Wakame Benefits

Wakame
Latin Name

Undaria pinnatifida

Also Known As

Wakame Kelp, Sea Mustard, Qun Dai Cai

Origin

Japan, Korea and China

Parts Used

Whole plant

Traditional Use and Health Benefits

Wakame has been consumed as a nutrient dense food source for thousands of years – a fact borne out by the archaeological discovery of cookware from over 3,000 years ago, with Wakame residue stuck to it. In fact, the nutritional value of this seaweed was so revered that the Japanese Imperial Court took Wakame as tax alongside Kombu.

Seaweeds such as Wakame also have a long history of traditional use in various Asian medicinal systems. The extraordinary wealth of mineral elements from the sea, such as iodine and magnesium, were known to have a beneficial effect on health. Seaweed was considered “cold and bitter” and was therefore used to strengthen the liver, kidney and lung meridians. It was also used to dispel phlegm, disperse goiter (iodine), and promote urination.

Wakame Seaweed Benefits

Thyroid Health

Wakame is extremely rich in iodine, with a 30g serving providing 160 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 Wakame 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.

Healthy Weight Loss

Apart from its high iodine content which contributes to a healthy metabolism, Wakame contains the carotenoid “fucoxanthin”. Found in many sea vegetables, fucoxanthin has been shown in numerous studies to increase fat burning and decrease excess stored fat – especially around the organs.

Results from a Japanese study at Hakkaido University showed that fucoxanthin attacks fat in two ways. Firstly, it stimulates the action of the protein “UCP1” that causes fat oxidation and the conversion of energy to heat. Secondly, it encourages the liver to produce DHA – an omega 3 fatty acid that helps to lower LDL (low-density lipoprotein).

Heart Health

Hypertension (high blood pressure) is a common condition that places extra strain on the heart and can ultimately weaken the heart muscle, thus increasing the risk of heart disease.

A 2011 study of 417 Japanese children found that higher intake of seaweed (including Wakame), resulted in the lowering of blood pressure. The study found that peptides isolated from Wakame also had inhibitory activity for angiotensin 1-conversing enzyme, causing an antihypertensive effect. Angiotensin is a peptide hormone that causes vasoconstriction and an increase in blood pressure.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Not only does the fucoxanthin in Wakame stimulate the production of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) – an important omega 3 fatty acid, it actually contains EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid).

Wakame is one of the richest plant-based sources of eicosapentaenoic acid in the world, with one to two tablespoons of Wakame providing between 15 and 30 milligrams of this important omega 3 fatty acid.

EPA and DHA are the building blocks of the nervous system. They are also needed for the integrity of every cell membrane in the body making them particularly important for the health of vital organs such as the heart and the brain.

Diabetes

Several studies have found that Wakame, specifically the fucoxanthin found in this seaweed, exert an anti-diabetic effect.

A 2008 study published in “Nutrition, Research and Practice” found that supplementing with 48 grams of Wakame daily significantly reduced blood sugar levels in diabetic patients.

Typical Use

Irish Wakame Seaweed

Can be eaten fresh (rehydrated) or boiled.

Wakame makes a delicious addition to eggs, fish, chicken, tofu, bread, rice, miso, cream cheese and potatoes. 

Folklore and History

Sea vegetables such as Wakame have played an important role in the eating habits of the Japanese people, and excavations have shown these plants to have been consumed as much as ten thousand years ago in Japan. A poetry collection published in the 8th century in Japan refers to Wakame as a sacred dish served to nobles in ceremonies, suggesting it may have been a delicacy, not available to the ordinary people. 

The word “Wakame” appeared in English literature in the 1860s, but it wasn't until the 1960's that it became widely available in the west. With the advent of the "macrobiotic diet" it began to appear in health food stores and oriental food shops as well as Japanese restaurants and sushi bars.

Wakame
Constituents

Iodine, manganese, folate, sodium, magnesium, calcium, B vitamins, vitamin K and vitamin C. Chemical constituents such as polysaccharides, fucoxanthin, a large quantity of proteins, stearidonic acid, EicosaPentaenoic Acid (EPA) and arachidonic acid are also present in this algae.

Precautions

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 Irish Wakame Seaweed.