Looking for a protein hit that won’t cost the earth? It might be time you started adding Ocean Vegetables to your kitchen rotation.
But it’s like sea ‘weed’ right, something to avoid on the beach? – Not anymore. While most of us may be comfortable with nori sheets encasing our sushi, we would be less comfortable with a slimy fettucine variant. Meanwhile, in Asia, they’re eating it by the bucket load. However, there are signs that seaweed may be on its way to becoming the new kale, as producers eye a global edible seaweed market valued at $8 billion.
So lets begin with a few facts to explain why this ocean vegetable could be a key component in the future of food.
As urbanisation spreads and expands, fertile land to grow crops and raise livestock are quickly running out. Global fisheries are not doing much better, with the UN food and agriculture (FAO) estimating that 70% of the fish population is either fully used, overused or in crisis.
Seaweed on the other hand is abundant, sustainable and widespread.
Nutritionally, seaweed packs what our land vegetables can’t, mainly because of deficient soil quality. New Zealand in particular has some of the lowest levels of selenium in the world. By contrast, seaweed acts as a sponge in mineral rich oceans, loading up with
Then there’s the protein. The percentage varies between the 30-odd known edible seaweed varieties (from 10,000 plus in total). After drying, it comprises 40% protein. That’s dusting most cuts of beef right there. A further milling process provides a salt reduced extract boasting a whopping 60% protein. Now you’re nudging towards the top of the protein hit-list, in tune with another algae which you may have already heard of and tried; spirulina.
Seaweed has one more superweapon. It is high in what are called free glutamates, which when combined with other ingredients, produces what a Japanese scientist coined umami, or delicious flavour. Umami is now accepted in the West as the fifth taste alongside salt, bitter, sweet and sour. Umami is that savoury meatiness that keeps you coming back for more of something. Other examples of umami include; Marmite (a kiwi favourite) and also parmesan cheese. Seaweeds advantage however is Parmesan is 18% saturated fat while seaweed is just 0.2%.
As dark, leafy veggies go, seaweed is about as nutrient-dense as it gets. So if you’re looking for something to help build muscle, re-populate your gut flora and improve your heart health, while being as virtuous as a solar panel. Perhaps it’s time to reach for some weed.