You may be aware that seaweeds have enormous health benefits, but did you know it could help you to lose weight?
Seaweed contains a wide range of vitamins and minerals which are essential to our body's metabolism, including iodine, magnesium, manganese, copper, iron, zinc, vitamin C and the B vitamins. Celebrity fan Jamie Oliver even called it 'the most nutritious vegetable in the world". On top of this, seaweed also contains nutrients that are not found in vegetables grown on land including alginates, fucoidans and laminarins, which have extraordinary nutritional benefits.
Iodine has many important uses in the body, including the regulation of metabolism, the formation of our brains, the maintenance of healthy skin, and the normal functioning of the nervous system (1). Iodine is a mineral naturally present in the sea and absorbed by seaweed. Our bodies need iodine, but cannot make it, so this must be obtained from the diet.
Your thyroid relies on iodine in order to manufacture the hormones your body needs to function optimally. Without an adequate supply of iodine, a condition called hypothyroidism results, its symptoms include fatigue, a lack of energy, and weight gain. Since the thyroid's main function is to run the body's metabolism, hypothyroidism results in a slow metabolism, impeding your body's ability to efficiently burn fat.
Iodine deficiency is a cause for concern in Ireland, particularly amongst women, where a recent study from UCD found that two-thirds of women were not meeting their recommended intake. Adding just 0.5g of seaweed to your daily diet can help to meet these recommendations (2).
2. B Vitamins
Other nutrients in seaweed can also boost your metabolism. B vitamins play a role in breaking down food, particularly carbohydrates, into energy, hence playing a part in increasing your metabolism.
Seaweed has an abundance of Thiamine (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Niacin (B3) and Pantothenic acid (B5) which are essential to carbohydrate metabolism. The amount we need of each nutrient is directly related to the amount of carbohydrate that we eat.
Including more B vitamin-rich seaweeds in our diet, we can ensure that our metabolism is working at its optimal level, and burning fat efficiently.
Alginates are bioactive compounds unique to brown seaweeds, which have an effect on the way we absorb fat. Scientists from Newcastle University have investigated alginates as a source of dietary fibre, finding that it can reduce the amount of fat absorbed by the body by 75% (2).
Further research, conducted in Copenhagen, tested this on a human trial, where obese patients were given a supplement of alginate fibre, along with a classic weight loss diet. After 12 weeks, the patients who consumed the alginates had lost significantly more weight and had a lower body fat percentage than the other patients, who followed a normal weight loss diet without an alginate fibre supplement. (4)