Seaweed is a worthwhile addition to your diet. Blue zone nations have been enjoying its benefits for centuries, and enough varieties exist to keep you satisfied no matter the occasion. It is low in calories but rich in fiber, healthy fats, and plant minerals.
But just because seaweed checks out, seaweed salad (especially from restaurants) has its drawbacks. Let’s dive into the specifics of both seaweed and seaweed salad, then check out a recipe for a heart-healthy option without the syrups, colorings, and flavorings you may find out on a menu somewhere.
Though there are many versions of seaweed salad, the most popular type is made from wakame, which is a highly nutritious and versatile variety of the underwater plant. Curiously, though, wakame is not bright green like the bowls of seaweed salad you find in restaurants. Therefore, we can safely assume their version is colored and pumped full of preservatives.
The dish’s high fiber content actually comes from agar agar, another type of seaweed that is usually added to seaweed salad. But wakame certainly has its health benefits, like a high concentration of iodine, a key trace element needed for correct thyroid function. It’s also low in calories and naturally full of flavor (umami) without any additives needed.
Seaweed salad can contain other nutrient-dense ingredients, such as sesame seeds, other types of underwater veg, leafy greens, ginger, edamame, daikon radish, shredded carrots, corn, and more. Pre-made variations usually just stick to the wakame and a bunch of added sugar and salt, though. The pre-made stuff often has a flavor enhancer, too, known as hydrolyzed vegetable protein, which isn’t super harmful, but it does contain wheat. Imagine eating a bowl of green seaweed and suddenly having a gluten intolerance flare up — it’s an unnecessary and pointless additive.
Seaweed salad is a popular dish in Japan and Korea
If you want to make a killer homemade salad without the gluten, sugar, or unhealthy oils, here’s a recipe you can trust:
So what’s the last word on seaweed salad? Unsurprisingly, it makes more sense to make it yourself, rather than opt for a version at a restaurant that likely came pre-made out of a tub. If you go to a high-end Japanese or Korean restaurant with very fresh ingredients, their version may be more nutrient-dense than something made in a factory.
Most importantly, don’t be afraid to make complex dishes from other cultures at home. You may not make it perfectly the first time, but you’ll get better, and the food will nourish you more completely than anything in a plastic tub with lots of additives.