Long acclaimed for its health benefits, seaweed is now turning up in everything from chips and crackers to soups and seasoning salts. The secret to this aquatic wonder's popularity: Ounce for ounce it's up to 20 times higher in essential nutrients than land veggies. Plus, its unique dietary fiber has been linked to both cancer prevention and the reduction of stroke-inducing blood clots. Go ahead and take the plunge.
Similar to other brown seaweeds, kombu is a source of fucoidan, a polysaccharide that kills certain cancer cells and improves immune-system function. It's also rich in calcium, magnesium, folate, protein, and fiber. The thick pieces of kelp are often used to flavor soup stocks (see recipe for Black Bean and Shiitake Soup on page 40).
A good source of vitamins A, C, and E, this brown kelp also has omega-3 fatty acids that help lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol, fight cancer, and promote weight loss. Commonly used in powdered miso soups and fresh seaweed salads.
High in fiber, protein, vitamins B6 and B12, iron, and potassium, this red algae hails from the northern coasts of Canada and Europe. Look for it in chips, dried-herb seasonings, dietary supplements, or flavor cubes.
A composite of edible red algae, nori contains vitamins A and C, calcium, zinc, and iron. Its iodine content supports healthy thyroid function, but people with high blood pressure should steer clear — nori is high in sodium. Often sold in thin, dried sheets for wrapping sushi, nori is also available in snack form: as roasted strips or in crackers.