Say Yes to Seaweed
5 beauty and wellbeing benefits of adding seaweed to your daily diet
Reading time: 4 minutes
Seaweed has become increasingly popular over the past few years. It’s no longer a surprise to see someone snacking on seaweed or adding it to a salad, or even using it in their skincare routine. At this time of year, it can even be a great way to add in some extra nutrients into your warming winter soups and stews. So why is seaweed becoming more popular among the healthy eating community?
Firstly, seaweed is naturally rich in iodine, an essential mineral your body needs to make thyroid hormones. Thyroid hormones are important for vital bodily processes such as metabolism, which is why low thyroid hormone levels often lead to problems such as low energy, constipation and weight gain. There’s a lot of history to it as well. Research shows that seaweed has been consumed since prehistoric times, and it is believed that this natural source of iodine, which is critical for brain development, allowed for the evolution of the human brain.
So, we asked nutritionist and chartered psychologist, Dr Naomi Newman-Beinart PhD, to tell us a little bit more about the benefits of adding seaweed to your daily diet. This is what she had to say:
Iodine is an essential nutrient that you must get from your diet. Seaweed is one of the richest natural sources of iodine, and as an added bonus, it also contains a range of other vitamins and minerals. However, although seaweed is readily available in the UK, it’s not a staple part of our daily diets as it is in many parts of Asia. In fact, studies have found that nearly 70% of school-aged girls in the UK are lacking iodine, so it’s not surprising that the UK has been rated seventh in the world’s top 10 most iodine deficient nations by the World Health Organisation.
So, what are the benefits of adding seaweed to your diet?
Boost your brain power
Did you know that being iodine deficient can influence how intelligent you are? Researchers collated over 20 studies looking at the relationship between iodine status and IQ, and all of the studies found that the more deficient in iodine a person was, the lower their IQ – fascinating stuff and an excellent reason to start thinking about adding seaweed to your daily diet.
Boost your child’s brain power
Not many people know that iodine deficiency is the most common cause of preventable mental impairment in the world. Scientists found that low iodine levels in pregnancy was related to a 60% greater risk of their child having low verbal intelligence and poor reading skills during their early years. For this very reason, the World Health Organisation recommend higher levels of iodine during pregnancy to support the child’s developing brain.
Look after your thyroid
Your thyroid is a small gland at the front of your neck. It uses iodine to make thyroid hormones, but if you are deficient in iodine, then your body can’t make enough thyroid hormones. When this happens, your thyroid starts to work overtime to make these vital hormones which can result in overgrowth of the thyroid gland, called goitre. Luckily, if caught soon enough, this can be reversed by improving iodine intake.
Support women’s health
Thyroid hormones are key for so many of our body’s natural processes, including bone health, metabolism, reproductive health, and brain health. As a nutritionist, I have seen numerous women over the years who struggle with low energy, weight gain, dry skin and feeling cold all the time. While there is a lot to consider when someone presents with these symptoms, iodine status is the number one place we start and is often found to play a role in some of these issues.
Beauty and skin
One more reason why you might want to add seaweed to your daily diet is that thyroid hormones can actually help your skin cells to regenerate. When people have iodine deficiency, they often find that their skin is dry and flaky, and researchers believe that this may be due to low thyroid hormone levels. As well as this, seaweed contains antioxidants which are well-known to help protect the skin from damage and fight signs of ageing
How to Step up Your Seaweed Intake
Try adding seaweed to your diet by using it in cooking. You can easily add seaweed to soups and stews, great for this time of year, and enjoy making Nori rolls with dried seaweed. It’s a great skill to learn! Or seek out some seaweed supplements in the health stores or online, such as Doctor Seaweed’s Pure Organic Seaweed Capsules, which costs £14.99 for a 30 days supply. (doctorseaweed.com)