Kelp, often called sea kelp or just seaweed, is a brown sea vegetable that grows in almost every ocean on Earth. It is known for its rapid speed of growth, with certain species having the ability to grow half a meter per day until their optimum length (often as long as eighty meters) is reached. Because of its length and its predictable habit of remaining in thick forests in deep water, kelp is easily harvested and it remains an especially popular ingredient in East Asian dishes. It is widely available to purchase in the East and the West, both as a standalone food product and as a health supplement in tablet and capsule form.
List of Health Benefits
- Good source of iodine – Kelp contains high amounts of iodine, which helps to improve thyroid function (iodine regulates thyroid hormones), maintains the health of our metabolism and immune system, and guards us against radiation poisoning.
- Anti-inflammatory properties – Like other brown algae, kelp contains the sulfated carbohydrate molecule fucoidan, which is a potent anti-inflammatory.
- Rich in iron – Like most sea vegetables, kelp contains a large amount of iron, an essential mineral that is responsible for supplying our blood cells with oxygen. Many people across America suffer from a deficiency in iron, which can lead to chronic fatigue, skin ailments, brittle fingernails, and more.
- Antioxidant activity – Kelp is rich in antioxidants, which are substances that can protect our bodies’ cells from free radicals and other potentially hazardous elements.
- Prevention against cancer – The anti-cancer benefits of kelp are well-documented. For example, a study at the University of California, Berkeley found that a kelp-rich diet helped prevent estrogen cancer in women due to its phytoestrogen content (phytoestrogen is nature’s estrogen ‘backup’). Japanese women, who regularly incorporate kelp into their diet, demonstrate much lower instances of ovarian and breast cancer than their kelp-shy Western counterparts.
- Trace mineral content – One serving of kelp (10 grams) also provides us with two percent of our RDA of calcium, one percent of our RDA of vitamin C, and one percent of our RDA of dietary fiber. It also contains zero fat, cholesterol, or sugars, and only four calories, which makes it an excellent food for weight loss.
Kelp Is Not for Everyone
Although kelp is widely consumed and widely appreciated for its health benefits, there are a number of people who should avoid it altogether. These include people who are prone to nausea or diarrhea (kelp is known to worsen these conditions), and pregnant women. Whilst it is not known whether kelp negatively affects the health of pregnant women, very little studies have been done on the subject, so if you’re pregnant, then it’s probably best to avoid kelp until studies have conclusively shown that it does not adversely affect your baby’s development.