Seaweed may be a hot new food trend in the United States, but this leafy green from the sea has been used in Asian cuisine for thousands of years. Not only is seaweed low in calories and fat, it’s also packed with essential nutrients like vitamins A, B and C. Better yet? Research shows it’s a good source of antioxidants and calcium and can prevent and reduce inflammation.
You may know seaweed as a crunchy, salty snack or the wrap that holds together sushi rolls. What you may not know is that seaweed is an important food ingredient that improves the taste of foods, makes them better for us and benefits the environment.
For example, carrageenan, an ingredient naturally derived from red seaweed, makes our ice cream creamy, keeps chocolate milk from separating and is the reason the ground nuts in our nut milk don’t settle to the bottom of the carton. It can also be used instead of sodium in deli meats and to replace fats and sugar in other foods.
Some sweets, like puddings and gummy candies, get their unique texture from gelatin, an animal-based ingredient. But what about those who follow a vegetarian or kosher diet? Have no fear, seaweed is here! Plant-based carrageenan can be used in place of gelatin to make sure these tasty snacks are vegetarian, vegan, halal and kosher.
Another way seaweed improves the foods we eat every day? Alginates, also a seaweed-based ingredient, are added to baked goods, such as bread, and even your favorite energy bars to make them taste better and stay fresh for longer. Alginates are also used to make beer foamy and replace the fat in low-fat ice cream.
But seaweed doesn’t just benefit the foods we eat; it’s also good for the environment and the people who farm it.
Seaweed is one of the most sustainable and eco-friendly crops on the planet. It requires none of the fertilizers, pesticides or other chemicals that are used in land-based farming. And seaweed sequesters carbon and cleans ocean water of phosphorus and nitrogen. Some scientists and researchers believe seaweed might even be the biofuel of the future.
More than 75,000 farmers around the world rely on seaweed farming to support their families. Before they started farming carrageenan seaweed, many coastal communities lived at or below the poverty level. With the income they earn harvesting carrageenan seaweed, these farmers are able to improve their homes, enhance their diets and send their children to school. And in some countries, seaweed harvesting provides a way out of poverty for women who do not have access to other jobs.
Seaweed isn’t just a healthy snack or ingredient that makes our favorite foods better tasting and better for us. It’s revolutionizing dinner plates and economies around the world, restoring our oceans and improving lives.
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