The habitat of seaweeds varies from species to species, but pretty much all of them spend large amounts of time exposed to direct sunlight while lounging in the water. As a result, seaweeds contain many forms of antioxidants, including vitamins and protective pigments.
What Are Vitamins, and Why Are They Good for You?
Vitamins are organic compounds that are essential for normal body growth and nutrition. They are nutrients, and each one play a role in developing and maintaining a healthy functional human being. Without vitamins, you would not be who you are today. Remember to thank them next time!
There are 13 vitamins in total that are part of what is known as your “essential vitamins”, and they are divided according to what makes them dissolve: water-soluble (vitamins C and the B-complex group) and fat-soluble (A, D, E, and K). Seaweeds, being made both of organic and liquid matter, contain both water- and fat-soluble vitamins.
Marine algae are, in fact, a rich source of vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B9, C, and E (MacArtain, et al. 2007). In addition to vitamin C, brown seaweeds are also rich in carotenes (provitamin A).
Seaweed and Vitamin A
Why Do We Need Vitamin A?
We need vitamin A for healthy skin and mucous membranes (these are basically your delicate squishy bits like mouths, lungs, eyelids, etc), a proper immune system, and good eye health and vision.
What is so special about β -Carotene and Vitamin A?
β-carotene (pronounced beta-carotene, scientists had run out of Roman letters) is the precursor to vitamin A. The human body takes all that β-carotene you shoved into your body and converts it into vitamin A. Following, through β-carotene, we can source Vitamin A out of the food we eat.
Excess Vitamin A and Toxicity
True: excess of vitamin A is toxic.
Also true: the human body only converts as much β-carotene into vitamin A as it needs.
Getting β-carotene from your food, and therefore obtaining your necessary vitamin A, can be a better option than supplements. An intoxication can occur if you consume too many supplements (Nordqvist, 2014).
Seaweed and Group B Vitamins
Seaweed and Vitamin B12
Algae are also a source of group B vitamins – a whole lot of them. The B-gang is excellent for your health as well, particularly B12. Vitamin B12 is especially recommended in the treatment of the effects of ageing, of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), and even anemia.
B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that is naturally present in some foods, and as most other vitamins it is also added to other foods. It is also available as a dietary supplement and a prescription medication.
The good news is, seaweeds contain B12, too! It is true that some parts of vitamin B12 found in seaweeds are inactive analogues, which means that they may not be absorbed entirely by mammals (a.k.a., “us!”). However, studies have demonstrated that some seaweeds can supply adequate amounts of usable B12.
Nori and Vitamin B12
Nori, which are dried lavers, are probably the most widely eaten seaweed. This is great because they have been reported to contain substantial amounts of good-doing B12 vitamin.
In fact, studies indicate that the dried green and purple lavers are the most excellent source of vitamin B12 among edible seaweeds, especially for strict vegetarians.
On that note, a daily ingestion of a gram of spirulina, known as well as blue seaweed (and the bearer of the best ballet-dancer name ever), would be enough to meet the daily requirements of B12 (Watanabe et al. 1999).
In fact, just to give you an idea, 1 g of spirulina contains as much vitamin as 1 kg of fresh vegetables, and it is 50 times richer in iron than spinach and 10 times richer in β-carotene than carrots.
What about Vitamin B12 Deficiency?
There is a reason B12 is so needed in your system.
Vitamin B12 deficiency is characterized by megaloblastic anemia, fatigue, weakness, constipation, loss of appetite, and weight loss.
It affects us so much that neurological changes, such as numbness and tingling in the hands and feet, can also occur. There could also be difficulty maintaining balance, as well as depression, confusion, dementia, poor memory, and, as if that was not enough, soreness of the mouth or tongue (NIH).
To avoid all these problems, having a proper and good source of B12 is necessary. Make sure to consume a balanced diet to keep you going at the best rate possible.
Seaweed and Vitamin C
Oranges are probably the most popular source of vitamin C, but when you look closely, it transpires that algae have better numbers.
In green and brown algae, for example, the levels of vitamin C average between 500 to 3000 mg per kg of dry matter. That level is comparable with that of parsley, blackcurrant, and peppers.
This also means that parsley, blackcurrant and peppers are probably better sources of vitamin C than oranges, too, but let us not disrespect them too much.
Red algae, on the other hand, contains vitamin C levels of around 100 to 800 mg per kg of dry matter.
Vitamin C, like all other vitamins, is of interest for many reasons. It strengthens the immune defense system (that is why you have to get that orange juice when you have a cold), and it activates the intestinal absorption of iron (making you grow healthy and strong).
This vitamin also controls the formation of conjunctive tissue and the protidic matrix of bony tissue. In addition, this Vitamin C also acts in trapping free radicals and regenerating Vitamin E.
REFERENCES Admassu, H., Zhao, W., Yang, R., Gasmalla, M. A., & Alsir, E. (2015). Development Of Functional Foods: Sea Weeds (Algae) Untouched Potential And Alternative Resource-A Review. International Journal of scientific & Technology research, 4(9), 108-115. MacArtain, P., Gill, C. I., Brooks, M., Campbell, R., & Rowland, I. R. (2007). Nutritional value of edible seaweeds. Nutrition reviews, 65(12), 535-543. Rajapakse, N., & Kim, S. K. (2011). Nutritional and digestive health benefits of seaweed. In Advances in food and nutrition research (Vol. 64, pp. 17-28). Academic Press. Watanabe, F, Takenaka, S, Katsura H, Zakir Hussain Masumder, SAM, Abe, K, Tamura Y, Nakano Y 1999. Dried green and purple lavers (Nori) contain substantial amounts of biologically active vitamin B12 but less of dietary iodine relative to other edible seaweeds. J. Agric. Food Chem. 47 : 2341-2343. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Vitamin%20B12-HealthProfessional/#h7 https://www.livescience.com/34693-superfoods.html