Seaweed is so rich in nutrients that you only have to eat a minimal amount to take advantage of its benefits. They provide abundant minerals such as iodine, iron and calcium.
Adding seaweed to your recipes is a great option. Seaweed provides abundant minerals. In addition, they contain alginic acid, which helps the body eliminate heavy metals and radioactive substances such as strontium. These values, many of them intuited by our ancestors and corroborated today by science, have made them resurface in the kitchen and even in the creations of great chefs. And this is good news, since seaweed, in addition to providing a different touch to recipes, provides many health benefits.
The Japanese are the ones who have made the best use of the culinary potential of seaweed in their recipes and who have made it known to the rest of the world, largely through the macrobiotic diet. This has made many of us associate them with the Far East, but the truth is that on our coasts, especially in Galicia, algae of exceptional quality are collected, such as dulse, wakame, and spaghetti from the sea or Gelidium sesquipedale, from which the best agar-agar is extracted.
WHY ARE ALGAE HEALTHY AND HOW TO USE THEM IN THE KITCHEN
The sea, as the matrix that gave rise to life, is an ideal medium for the development of any animal or plant. The salts dissolved in its waters have a concentration three times higher than that of human blood, and are found in a very similar proportion that remains constant in all oceans. Growing in such a rich and stable environment, algae are characterized by a nutritional richness that is unmatched among ground vegetables.
Algae, in addition to being very nutritious, help to overcome the delicate situation in which we find ourselves as part of a damaged ecosystem. The increase in population and the progressive reduction of farmland, increasingly poor in minerals, invite to rediscover plants that formerly provided excellent fertilizer and have been consumed in Japan since the Neolithic Age. They were also part of the diet of the Celts, Vikings and Romans, and were even used as medicine in rheumatism and scurvy.
Below we solve frequent doubts about the benefits of algae and we tell you some of the keys necessary to learn to cook with them.
- What nutrients do algae provide?
Seaweed provides easy-to-assimilate minerals, quality protein, vitamins, and fiber. They hardly provide fats, which makes them low in calories, and those they do contain are in the form of essential fatty acids such as omega-3, which among other benefits helps reduce cholesterol.
- Which algae are richest in calcium?
Almost all of them are a great source of calcium, but especially wakame or hiziki. These, ten times richer in calcium than milk, also contain phosphorus and magnesium in the ideal proportion to promote their absorption. On the other hand, algae lack oxalates, which make it difficult to absorb calcium.
- Are they indicated in case of anemia?
Seaweed is excellent for preventing iron deficiency anemia. Iron from vegetables is assimilated worse than that of animal origin, but its bioavailability in algae such as dulse (50 mg / 100 g) or sea spaghetti (59 mg / 100 g) is very high, since in addition to iron they provide vitamin C, which improves its absorption.
- To what extent is it true that they provide protein?
They do provide protein, although the percentage is highly variable, from 2.3% of agar-agar to 35% of nori once dried.
These are quality proteins, but as they are consumed in small doses, a serving of 20 grams provides only 5% of what is required per day. The spirulina is the richest in protein: 65% of its dry weight.
- What makes agar-agar special?
Agar-agar is a product prepared from fibrous algae of the genus Gelidium. It can be consumed raw in salads and used to prepare 100% vegetable gelatins, as it has a great gelling power. It is very useful in slimming diets due to its low caloric power, its mineral richness and its great satiating effect.
- Does algae affect the thyroid gland?
Seaweed provides much more iodine than vegetables. This mineral is essential for the thyroid and physical and mental development. Its deficiency can cause the disease of goiter or thyroid hypo function, but in the case of hyperthyroidism, characterized by symptoms such as nervousness, increased perspiration or weight loss, algae may not be suitable.
- Are they generally easy to cook?
As easy as any other vegetable, with the difference that they must be rehydrated.
Once done, some can be eaten raw or lightly cooked, such as wakame or dulse; others take time, like Kombu. Then it is enough to include them in any recipe that is known, with the usual seasonings.
- What recipes can they be included in?
They can be eaten raw or cooked, fried, sautéed or even toasted. They can also be added crushed to a cream or used to wrap a filling.
Many times it is enough to include a few in the recipe, for example a salad, to enrich it.
- Which ones are best suited to our kitchen?
All seaweed can be included in our traditional recipes. The Kombu is useful in stews pulses; the wakame, in salads or cereal dishes like paella; with fish and homemade pasta salads the taste of dulse; the hiziki is well in sautéed vegetables or pizza; and nori is good on the omelet.
- Why is Kombu seaweed added to the cooking water for legumes?
Some algae, like Kombu, are rich in glutamic acid. This substance, in addition to giving flavor, softens the fibers of some foods, especially legumes.
Adding a few Kombu leaves, or even wakame, to the cooking water for the legumes speeds up cooking, improves the flavor of the recipe and favors its digestibility.