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china-1177660_640Kale has been the “it” superfood for the last few years and has been so popular in the United States that the demand has driven up prices by 25% since 2011 according to the United States Department of Agriculture.  But as we know, food crazes and diets come and go.  This year, it looks like kale has some new competition on the block.  Foodies, nutritionists, and the media all predict that seaweed will be the next big superfood and knock kale off its throne.

Where it comes from
Seaweed is actually a mineral-rich sea vegetable comprised of red, green, or brown algae.  Most commercial seaweed is harvested in Asia in either clean ocean water or private commercial farms.  Seaweed is a dietary staple in Korea, China, Japan, and some coastal areas in Europe.

Nutritional benefits
Talk about a powerhouse.  Seaweed is loaded in calcium, iron, magnesium, protein, and selenium (just to name a few).  As for vitamins, seaweed is rich in vitamins A, B (riboflavin and pantothenic acid), C, E, and K.  It is also a great source of soluble fiber, which keeps the body satiated and slows down the body’s absorption of cholesterol and sugar.  Seaweed contains a high amount of iodine, which is uncommon in land-growing vegetables.  Iodine is a micronutrient that has been reported to be beneficial for brain and thyroid health.

How to eat it
Many Americans have only eaten seaweed in miso soup or in a sushi roll.  Healthy diets would benefit from the many ways of incorporating seaweed.  There are different types, flavors, and preparations of seaweed: chewy to a paper like texture, salty to a fishy taste, dehydrated or fresh.  You can add fresh, leafy seaweed to your salads or soups in place of (or in addition to) regular leafy greens.  Dried seaweed can be minced up and added to food, just like a traditional herb or spice.  The thin seaweed sheets, known as nori, can be used for wraps, burritos, homemade sushi (without the rice), or even crispy snacks.

Bacon seaweed
Yes, you read that right.  Oregon State University (OSU) researchers at the Hatfield Marine Science Center have formed a new kind of seaweed that is said to taste like… bacon.  They invented a new strain of seaweed comprised of red marine algae, known as dulse.  According to OSU, dulse contains twice the nutritional value of kale.  It is not clear when dulse will hit the shelves, but it will no doubt be interesting to see.

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