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What is seaweed?

The word "seaweed" is a term used to describe any number of marine plant and algae growing in lakes, rivers, streams and oceans.

kelp forest of the channel islands in california
A giant kelp grows in a submerged forest near the Channel Islands in California. (Getty Images)

Seaweed comes in all shapes and sizes. From the giant kelp columns that grow thick, in the submerged forest near the Channel Islands in California, to the microscopic phytoplankton that serve as a food source for a wide range of sea creatures, seaweed plays a vital role in aquatic ecosystems.

However, most seaweed is medium-sized and comes in colors of red and green, though some can be brown and even black.

Unlike what its name may suggest, most "weeds" of the sea are not toxic or destructive to their environment. Quite the contrary: There are species of marine vegetation that are inedible, but many of these plants are essential to marine creatures, both as a food and a habitat. Their many beneficial attributes have come to lead many to consider seaweed a superfood to humans and many other land-dwelling creatures, too.

Why Seaweed is Healthy

is seaweed healthy sushi uc davis
Nori seaweed is typically to used to wrap around sticky rice, raw fish, herbs and spices to create traditional Japanese sushi. (Getty Images)

A variety of seaweed is full of essential vitamins, minerals and fiber that can be very beneficial not only for humans, but for other land-dwelling animals.

Of the thousands of types of seaweed, only a few dozen are traditionally eaten. Seaweed types like wakame, kombu, nori and dulse are used in everything from salads, sandwiches and smoothies, to soups and even baked goods.

Certain seaweed contain agents known for their medicinal effects. Anecdotal evidence has tied the use of seaweed to a number of ancient remedies. Ancient Romans were said to use seaweed as a way to treat wounds, burns and rashes. According to legend, ancient Egyptians may have even used seaweed to treat breast cancer.

While research has shown that certain seaweeds do possess cancer-fighting agents, scientists hope one day the plant could be used to treat anything from tumors to leukemia in people.

New research has even shown adding seaweed to cattle feed may significantly reduce methane emissions from dairy cows.

Seaweed is rich in

  • Carotenoids
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin E
  • Soluble Fiber