eaten raw, and is sometimes added to trail mix.
  8. Dulse – The texture of this vegetable is chewy and it has somewhat of a salty taste. Unlike some of the other sea vegetables, this one is reddish brown in color as compared to the various green shades of others. It is often served in sandwiches or salads, however, it also comes in whole leaves or in powder form to be served as a condiment. Some people eat dulse straight out of the package like jerky.
  9. Hijiki – This high-nutrient sea vegetable is full of minerals, including calcium, iron, copper, manganese and  protein. It is another of the sea vegetables that expands greatly when soaked, and is often used in noodle dishes as well as stir-fried entrees. It is also a common ingredient in fried bean curd.
  10. Laver – With less sodium than many other sea vegetables, laver is a good source of vitamin B-12, as well as many of the trace minerals like iron and iodine. It has a tangy, salty taste and when cooked in liquid may have more of a nutty taste. It comes in flakes that are usually purplish in color. When hydrated, the flakes can hold about four times their dry weight. Most often, laver flakes are used in stir-fries, seafood chowders and some dips. They can also be used in salads or salad dressings for flavor.

Sea vegetables are gaining more popularity because they are so dense in nutrient value and seem to have properties that help protect the body from cancer and help ward off inflammation. The Japanese have the lowest level of chronic disease on the planet, and they are culturally the largest consumers of sea vegetables in the world.

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