You may have heard seaweed is packed with vital nutrients, but have no idea how to incorporate it into your favorite recipes. As it happens, cooking with the sea vegetable is easier than you think! As a bonus, there are enough varieties of edible seaweed options that you won’t be stumped for dishes that incorporate at least one type.

Benefits

Each seaweed type has its own unique blend of nutrients, with red seaweed (nori) being particularly good as an all-around nutrient powerhouse. But in general, seaweed will deliver protein and fiber, along with a broad range of vitamins, including B-complex vitamins.

Among the mineral rewards you’ll reap by including more seaweed in your diet are iron, calcium, potassium and magnesium. It also contains copper and iodine, the latter of which some people with specific thyroid conditions may lack.

Types to Try

Your local health food or Asian store, or through mail-order supplier will likely carry the dried forms of many seaweeds. They’re often sold either in whole sheets, in strips, or pre-flaked. Among the more popular types, and their health benefits are

  • Nori (Vitamin C): In sheet form, this red seaweed can be used as a wrap, as it is for sushi. Make your own burrito-like fillings to wrap the nori around, or crumble it and sprinkle into stews and over popcorn.
  • Dulse (potassium): Dulse is a brown seaweed that works especially well when worked into cold salads or sandwiches, but it also adds crunch to casseroles and other hot dishes, and can even be munched in its own.
  • Kombu (fiber): This brown kelp is a crucial seasoning for the classic dashi and miso soups, and works well to flavor a myriad of Western-style dishes.

A Word of Caution

Much like fish, seaweed can pick up contaminants like mercury in the water. Avoid hijiki varieties, and keep your seaweed consumption to once or twice a week.

Seaweed also delivers Vitamin K, much as leafy greens like spinach and kale do. While “K” is a beneficial nutrient, it can interfere with blood thinners such as Warfarin. Check with your doctor, and eat seaweed in moderation. And if you need to avoid iodine, seaweed may need to be avoided altogether.