Evolved Food: Seaweed

Updated: Jan 28

Seaweed, or “vegetables of the sea”, is a term used to define many species of marine plants. As culinary ingredients, they have been used in Asian cuisine for millenia (1) and for good reason. Edible seaweed contains high amounts of important minerals and vitamins - namely iodine - and should play a part in a healthy diet. The recent influx of seaweed food products and supplements in the Western world shows that interest is spreading so let’s look into it a bit more.

Edible seaweed is available in many forms, yet is most commonly found, and eaten, in sushi. The type of seaweed used in many sushi dishes is Nori, an almost universal name in nutrition given to various edible seaweed species of the red algae Porphyra which are commonly dried and sold as thin sheets.

Another seaweed of interest is Kombu, the name given to many types of sea kelp, which is one of the main ingredients in the soup stock dashi. It can also be used fresh in sashimi, pickled in vinegar or used to make konbu cha (kelp tea) - not to be confused with kombucha. Kombu contains extremely high levels of iodine which is an important mineral for proper thyroid function. Almost a third of the world population is at risk of iodine deficiency (2) (3) and those particularly at risk include (4):

- pregnant women

- those living in Southern Asia, Europe and other countries where the soil contains low levels of iodine

- vegetarians and vegans

A final seaweed of note is Wakame, a brown algae commonly used in seaweed salad or soups and stews. What makes wakame so noteworthy is a compound called fucoxanthin, which has been shown to provide many health promoting benefits, most notably in the prevention and treatment of obesity (4).

Most peoples intake of seaweed comes from sushi. The most common seaweed used is Nori (pictured above) which is used to make the outer casing of Norimaki.

Health Benefits

Helps Support Thyroid Function - Your thyroid is a gland responsible for energy production, cell repair and protein synthesis, and requires iodine to function correctly. Seaweed is a fantastic, natural source of iodine and is found in different amounts across various seaweeds:

  • Nori - 36.9mg/kg

  • Wakame - 139.7mg/kg

  • Kombu - 2523.5mg/kg

NOTE: Whilst kombu certainly contains the most iodine, it is wise to consume more of the other two varieties to avoid the risk of poisoning.

Can aid in weight loss - Seaweed consumption could aid in weight loss in a number of ways. Aside from the aforementioned increase in thyroid function which can aid in weight loss, seaweed is high in fiber which slows gastric emptying and can keep you feeling fuller for longer. The fiber content also promotes gut health which, in turn, can assist in weight loss (more of that later). A substance found in seaweeds - especially wakame - called fucoxanthin has been shown to aid in weight loss by accelerating your metabolic rate and inhibiting abdominal fat gain (5). Fucoxanthin is absorbed poorly on it’s own, but absorption can be increased if taken with a form of fat such as fish oil or MCT (medium-chain triglyceride) oil.

Promotes gut health - Fibre - particularly insoluble fibre - plays a major role in gut health. Fibre which isn’t broken down in the stomach moves into the large intestine where beneficial bacteria feed on it. Seaweed not only contains high amounts (between 25-75%) of fibre, but also some contain a sugar called sulfated polysacchirides which promote growth of good bacteria (6). A healthy gut can promote weight loss in a variety of ways (7).

Antioxidant - Antioxidants protect the body from free radical damage. Aside from the antioxidant vitamins A, C and E, seaweed contains fucoxanthin which has been shown to be a powerful antioxidant. Fucoxanthin has been shown to be 13.5 times more powerful than vitamin E as an antioxidant (8) and protect cell membrane's' better than vitamin A (9).

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Nutritional Content (per 100g)

The nutritional data below is based on a 100g serving of seaweed. It is important to note that 100g is a large serving of seaweed. Many seaweed snack products contain olive oil or other oils which raise the total calorie count. Remember, kombu contains very high levels of iodine and can lead to health problems, especially if there are underlying thyroid issues. It is recommended to consume 5-10g of seaweed per day (10).


Calories - 35Kcal

Total Carbohydrates - 5.1g

Dietary Fibre - 0.3g

Sugars - 0.5g

Total Fat - 0.3g

Saturated Fat - 0.1g

Monounsaturated Fat - 0g

Polyunsaturated Fat - 0.1g

Protein - 5.8g

Vitamin A - 104%

Vitamin B2 - 26%

Vitamin B9 - 37%

Vitamin C - 65%

Manganese - 49%

Potassium - 10%

Calcium - 7%

Copper - 13%

Iron - 10%

Iodine - 2,678%


Calories - 45Kcal

Total Carbohydrates - 9.1g

Dietary Fibre - 0.5g

Sugars - 0.7g

Total Fat - 0.3g

Saturated Fat - 0.1g

Monounsaturated Fat - 0g

Polyunsaturated Fat - 0.1g

Protein - 3g

Vitamin A - 7%

Vitamin B2 - 14%

Vitamin B9 - 49%

Vitamin C - 5%

Manganese - 70%

Magnesium - 27%

Sodium - 36%

Calcium - 15%

Copper - 14%

Iron - 12%

Iodine - 10,000%


It was difficult to source reliable nutrition data for kombu. This is the nutritional data for Organic Irish Kombu:

Calories - 95Kcal

Total Carbohydrates - 2.1g

Dietary Fibre - 32.1g

Sugars - 0.1g

Total Fat - 1.9g

Saturated Fat - 0.9g

Protein - 14g

Iodine - 180,285%!!!!!!


Seaweed in all forms is a great source of minerals and vitamins. Of note, iodine is the most abundant mineral present in seaweed and can be beneficial to those deficient in iodine. There is, however, a risk of over-consumption of iodine with certain seaweeds - especially in kombu - so it is advisable to consume the recommended quantities provided on the product you purchased.

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John Maitland

John Maitland is the co-founder of 'The Evolved Way.’ A personal trainer with over 10 years’ experience, he has worked alongside a wide range of leading CEOs, entrepreneurs and medical professionals. John is a keen athlete and holds a black belt in Shaolin Kung fu. A fan of the great outdoors, he can often be found exploring the British countryside and mountains...or breaking pine boards with his fingers.

Samson Hodin

Co-founder of 'The Evolved Way', and experienced personal trainer, Samson practices what he preaches. His own healthy lifestyle, which informs this site, is based on understanding the right way to eat and exercise, not excluding of course going out and enjoying life knowing you can still feel and look good.

#EvolvedFoods #Vegan #vegetarian #Nutrition



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