As an island nation our shores are surrounded by hordes of algae, amazing marine plants which have been in existence and sustaining life for millions of years. But we are not as in love with them as other countries, in particular Japan where as many as 21 different varieties are in everyday use. Maybe it is because Laver, Bladderwrack and Dulse don't sound as exotic and appetising as Nori, Kombu or Hijiki. Or maybe it's because we don't know what to do with them!
Seaweeds (or sea vegetables, I prefer), really are truly amazing. Did you know that they capture Carbon Dioxide like trees, in the disappearing rainforests? And that they produce up to 70% of the oxygen we breathe?
They are are a sustainable crop, needing no fertilisers, pesticides, feed or fresh water and on top of that they have an incredible nutritional profile.
All seaweeds are a powerful source of iodine which is one of the micro-minerals needed to stimulate the thyroid gland to increase hormonal output. (But not if you have a hyperthyroid condition). The thyroid hormones have such important roles, namely the proper functioning and homeostasis of our metabolic rate, our metabolism. The body cannot make iodine so we must get it from our food. We need it in quite tiny amounts, about 0.14mg per day but as it is found mainly in seafood and seaweed, unless you are consuming these you run the risk of not getting enough. The amino acid, tyrosine, also needed for thyroid synthesis is found seaweed. Nature, providing us with all that we need.
Calcium, another one of those challenging nutrients to get enough of, if, like me, you don't drink cows milk or eat much dairy , is found in super-high levels in Nori seaweed, commonly called laver in the UK and made into laverbread here in Wales. In fact, it has 10 times more calcium than milk!
Seaweed is also high in vitamins and minerals, especially iron and Vitamin C and it is also a powerful detoxifier due to the chlorophyll content. Algaes are an excellent source of many other natural phyto-chemicals including astaxanthin a carotenoid anti-oxidant, which is an immune modulator, anti-ageing and rejuvenating, free-radical scavanger and important for skin and eye health.
With all these incredible phyto-chemicals, it is probably no wonder that this dietary habit in Japan and Korea could help explain their lower rates of breast cancer. As an anti-carcinogen, seaweed works by reducing blood plasma cholesterol, binds pollutants for excretion , inhibits pathogenic bacteria in the stool, and is immune stimulating.
Nori, from the Latin word meaning 'water plant' is actually dried laver and if you are a sushi fan you will be familiar with it as it is sheets of nori used to make sushi rolls such as maki and temaki. ( Just a word of caution here as some nori sheets are very high in sodium so when you buy them make sure that they don't have too much).
TROPICAL NORI BOWL
To serve 2
You will need:
2 sheets of Nori seaweed, cut into thin 1cm strips. I used a scissors.
1/2 a cucumber deseeded, and thinly sliced
1 carrot, julienned
A couple of handfuls of spinach
4 tablespoons of natural cashews
Black sesame seeds to dress
1/2 a lemon, juiced
1 tsp white miso paste
1tsp coconut aminos (gluten free) or tamari or soy
1 tsp sesame oil
Assemble all the ingredients except the spinach in a bowl, add the dressing and combine well.
Divide between 2 bowls on top of the spinach and sprinkle with black sesame seeds and extra coconut.