Red Dulse, Sea Lettuce, Dillisk, Dilisk, Creathnach
Northern Atlantic and Pacific Oceans
Growing abundantly along the northern coastlines of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, Dulse is a red algae that has a long history of use as both a culinary and medicinal ingredient.
For over 1,500 years, northern Europeans have been consuming this nutritious seaweed, harvesting the red strands of Dulse from the shores to garnish their otherwise bland meals and providing themselves with the equivalent of a multi-vitamin in process!
Hugely popular in Ireland, Dulse has long been enjoyed by the Irish as a snack food, eaten dry and crispy as one would a packet of crisps. In folk medicine, Dulse was used to treat parasitical infections, relieve constipation and treat scurvy.
Dulse is extremely rich in iodine, with a 30g serving providing 110 percent of the RDI for this important compound. Due to ongoing soil depletion, sea vegetables have long overtaken land vegetables in the iodine department, with Dulse being no exception.
Iodine is critical to the thyroid; it forms a part of the thyroid hormones (T3 and T4) which are used in every cell of the body to regulate metabolism and weight by controlling the burning of fat for energy and heat. These hormones are directly responsible for controlling the body’s “base metabolic rate” which affects the efficiency and efficacy of many of the body’s organ systems, and regular processes including the absorption and biosynthesis of food into usable energy. Iodine is literally "food for the thyroid".
Iodine also displaces dangerous "halides" such as; fluoride, bromide and chlorine in the thyroid. It is antioxidant, promotes proper hormone balance, protects from radiation and kills bacteria and fungi.
When the thyroid is compromised, symptoms can include unexplained weight loss/gain, fatigue, hair loss and dry skin.
Just one 7 gram serving of Dulse seaweed provides around 40 percent of vitamin A. The vitamin A found in Dulse is in the form of beta carotene, a compound that has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration.
A fat-soluble antioxidant, vitamin A also helps to protect the surface of the eye (cornea), and is a component of rhodopsin – a protein in the eye that boosts vision in low light conditions. One of the first symptoms of a deficiency in this important vitamin is “night blindness”, or nyctalopia. Furthermore, vitamin A maintains the integrity of the cells of mucous membranes, including those of the eyes.
Dulse also contains lutein and zeaxanthin, both of which are known to be good for healthy eyesight, reducing free radical damage to the cells of the eyes.
Dulse is rich in fibre, mainly the soluble fibre, a soft and sticky substance that absorbs water to form a gel-like substance inside the digestive system. It helps to soften the stool so it can slide through the GI tract more easily, binding to substances like cholesterol and sugar, thus preventing or slowing their absorption into the blood. Soluble fibre can also help regulate blood sugar levels and protect against heart disease.
Healthy Bones and Teeth
Dulse is rich in magnesium and calcium, minerals that are essential to the integrity of bone structure and strong, healthy teeth.
Calcium forms a part of hydroxyapatite, the mineral complex that makes bones and teeth hard and maintains bone density. Roughly half of the body’s magnesium is stored in the bones where it acts as a cofactor with calcium and vitamin D to maintain and strengthen the bone structure and teeth. Teeth can only form hard enamel from calcium if magnesium is available.
Dulse is also high in protein and provides all of the essential amino acids. These amino acids work with calcium, magnesium and vitamins D and K to create strong and healthy bones.
Skin and Hair
Dulse has a long history of traditional use for promoting beautiful healthy skin. It can be consumed for its antioxidant properties and rich polysaccharide content to nourish and tighten the skin. Externally, powdered Dulse is commonly used to make an exfoliating scrub to get rid of impurities and dead skin cells.
The rich nutrition in Dulse is beneficial to the growth and maintenance of healthy hair. In addition to the many vitamins and minerals that are necessary for hair, Dulse contains omega 3 fatty acids which nourish the hair follicles, thus stimulating hair growth.
Fry as a tasty vegan bacon alternative or add to salads and pasta.
Seaweed has been a staple of the Asian diet for millennia. In 600 BCE, the Chinese author Sze Teu wrote a book describing how seaweed was prepared as a special gift to kings. In Japan in around 800 AD, at least 6 types of seaweed were commonly used in traditional Japanese meals.
During the Greek and Roman Empires, seaweeds growing in the Mediterranean Sea were routinely used as medicine. As early as 100 BCE, records indicate that ancient Greeks used a species of red algae (probably Dulse), to treat infections from parasitic worms.
At some point, the habit of eating seaweed, including Dulse, spread westward across Europe. Records from 500 AD indicate Christian monks in Ireland and Scotland were regularly eating and enjoying this nutritious red algae.
Dulse is also mentioned in the Icelandic Sagas of 961 AD. Highly valued as a nutritious food source, it even made an appearance in Icelandic legal documents. Iceland’s oldest law-book written in 1150 AD tells us it is, "Perfectly legal to collect and eat another man’s dulse when traveling across his property."
Dulse is rich in protein, fibre, calcium, copper, iodine, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, manganese and vitamins A, C, B1, B2 and B6. It also contains polyphenols, polysaccharides and focoidan.
People with an iodine allergy should not consume seaweed. If you are taking any prescription medications, especially in the case of thyroid disorders, please consult your healthcare professional before consuming Dulse Seaweed.