Seaweed - The New Superfood

Thursday, June 23, 2016. Author Geraldine Campbell

For the past few years, kale has been championed as the ultimate superfood. Its nutritional value has seen it fill supermarket aisles, blog posts and instagram pages alike. Whilst most people would never of thought to include Kale on their shopping list a few years ago, it’s become a mainstay in health and fitness.

But, as with all health trends, some people believe that Kale has had its day in the sun it’s about to be knocked off its throne - by seaweed.

This nutrient rich algae found in shallow parts of ocean’s worldwide has been a staple in the diets of coastal populations, particularly in East Asia. But with a whole list of associated health benefits, it’s a food that we could all benefit from eating more of.

The most common type of seaweed is Nori, as this is used for the dried sheets in Sushi. But there are many more including Kelp, Kombu Wakame and Agar. All contain an abundance of minerals and nutrients; most notably iron, iodine, calcium and potassium.  

The Benefits Of Seaweed

Research has found many health benefits associated with regular consumption of seaweed:

  • Aid fat loss by suppressing fat absorption and making you feel fuller for longer
  • Improve Cardiovascular health
  • Healthier skin and nails
  • Hormone regulation
  • Help to prevent anxiety
  • Combat chronic fatigue
Seaweed & Genetics

Two important nutrients found in seaweed are folate and vitamin B12. Here at FitnessGenes we test for three gene variants that influence the folate pathways in the body: MTR, MTRR and MTHFR. These genes influence the functioning of important enzymes within the folate and methionine cycles, which impact on red blood cell production, DNA function and the levels of homocysteine in the blood.

Your combined variation of these genes will determine whether you should consider supplementing folic acid (active form of folate), vitamin B or betaine to keep your homocysteine levels within a healthy range and reduce potential health risks. One of the easiest ways to do this would be to introduce more seaweed into your diet.

Seaweed & Thyroid Function

Another key mineral found in seaweed (and not in kale) is iodine. This is what may make seaweed the new king of superfoods. Iodine is vital for thyroid function, the gland that releases hormones controlling growth and rate of functioning of bodily systems. Symptoms of malfunctioning thyroids are muscle weakness, fatigue and high cholesterol to name a few. To help maintain proper thyroid function, it’s recommended that adults consume 150mcg of iodine per day, and pregnant women should increase this intake to 250mcg per day.

This doesn’t mean you should go out and eat seaweed by the barrel load. Too much iodine is also bad for you, and even just 1 gram of seaweed can contain roughly five and 50 times our recommended intake. Start to include seaweed into your diet but don’t over consume it by including it within every meal or every day! There is such a thing as too much of a good thing in the case of iodine and seaweed.

A Healthy Alternative

The popularity around seaweed use is ever increasing, with many people using the flakes and granules as an alternative to salt. This could be a good way to control salt intake particularly for those who may be at risk or have high blood pressure - a strategy to help lower the chances of cardiovascular diseases.

With all these benefits to seaweed why wouldn’t you want to include it in your diet! Go explore Asian supermarkets to discover the different varieties offered and explore the products being sold online.

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Brownlee, I., Fairclough, A., Hall, A. and Paxman, J., 2012. The potential health benefits of seaweed and seaweed extract.

Rajapakse, N. and Kim, S.K., 2011. Nutritional and digestive health benefits of seaweed. Advances in food and nutrition research, 64, pp.17-28.

Brown, E.M., Allsopp, P.J., Magee, P.J., Gill, C.I., Nitecki, S., Strain, C.R. and McSorley, E.M., 2014. Seaweed and human health. Nutrition reviews, 72(3), pp.205-216.

Burtin, P., 2003. Nutritional value of seaweeds. Electronic journal of Environmental, Agricultural and Food chemistry, 2(4), pp.498-503

Chung, H.R., 2014. Iodine and thyroid function. Annals of Pediatric Endocrinology & Metabolism, 19(1), pp.8-12.

Bouga, M. and Combet, E., 2015. Emergence of seaweed and seaweed-containing foods in the UK: focus on labeling, iodine content, toxicity and nutrition. Foods, 4(2), pp.240-253.

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