by Melissa Chichester
According to the National Ocean Service, less than five percent of the ocean has been explored, despite 70 percent of the Earth being covered in water. While the mysteries of the deep won’t be solved any time soon, there’s no time like the present to reap the benefits of the many nutritional gems harvested from the world’s oceans. Here are the top five from our treasure chest.
Chitosan is a dietary fiber that can be extracted from the exoskeleton of crustaceans, including shrimp, crabs, and lobster. Dietary fiber helps maintain a healthy digestive system and can promote peristalsis, which is the movement of food through the digestive system.* While the average adult only consumes 15 grams of fiber per day, The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends women consume at least 25 grams of fiber per day, while men need at least 38 grams per day.
Individuals with shellfish allergies should use caution and discuss taking chitosan with their doctor.
Red marine algae are sea vegetables that are a popular choice with health-conscious people due to its naturally occurring content of minerals. Native to the waters of China, Japan, and Korea, laboratory studies have found red marine algae to have antioxidant properties, and also support immune function at the cellular level.*
One of the most notable forms of red marine algae is known by its Japanese name: Nori. Nori contains 57 micrograms of iodine per sheet, 10% of the recommended daily allowance for Vitamin C, 525 micrograms of beta carotene, and 1.2 milligrams of Vitamin B-12. Today, Nori is commonly used as a wrap for sushi rolls.
Chlorella is a single-celled green micro-algae that contains phytonutrient chlorophyll. After WWII, chlorella surged in popularity as a food source solution to a worldwide hunger crisis, and today it is back again as a supplement that is popular with health nuts. It grows in Japan and Taiwan, and the whole plant is used in the production of chlorella supplements, providing naturally occurring trace sources of protein and plant enzymes to support health and wellness.*
While chlorella can be taken in supplement form, many enjoy it in powder form as an addition to smoothies and soups.
Kelp is considered one of the best food sources of sources of iodine – a trace mineral that supports thyroid function and plays a role in growth, development, and metabolic processes.* The earliest evidence of humans using kelp comes from the South Africa during the Middle Stone Age, and today kelp can be found growing all over the world on rocky shorelines, from Norway to California.
In addition to iodine, kelp also contains small amounts of magnesium, iron, dietary fiber, and Vitamin K.
Dried kelp is highly versatile, as it can be blended into smoothies, sprinkled on salads, tossed with oil and sesame seeds, or used as a soup seasoning (especially in miso soup). If you can’t get past the idea of eating seaweed, sea kelp is also available in supplement form.
Spirulina is a blue-green algae and highly digestible plant protein. Lakes, rivers, and ponds all over the world contain spirulina, from Mexico, to Chad, to Oregon. Historically, the Aztec people made cakes out of spirulina, or “tecuitlatl.” Dried spirulina contains about 60% protein, in addition to trace amounts of naturally occurring amino acids, vitamins and minerals like vitamin A and iron, as well as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Spirulina is more useful in the kitchen than you might think. With its savory, seaweed-like flavor, it can be added to your favorite smoothie or mixed into a glass of juice. While some may enjoy it mixed in a plain glass of water, it can also be used in decadent desserts like brownies or truffles when combined with other nutritious ingredients like Medjool dates, nuts, and coconut.