Kelp Benefits and Nutrition Facts
Kelp, a species of seaweed, is uncommon in Western diets, but kelp the benefits of kelp might surprise you. Kelp is awesome. Nutritionally, the only thing kelp isn’t good for is gaining weight. But that’s not all!
Kelp’s boons aren’t just restricted to the world of nutrition. Kelp has wide ranging applications. It’s fundamental purpose (or ecological niche, for you academics) is at the bottom of the food chain, sustaining diverse underwater ecosystems…something has to be at the bottom of the food chain! Interestingly, a 2008 study from England even suggested that kelp may be a viable source of renewable energy. While we’re going to talk specifically about the benefits of eating kelp, we’ll offer one major benefit that is unrelated to diet:
Benefit 1: Kelp is sustainable
Because, according to Wikipedia, kelp “can grow as fast as half a meter a day,” we can eat plenty of it and be confident that we aren’t disrupting any ecosystems.Quite simply, when kelp is harvested, more kelp will grow in its place, so it actually benefits kelp and the whole underwater ecosystem.
So by eating kelp, you’re getting more than the the nutritional benefits we’ll discuss below. You’re getting the knowledge and satisfaction that you are preserving the environment. In fact, kelp may be one of the most sustainable plants to incorporate in your diet. If you’re concerned with sustainability, perhaps you already eat a vegetarian or vegan diet to minimize the negative externalities of your eating habits. But the more kelp you eat, the more green your diet will be!
Environmental impact may or may not be a factor in your dietary decisions, but it’s a clear reason why eating kelp is good. We’re now going to take a look at the two biggest nutritional benefits of kelp. But start by checking out the nutrition facts. I defy you to find anything bad on this nutrition facts label. Like I said earlier, kelp is awesome.
Benefit 2: Kelp is a great source of vitamins and minerals
Think about it like this: you know vegetables are good for you, especially when you eat a wide and colorful variety of them. Kelp grows in a different environment than most of the land-dwelling plants we typically think of when we think of vegetables. Since kelp grows in a radically different environment (i.e. shallow saltwater oceans), it adds another dimension of variety to the vegetables in your diet.
You can’t see it on the above nutrition facts label, but if you check out nutrition data’s detailed kelp nutrition facts, you will see that kelp is an especially good source of magnesium, vitamin K, and folate. It also contains a considerable amount of calcium, iron, and manganese. To get a substantial portion of kelp’s copious micronutrients, you’ll need to eat a lot of it. You’ll want to cook it down in a pot or pan, and season it (my first impulse would be to use asian flavors and spices).
Because it has such high amounts of vitamins and minerals, kelp is sometimes packaged and sold as a nutritional supplement, but we do not recommend taking a kelp supplement.
Why? Because kelp supplements have been shown to increase urinary arsenic levels. This is a problem for those of us who enjoy not dying. Of course, a typical kelp supplement probably won’t flood your body with arsenic — we highly doubt the arsenic levels could approach toxicity even if you were slamming entire bottles of kelp veggie caps. Still, there’s no proven benefit of taking kelp supplements, so the risk-reward ratio of taking them is dismally high.
Bottom line: don’t waste your money on kelp supplements.
Benefit 3: Kelp aids weight loss
Kelp, like most leafy greens (underwater or not), is perfect to incorporate in a weight loss diet. When you’re dieting, you want to limit calories. Take a look at the above nutrition facts, and note that kelp contains only 43 calories in a 100g serving! Eat enough of it, and it’ll fill you up for minimal caloric intake. Dried kelp makes a great snack any time, and common weight loss doctrine supports eating multiple, smaller snacks spaced evenly throughout the day. To eat five meals a day, you’ll need portable, non-refrigerated foods. Dried kelp is perfect.
Perhaps more important part than it’s low caloric density, is that kelp is nutrient dense. So you’re getting more bang for your buck nutritionally speaking. When you’re limiting calories on a weight loss diet, every calorie counts, even if you aren’t counting calories. You need to be sure to get adequate micronutrients through foods like kelp, i.e. plant foods such as vegetables, nuts, and legumes, because they are all-natural, so they pack a huge nutritional punch.
Eat some kelp next time you’re trying to lose weight, but make sure to keep your net calories in a deficit! If you eat enough kelp, you’re sure to fill up on fewer calories, so kelp is sure to help you eat fewer calories than you burn each day!
These are just three of the benefits of kelp, but they’re the three most significant benefits. Just to recap, let’s summarize our list:
Top 3 Benefits of Kelp:
- Vitamins and Minerals
- Weight Loss
Our conclusion: Kelp is definitely Good for you, but we can’t classify it as Good Food because it just isn’t tasty enough to meet our standards. That said, I’m sure a knowledgeable cook could incorporate kelp into a very tasty dish (like the kelp salad pictured above).