Flavorful, nutritious, and sustainable: Sea vegetables are having a moment. Here’s how kelp and its cousins can benefit your health and your taste buds.

By Jenna Helwig
October 14, 2019

Ride the wave

While seaweed has long been a staple of many Asian diets—particularly in Japanese cuisine—it’s showing up on more U.S. restaurant menus, in packaged foods, and in home kitchens. What gives? Carolyn Brown, a registered dietitian at Foodtrainers in New York City, says: “Seaweed is low-calorie, crunchy, salty, and super nutritious. The fact that it’s plant-based and high in protein makes it on-trend, too.” And thanks to online sources, seaweed is also easier to find than ever.

Nutrition notes

Brown says, “Seaweed is a vitamin and mineral jackpot, full of vitamins A and E, B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, potassium, copper, iron, and iodine.” It also contains omega-3s and polyphenols, and is a good source of protein and fiber.

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Heidi Yount/Getty Images

Common kinds

While there are more than 100 types of edible seaweed, these are the varieties you’ll see the most often.

Nori

Think of this as the gateway seaweed. It shows up on sushi rolls and in sheets as “seaweed snacks.”

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Kelp 

Also known as kombu, kelp is the primary ingredient in dashi, a Japanese stock that forms the base of miso soup. Kelp powder can be added to smoothies, and kelp noodles are a staple in Korean cuisine.

Wakame 

This is the main component of most seaweed salads and the wide, slippery seaweed found in miso soup.

Dulse 

Usually sold dried, dulse comes whole, flaked, or powdered. Some people say it tastes like bacon when fried. We’ll let you be the judge of that.

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3 Ways to Eat It (Besides Sushi)

From executive chef Jeremy Rock Smith of the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health and author of Kripalu Kitchen with David Joachim

1. Add kombu when preparing dried beans. The seaweed helps break down the sugars in beans that cause gas.

2. Sneak kelp into slaws for great depth of flavor.

3. Shake store-bought furikake—a topping that includes sesame seeds and nori—onto popcorn, roasted veggies, cooked fish, or omelets.

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Where (and How) to Buy

Nori sheets in the form of seaweed snacks are ubiquitous these days. Look for other varieties online and at Asian supermarkets, natural-food stores, and better-stocked grocery stores. Most seaweed is sold dried and consumed that way or reconstituted in warm water. Some seaweed, like kelp, is also available frozen, which means it doesn’t need to be reconstituted.

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