By Dr. Philip Goglia, the WBC Nutrition Committee Chairman, discusses the benefits of seaweed in the lastest edition of Boxing Nutrition.
Seaweed is packed with Omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce risk factors for high cholesterol and heart disease. Additionally, it is one of the few foods to contain high levels of iodine, which is beneficial for thyroid health.
Fun Fact: Seaweed is considered a sea vegetable.
Cancer: Seaweeds contains cancer-fighting agents that may prove useful in curing tumors and other cancer conditions like colon cancer and leukemia. Brown seaweed such as kelp, wakame, and kombu contain glycoprotein and sulphated polysaccharides called fucoidans that possess immuno-stimulant, anti-viral, and anti-cancer properties. Research studies on the effectiveness of dietary seaweed on breast cancer have shown promising results in reducing the production of cancer-promoting hormones, including estrogen, and have the ability to inhibit the proliferation of malignant cancer cells.
Source of Iodine: Seaweed is a rich source of iodine, which it absorbs in ample amounts from the sea water. Iodine is a vital nutrient required for proper growth for all age groups. It is essential for the normal regulation of thyroid function, which also involves the brain and pituitary gland. The thyroid hormone also plays an essential role in the process of myelination of the central nervous system in newborns. A deficiency of iodine in the body can result in abnormalities such as thyroid enlargement or goiter, hypothyroidism, and mental retardation. Iodine is extremely crucial in pregnancy and breastfeeding for the normal development of the brain cells of the baby. Deficiency during these periods or early childhood can lead to weak intellectual growth and abnormal development of the brain.
Obesity: Scientific research has shown that edible seaweed possesses anti-obesity effects. The compound fucoxanthin present in seaweed helps in reducing the accumulation of fats and aids weight loss. Due to its ability to promote the oxidation of fats, seaweed is used in making prescription diet pills and gastric banding pills. These pills should always be considered after consultation with a medical professional.
Digestive Health: Seaweed has a mild laxative effect and is quite useful in maintaining healthy digestion. It aids in stimulating the release of digestive enzymes, supporting the absorption of nutrients, and facilitating the metabolism of fats. Studies have shown that polysaccharides exert prebiotic effects on the gut, which helps in normal functioning of beneficial stomach bacteria and shields the stomach wall against harmful bacteria.
Diabetes: The Fucoxanthin compound present in brown algae has been proven effective in exerting anti-diabetic effects. Along with this, the triglyceride absorption of seaweed Laminaria japonica, also known as kombu, has been praised for its effect on diabetes. As stated by the research, the anti-diabetic effect can be attributed to the presence of alginic acid in the seaweed kombu.
Dental Health: Seaweed extracts have long been appreciated for their preventative effect in the growth of dental cavities. The anti-inflammatory properties are responsible for the improvement in the functioning of salivary glands and making the oral tissues more resistant to damage. Alginate, a salt of alginic acid extracted from seaweed, is quite useful in the fabrication of dental molds.