Seaweed and Kelp:
The Ultimate Guide to the Sea's Super Food in 2019!
Whether you call it seaweed, kelp or algae, we are talking about the same amazing phenomenon: the sea’s delicious and nutritious vegetables!
This is a full overview of what seaweed is, what it is good for, and where you can find it, amongst other things.
This Ultimate Seaweed Guide will show you all there is to know about seaweed uses, their nutritional content, the tastiest of recipes, tips for harvesting and some nice facts about seaweed of which you may have not been aware.
If you have not wondered by now, let us start by answering one important question:
What Is This “SJØSAKER” Thing?
Sjøsaker is a name we came up with here at Tekslo. The word is spelled Sjøsaker (pronounced like “shuh-sah-kah”), and it means “vegetable from the sea” (a legit definition that we actually own!).
It is a mash-up of Norwegian words, but we promise it makes perfect sense if you know the language!
Tekslo Seafood - About Us
Tekslo Seafood - Our Mission
OUR MISSION IS TO GET SEAWEED BACK ON THE TABLE.
Where the Atlantic Ocean meets the North Sea, and along our coast, there is an underused and partly forgotten natural resource.
Our ancestors lived off the sea for thousands of years, knowing, since vegan restaurants didn’t yet exist, that seaweed was a positive provider of food at their tables.
All of us folks that started Tekslo Seafood grew up by the sea. Together, we have a dream of creating a more sustainable Earth, changing the trends around food and health, and introducing seaweed to the world to enjoy.
Our harvesting areas are located in the sea gorge at Tekslofyret, west of Tofterøy on Sotra, a place you have probably never heard of, but it is basically heaven for seaweed. We grow happy little algae here, which make the clear sea their home. Conditions are optimal: there is high nutrient content and no fish farming or other polluting elements.
We harvest wild seaweed by hand, from islets and sheaves. This allows us to harvest seaweed of the very highest quality. Then we dry the plants in our self-developed drying rooms, built within the framework of a traditional boathouse, because it looks awesome.
We also want to reach the widest possible audience with our knowledge of this nutritious and pure natural product, so that it can again be part of the diet of most people.
So…where do we begin?
Let us start with defining WHAT seaweed actually is!
What Is Seaweed?
The truth? Seaweed is just really big algae!
Algae, also known as seaweed, are a group of photosynthetic, non-flowering, plant-like organisms (called macroalgae) that live in the sea. This means they live off the light and in water, but they are technically not plants.
They are actually members of the Protista kingdom. As such, they do not have roots, stems, leaves, flowers nor cones.
They are slightly different from species to species, but there is not really much of a difference between them. Some types of seaweed grow closer to the shore, whereas others grow deeper in the ocean.
To be honest, the biggest distinction at first glance is that some present a coloring while the others do not.
Grouped into their four color-related types, seaweeds call coastal areas their home. They are also known as marine algae, but it is just not as catchy.
Seaweeds are a healthy, tasteful, easy-to-prepare and moderately-priced sea vegetable that is also an Asian favorite.
Collected either by hand or by divers, acquiring seaweeds are as much a hunting activity as gathering was in the old times.
Seaweeds are so abundant and have so much potential they make the ocean look like a big bank (or jar) of macroalgae. And truth be told, they are an especially solid option to combat terms of food crisis in our globalized world.
Why Is Seaweed Good for You?
Seaweed is composed of vitamins, minerals, natural fats, carbohydrates, Omega 3 and Omega 6 acids. All of these ingredients are a rich part of algae, and coincidentally, also known to be essential nutrients to the human body.
On top of that, out of the average dry weight that seaweeds have, about 5-30% is protein, which makes it ideal especially for vegetarian and vegan diets. Seaweeds can contain not only iodine, zinc, potassium, but also magnesium, calcium, selenium and phosphorus.
And from where do algae get all these? From the place where everything began, the ocean.
The sea feeds an incomparable wealth of minerals, macroelements and trace elements into seaweeds. Seaweed is just lying there, absorbing the many gifts from the ocean, and then it stores them for safe keeping.This is why the common amount of minerals in seaweed alone is almost 36% of its dry matter.
Why Is Seaweed Called a Superfood?
Furthermore, what is this superfood stuff anyway?
Superfoods are mostly plant-based foods (aside from those made of fish and dairy) that are thought and advertised to be nutritionally dense and thus good for one’s health.
We like to think of seaweeds as superfood thanks to the vast amount of nutrients that comprise them and the corresponding possible health benefits. Simply put, they seem to rock at everything they do!
Depending on the type, seaweeds can contain over 50 different and important vitamins, minerals and trace elements. Even though it is not as famous, seaweeds seem to be more complex and nutritious than land plants.
There is tons more we could say about superfoods and the superfood content of algae. That is why we have created an insightful sub-article for you on this topic here.
Health Benefits of Eating Seaweed
Those are not just our words. Numerous clinical studies have demonstrated the health benefits of seaweed consumption. As an example, the Scottish Food Health and Innovation Service has listed 21 health benefits of eating seaweed, linked to their nutrient composition, i.e, of what they are made.
If you would like to find out more, we expand on the health benefits of seaweed under a clinical study and research section in a separate article.
What Do Elements Have to Do with Seaweed?
Iodine, potassium, magnesium, calcium… These are all just chemical elements, right?
What do they have to do with seaweed, anyway?
These are actually “the Big Boys,” that is the most basic units and bits of nutrients going into your body. They are also all elements seaweeds have absorbed and are able to pass on to whoever eat them. They are what professionals call the nutritional content.
These minerals (and whatever else seaweed can provide) are all where the nutritional and health benefits start.
Minerals and vitamins are so important that they are often provided as health beneficial supplements. The good thing is food already has a lot of these, and seaweed in particular is good at storing them.
Expand here for more information
Click the elements of the table below in order to expand more information for each topic!
What is Sodium?
Sodium is an essential nutrient that in real life is mostly associated with salt.
The World Health Organization (WHO) states that an average adult eats 8 to 12 grams of salt every day, which might not seem much until you realize the recommended salt intake per day is just 5 grams.
Check out our article on salt and sodium to go over risks and benefits of sodium over and underconsumption.
Seaweed Salt – Another Option to Salt
Another option in the salt world is seaweed salt (also known as s-alt. Alt-salt? Still working on it).
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV have concluded that algae could be used as a salt substitute, also reducing sodium consumption.
The thing is, people consume so much salt it starts blocking up their veins. Whereas 1 gram of table salt has 0.4 grams of sodium, 1 gram of seaweed salt has between 0.022 to 0.047 grams of sodium. The amount of sodium changes depending on the species of algae.
With seaweed salt you still bring up your food’s flavor without incredible amounts of extra sodium.
Seaweeds are greedy when it comes to their iodine. They hoard up on that stuff like a militant, apocalyptic survivor. Or a dragon.
Seaweeds are known to concentrate iodine from the ocean, with certain types of brown seaweed being documented as ones to accumulate even over 30,000 times the iodine concentration of seawater around them.
Seaweeds carry an excellent supply of iodine without pronounced levels of sodium.
Awesome! But What is Iodine?
The unsung hero of many developmental processes, iodine is an essential trace element that is required for thyroid hormone synthesis (De Benoist, et al. 2008).
There are inherent risks associated with iodine deficiency, all of which we investigate more in-depth in this iodine article here, along with a section on how to control iodine levels.
What Is That about?
Potassium is an essential nutrient that is also required for normal bodily cell function. It is commonly associated with bananas, probably because a company really wanted to sell them.
Research has long stated that potassium is absolutely necessary for a human body’s well-being.
Spoiler alert: seaweeds have real high levels of potassium and could easily be your flavor enhancer in meals.
Magnesium is known to be one of the most important macronutrients a human body needs to stay alive.
At any given point, about 8-40% of a seaweed’s dry mass is mineral content alone. Of course seaweed would hold magnesium, too! *wink wink*
We have been able to project that a handful of seaweed (of about 100 g), would signify a magnesium content between 90 to 570 mg.
When the word calcium is said, you probably start picturing cows and white mustaches.
However, seaweeds are a non-dairy container of calcium, as they are known to hold even more calcium than milk, because…of course they do! They are seaweeds!
As you probably know, calcium is a mineral that the body needs to maintain bone strength, but it is also needed for other processes as well.
It is also a plus for vegans and lactose intolerant people, who do not have or wish access to regular cow milk.
To learn more about calcium, please note we expand more on it in this thorough article on calcium and seaweed. In it, we discuss seaweeds and calcium supplements, calcium bioavailability and why that matters.
Carotenoids, of which β–Carotene (Beta-carotene) is one, are powerful antioxidants.
If you want to talk about unsung heroes, then just look at carotenoids.
They are powerful antioxidants that, just like their name indicates, fight the damaging effects of oxidants in your body (no, not rust exactly, but basically that in anatomical terms).
Now, β-carotene (pronounced beta-carotene) is a carotenoid with a very particular function. β-carotene is a precursor of vitamin A, which means that the human body takes raw β-carotene, does some magic chanting, and turns it into vitamin A.
Magnesium, potassium, and a playful handful of many other “-assiums” are not everything seaweeds seem to like to hoard. Besides minerals, seaweeds also have their grubby fronds all over vitamins, it seems.
Vitamins are organic compounds named after the alphabet that are essential for normal body growth and nutrition. They are divided into two types, depending on whether they dissolve in fat or water. Seaweeds are so awesome they contain both of those types.
Seaweeds, in fact, seem to be full of an entire ABC realm of vitamins.
And vitamins are reportedly necessary in human bodily processes in diverse ways. Vitamin A, for instance, is known to be necessary for healthy skin, membranes, immune system, good eyesight, and more. Vitamin C also strengthens the immune defense system, activates the absorption of iron, and the list goes on.
Interested in knowing more? We expand considerably more on the diverse vitamins (A, β-carotene, C, all of the B guys too) in this power article on seaweeds and vitamins.
Carotenoids are powerful antioxidants. They fight (spoiler alert!) oxidants, which tend to go around like a pinball damaging tissue.
In fact, a study on nanoemulsions titled “Nanoemulsions: an emerging technology in the food industry” states that β-carotene“has health-benefiting functions in the prevention of serious health disorders such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, macular degeneration.” (Goindi et al, 2016). But this is not the only study available. There are many other studies, quite numerous references in fact, that attempt to pinpoint the correlation between carotenoids and health benefits, as well.
Seaweeds as Carotenoids
Many studies have demonstrated the antioxidant properties of the carotenoids found in algae. They have even been proven to play a role in preventing many problems linked to oxidative stress (Burtin, 2003).
If you are now wondering what oxidative stress is, it is what occurs when the oxidants are winning, and there is not enough antioxidants to storm the beach and save the day.
As others have put it and we vent out, seaweeds “are the main dietary source of vitamins and phytochemicals” (Sangeetha, 2009). If it is hard to believe, which we could understand, here is a breakdown of the known contents to some types of seaweeds:
- Brown seaweeds: lots of carotenoids, especially fucoxanthin, β-carotene and violaxanthin.
- Red algae: rich in β-carotene and α-carotene, at levels even higher than land plants (MacArtain, et al., 2007).
- Green algae: β-carotene, in levels similar to land plants (Burtin, 2003).
To learn more about the antioxidants in seaweed, head to this article that outlines their relationship and many other juicy and previously undisclosed details.
In their very raw definition, polysaccharides (yes, that is spelled correctly) are carbohydrates, very much like starch, cellulose, or glycogen (these are spelled correctly, too).
However, before jumping at the C-word, keep in mind that when polysaccharides are from natural sources, they are effective, non-toxic substances with a wide variety of activities and busy schedules.
Polysaccharides are commonly known to be able to act as probiotics (substances that stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract, or as scientists call them, “good-bacteria fertilizer”) that are, as such and thus, considered to have growth-promoting and health-improving effects.
Seaweeds contain a large amount of carbohydrates as structural, storage, and functional polysaccharides. Their total carbohydrate content may range from 20% to 76% of dry weight, depending on the species.
However, when faced with a human intestine, most of these polysaccharides are stronger, and they cannot be digested. This is why dietary fibers, which are exactly what you suspect they are, once into the human body help you go to the bathroom without worrying too much about it.
However, polysaccharides have other uses as well. Food, beverages, medicine, stabilizers, emulsifiers, thickeners, etc (Admassu, et al., 2015), are only some of their applications. They are hardworking and overall good, and we should commend them for it.
Spirulina is one of the two best known examples of edible microalgae. With a high protein content, spirulina is also low in fat, low in calories, and virtually cholesterol-free.
We expand on spirulina in this fuller Spirulina and Seaweed article, in case you are interested.
In comparative terms for 1 gram of spirulina, the vitamin content of that gram is relative to the spirulina content in 1 kilogram of fresh vegetables. Furthermore, spirulina is 50 times richer in iron than spinach, for example, and 10 times richer in β-carotenes than a regular carrot.
Spirulina is also one of the coolest names ever, and that is always a plus.
Types of Seaweed
To answer your first question: yes, there are several types of seaweed – but in general, seaweeds are pretty much the same.
Algae, the fancy city name for seaweed, are a group of photosynthetic, non-flowering, plant-like organisms (called macroalgae) that live in the sea.
They are not plants, but members of the Protista kingdom. This partly explains why they do not have roots, stems, leaves, flowers or cones. Technically they are not vegetables either, but are often described as sea vegetables due to their edibleness and yumminess.
Find more in-depth information about four diverse types of algae (green, red, brown and blue Microalgae) in this article.
Four Types of Seaweed
Green algae are mostly made of chlorophyll (the same substance that allows for photosynthesis) and storage polysaccharides (energy units).
However, the bits not made of chlorophyll and energy are also rich in magnesium, calcium, iodine, and phosphorus (Jaspars & Folmer, 2013). The main carotenoids (or antioxidants) present in these algae are β-carotene (Burtin, 2003).
Would you like to know more about Carotenoids? Check out this article we have on them. If you do not want to know, check it out all the same, you will not regret it.
Red seaweed get their color from phycoerythrin and phycocyanin. These two are actually like little cousins of chlorophyll, and they overshadow all other pigments, including a number of unique xanthophylls (http://www.seaweed.ie) that are in the seaweed’s composition.
Also, red seaweed has protein levels comparable to those found in high-protein vegetables, such as soybeans. However, red algae see those protein levels and contains around 100-800 mg of vitamin C per kilogram, beating soybeans to oblivion with their added value.
Brown algae get their color from the dominance of a xanthophyll pigment named fucoxanthin (a very fancy word for the color yellow). They have also lots of phlorotannins, which, according to others who have actually documented this, give them anti-obesity and anti-diabetic properties (Jaspars & Folmer, 2013).
In addition to all that, brown seaweeds are rich in carotenes (precursors of vitamin A) and vitamin C.
Now, blue seaweed, also known as microalgae, are the largest primary biomass in the world. They cover 70% of the earth’s surface to a depth of up to 200 m, meaning they have been our overlords all along, and we have just begun embracing them.
Until recently, microalgae have been an untapped resource. However, some have recognized their potential application for biofuel and human food supplementation. This has led to a boom in the microalgae culture industry (Jaspars & Folmer, 2013) of which perhaps you were not aware, but to which you should probably pay attention.
Ways To Eat Seaweed
There are tons of ways in which people can add rich seaweed to everyday food!
There are tons of ways in which people can add rich seaweed to everyday food!
Tossed fresh in a salad or pressed into a roll to chew on like gum, seaweed is a great snack and an ingredient for a variety of meals.
You can eat seaweed fresh, raw, rehydrated and dried. As if that was not enough, seaweed can also be boiled as a vegetable, mixed in with your meal, baked into cakes, boiled with milk for pudding or just plainly used as a base condiment or as a thickener for soups.
Is Seaweed Viking food?
It has been a part of the seafarers and coastal people’s diet for hundreds of years, both here in Norway, as well as in many other places in the world.
However, in parts of Asia people still eat seaweed daily.
Do you want to learn more about the Asian cuisine and history? After all, it is pretty interesting. Check out our article on seaweed and history in Japan, Korea, China and Europe here.
Seaweed and Children
Do your children like vegetables and fish?
Lucky you if they do, but if you just scoffed, you are not alone.
The truth is that many parents struggle to get their children to eat healthy food (remember how yours struggled with you? Jeez).
Seaweed is perhaps not your child’s first choice either, but our flaky products are easily camouflageable.
That is right–hide it in sauces, tacos, stews, meatballs, soups, you name it!
Get creative, and before you know it your little one will have eaten flavorful seaweed without complaints or hassle.
Seaweeds and Weight Management
Hey, this is actually pretty important. Seaweed is not a slimming agent.
We repeat: seaweed is NOT a slimming agent, and should not be consumed as such. It is best as a flavor enhancer and seen for its actual nutritional content.
For instance, some seaweeds have a lot of digestible carbohydrates and fiber. How fiber helps your bodily mechanism is also quite commonly advertised and known information that even doctors and clinics tend to share quite freely, so we hope you can reap on those preached benefits, as well.
In addition, Umami, one of the forms of seaweed, is perfect to enhance food flavor. This allows you to have a tastier dining experience without adding too much extra fat, sugar, or salt.
Seaweed and Sustainability
Eating deliciously while taking care of the environment is our biggest goal, and to be honest, whose is it not?
What many do not realize is that seaweeds can be an important contribution to a world with environmental and food supply crisis: they are delicious, contain nutrients, and are also easily produced and farmed.
They are also responsible for increased biodiversity in the sea. In the context of fisheries and degrading coastal ecosystems, seaweeds gladly put this conversation back on the table and provide you with an alternative: themselves.
While growing they help the environment they are in, and seaweed cultivation is simple.
Seaweed in Construction Work
Wait, so seaweed can be more than food?
The answer to that is: YES, OF COURSE. Seaweed can be anything it wants to be!
Well, perhaps that is a strong assessment, but it is true that in some parts of Europe marine plants were used for housing construction.
The islanders of Læsø, in Denmark, used eelgrass as roofing material. They also stuffed furniture with seaweed. Local women of Læsø are credited with the invention of using their wool-work skills to process seaweed and create patterns with them.
This is so unique that a seaweed bank was founded in Læsø in 2007 to relearn these processing techniques and preserve the remaining historic buildings of the town.
In 2012, these group efforts of preservation were acknowledged with the Europa Nostra Prize for education, training, and raising awareness of cultural heritage.
Seaweed for Glass Production
Yeah, you read us right.
The first recorded commercial use of seaweeds in Europe has to do with algae being used for the production of glass in France and Norway.
Algae ashes were used to replace wood ash in glass production back in the 17th century. Thankfully, it is no longer needed so we can eat more of them!
Harvesting and Drying Seaweeds
Harvesting seaweed is a process that requires either a magical blood moon or some patience and dedication. Your pick!
If you go for the latter, the process takes place in the archipelago South and West of Tofterøy in Sund Kommune, a beautiful area which is full of trees, rocks and nice sunsets.
Tekslo Seafood’s vision is to harvest as sustainably as possible, with the least possible impact on the fauna of the sea.
That is why we harvest seaweed by hand at the time when we can ensure the best possible growth. In this way the freshest seaweed gets on the drying line, and it is safely turned into a high-quality finished product.
The areas we harvest will never be harvested multiple times before we see that the regrowth is present. To guarantee that, we work under a harvesting plan that allows us to ensure that harvest locations are rotated and monitored carefully.
As you can tell, we like seaweed a lot. We hope you will, too 🙂
An actual footage from our guys.
Seaweed’s Biological Facts
The vegetation of the sea is more primitive in the evolutionary scale than that of the land. Not because it has not evolved for as long, but because its current form will do perfectly fine, thank you, and it is not interested in changing at the moment.
The differences between land and sea vegetation are simple.
Seaweeds have no flowers or seeds, for example. Their reproduction and distribution is accomplished by asexual spores (which are simpler structures than seeds).
They have no roots either. Seaweeds are anchored to the sea floor by a structure called a holdfast. Marine algae sit there and absorb.
Seaweed absorb necessary mineral nutrients directly from the sea water through their leaf-like fronds, and they slowly start to stock up on minerals and vitamins with a playful glow in their algal complexions.
BTW, Seaweeds Preserve Food
Marine algae are truly overachievers. They are known to contain an antibiotic component that helps preserve foods, for instance (because why the heck not?).
Natives of some Pacific Islands, for example, seem to use seaweeds to wrap fresh fish. It is believed to help delay putrefaction. In some other places where refrigeration facilities are lacking, foods which ordinarily spoil quickly (like meat and the aforementioned fish) are sometimes cooked with seaweed agar.
By being plunged in this super cool bacteria-resisting gel, these foods can remain wholesome for a longer time than foods which are not.
Seaweeds, the Vegan Option
Vegetarian and vegan diets include adequate nutrients from non–meat sources, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, soy products, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
This lifestyle can be very healthy for many bodies. However, eating balanced meals and snacks can require some extra attention at times.
Since vegan and vegetarian diets dispense of certain foods, they often need to add others that will provide the same nutrients that are found in animal products.
Vegetarians and vegans pay particular attention at getting enough protein, iron, magnesium, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, and omega–3 fatty acids.
Seaweeds, which contain many vitamins and minerals along with other nutrients, are 100% animal-free, making them an excellent option for vegan and vegetarian diets.
Some foods, like panna cotta, mousse, tomato sauce and jellies, tend to easily rely on gelatin for their unique textures. Gelatin, however, is made of bone extract (well, animal collagen), which poses a difficulty for most vegans and vegetarians who want to enjoy some of these treats.
However, with the agar of a seaweed, you can make jellies with ZERO animal content. That is right: nada, zero, schmuck. And you still get dessert!
And the plus side to it is that it sets quickly. It is actually known to have 8-10 times more gelatinizing power than gelatin. As such, it is possible you might even use less and make it last longer.
Tekslo Seafood Recipes
We understand how creativity in the kitchen is a learned sport.
This is especially true when it comes to adding vitamins and minerals to your diet through a new ingredient, such as seaweed can be to many.
But do not despair!
On the contrary, enjoy your time cooking with these delicious recipes we have put together for you. Let us know how it goes and how you gave it your own spin!
Debio Authentication and More
All our products are manufactured in an organic and sustainable manner, and they were therefore Debio approved in December 2017.
In order to follow this up, we follow codes of conduct from the UK.
Find Our Amazing
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