Seaweed. The long, silky, shiny stuff – yes, just like healthy hair. No wonder people associate seaweed in your diet with healthier hair. Not counting the topical stuff (Bumble and Bumble’s Seaweed Shampoo, which claims to contain, “marine extracts that feed roots, add shine and keep scalps happy.”), seaweed breaks down into so many beneficial ingredients, it is sometimes called the “miracle plant.” First off, seaweed contains special antibiotic and antiviral nutrients we need which land plants do not provide: Laminarin, Fucoidan, and Alginate compounds. Second, seaweed is a rich source of iodine (for a robust thyroid) and iron (for energetic blood cells). Now, I suppose just those components right there combine to make your hair grow healthy and silky. But you don’t have to take my word for it; scroll down to “Who’s done the research.”
How to cook seaweed: Besides going out for sushi, seaweed can be eaten in abundance in…you guessed it…soup! To cook seaweed in soup, soak it in water when you first take it out of the package. When your pot of water or miso soup base is boiling, drain the soaked seaweed and put it in the pot. You don’t have to wait too long until they’re ready to eat. Add some tofu, scallion beads, sesame oil, and you’ve got some yummy soup. I also like to toss it in seafood noodle soup.
Where to find it: Be careful about looking for seaweed in your local watering hole, at risk of contamination. You can buy seaweed at your local Asian grocery store, in clear plastic packaging. You can also find them in cardboard boxes or ready-made packets for miso soup.
What else: Seaweed has been known to cure tuberculosis, arthritis, the colds, the influenza, osteoporosis, impotence, anemia, and infestations with worms. As mentioned before, with its abundance in iron, seaweeds can stimulate and improve blood circulation, while revitalizing and firming the skin. People also eat seaweed to help control obesity because it dissolves fatty wastes and helps increase the metabolism. Seaweed is also commonly used as thickeners or stabilizers in a variety of common products, including pudding, ice cream and toothpaste.
Who’s done the research:
- We screened seaweed species from Atlantic Canada for antidiabetic activity by testing extracts for alpha-glucosidase inhibitory effect and glucose uptake stimulatory activity. A crude polyphenol extract (PPE), an enriched polyphenolic fraction (PPE-F1) and a polysaccharide extract (PSE) were prepared from commercial A. nodosum (seaweed) powder and administered to streptozotocin-diabetic mice for up to 4-weeks by daily gavage at 200 mg/kg body mass. Polyphenols are one of the major categories of natural products that are important to human health. There is a growing literature on the benefit of adequate amounts of polyphenolic compounds in the diet and prevention of degenerative diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and diabetes. It is generally believed that dietary polyphenolic coumpounds are protective against the oxidative stresses associated with disease states, thereby delaying onset or slowing disease progression. The polyphenolic constituents of A. nodosum exhibit promising antidiabetic characteristcs and are amenable for use as food supplement ingredients. The use of such a nutraceutical or food supplement could be part of a strategy involving life-style change that has been shown in the Diabetes Prevention Program to reduce the risk of diabetes in glucose-intolerant individuals. – Zhang J, et al. Antidiabetic properties of polysaccharide- and polyphenolic-enriched fractions from the brown seaweed Ascophyllum nodosum. Can J Physiol Pharmacol 85(11):1116-23, 2007 Nov
- Iron compounds have an established role as colorants in many cosmetic products applied to the skin, hair and nails. Evidence is reviewed showing that in addition to its importance as an essential nutrient necessary for oxygen metabolism and mitrochondrial function, iron exhibits a fundamental importance as a trace metal in the normal growth and functional maturation of the skin and in the health of hair and nails. The implications of iron from cosmetic sources in the nutrition of human skin is discussed. – Lansdown AB. Iron: a cosmetic constituent but an essential nutrient for healthy skin. Int J Cosmet Sci 23(3):129-37, 2001 Jun
- The anti-inflammatory, anti-angiogenic, anticoagulant, and antiadhesive properties of fucoidans obtained from nine species of brown algae were studied in order to examine the influence of fucoidan origin and composition on their biological activities. Our data demonstrate that fucoidans obtained from brown algal species different from the traditionally studied F. vesiculosus and A. nodosum may act as inhibitors of inflammation, angio-genesis, and heterotypic tumor cell adhesion. – Cumashi A, et al. A comparative study of the anti-inflammatory, anticoagulant, antiangiogenic, and antiadhesive activities of nine different fucoidans from brown seaweeds. Glycobiology 17(5):541-52, 2007 May
- Dietary Laminaria and Porphyra sp. have been reported to reduce the risk of intestinal or mammary cancer in animal studies. Algal anticarcinogenicity may involve effects on cell proliferation and antioxidant activity. Thus, in the present study, we evaluated the effect of red alga, dulse (Palmaria palmata) and three kelp (Laminaria setchellii, Macrocystis integrifolia, Nereocystis leutkeana) extracts on human cervical adenocarcinoma cell line (HeLa cells) proliferation. The antiproliferative efficacy of these algal extracts were positively correlated with the total polyphenol contents (p<0.05), suggesting a causal link related to extract content of kelp phlorotannins and dulse polyphenols including mycosporine-like amino acids and phenolic acids. – Yuan YV, et al. Antioxidant and antiproliferative activities of extracts from a variety of edible seaweeds. Food Chem Toxicol 44(7):1144-50, 2006 Jul