You’ve probably come across kelp at the beach – but would you eat it? From what exactly it is to its many nutritional properties, here we delve into the potential health benefits of kelp…
What is kelp?
Kelp is a type of brown seaweed which washes up on the shores of almost every coastline in the world. It tastes salty like the sea and is often considered umami; a rich, savoury flavour that’s associated with things like miso and mushrooms.
In addition to being eaten raw or cooked, kelp is often an ingredient in things like salad dressing and even ice cream! That’s all down to the fact it can produce sodium alginate – a natural thickener.1
Kelp health benefits
Kelp is an extremely absorbent substance, meaning it’s able to soak up many nutrients from the sea. Because of this, kelp has a surprisingly high number of nutritional benefits, including:2
- It’s a natural source of iodine
This humble variety of seaweed is one of the best natural sources of iodine out there! Iodine is a mineral needed by the body to make thyroid hormones. People with a deficiency in iodine are more at risk of developing thyroid problems, with common symptoms including fatigue, unexplained weight loss, and dry skin.3
- It contains a hefty amount of vitamin K
Kelp is a good source of several essential vitamins needed to help you function and stay healthy. This includes vitamin K, a nutrient which aids with blood clotting.4
- It’s rich in antioxidants
Kelp is packed with antioxidants – which reduce oxidative stress in the cells. Specifically, kelp contains carotenoids and flavonoids. Both are types of phytonutrients which are known to support the heart and the immune system.5
Are there any side effects of eating kelp?
Like with anything, kelp is best consumed in moderation. As it is such a potent source of iodine, overeating of it could overstimulate your thyroid gland. This makes it unsuitable for people with hyperthyroidism.
As kelp can absorb nutrients from the water it grows in, it’s essential that you only buy a quality version or a product which has been tested for things like arsenic and lead.6
How to include more kelp in your diet
While kelp may not be for everyone, its nutritional benefits are undeniably promising. It’s a brilliant addition to your diet if you’re trying to increase your iodine levels or pack in more antioxidants. Here are four easy ways to incorporate more kelp into your meals:7
- Toss some dried kelp (or a little powdered kelp) into an Asian-inspired broth such as miso soup or ramen.
- Add a pinch of kelp powder to your fruit and vegetable smoothies.
- Make a kelp salad by rehydrating your seaweed and then marinading it in things like soy sauce, mirin, sesame oil, rice vinegar, finely chopped chillis and toasted sesame seeds.
- Sprinkle some dried kelp flakes on top of your stir-fries to add a delicious umami kick.
You’ll also discover dozens more healthy ingredients to stock up your kitchen cupboards with over in our cooking section.
Last updated: 5 November 2020