When making a list of healthy vegetables we should be eating more of, seaweed rarely makes the list. For many people, the only time they consume seaweed is when they have sushi, eating the seaweed that’s wrapped around their favorite rolls or floating in their miso soup should they be so adventurous. Kale seems to be holding on as the vegetable darling but that may be changing soon. Is seaweed the new kale?
When did kale become so popular?
Kale is a great superfood and has been around forever, but only become popular in the past five years or so. Before then, most people didn’t even know what is is, where to get it, or how to cook it. Most thought the taste was odd and the texture less than pleasing. Sound familiar? The same can be said for seaweed! Before 2012, the biggest buyers of kale were caterers who used the cruciferous greenery to line food displays. Kale has been around for a long time, but never before has it been consumed so voraciously, or served as a symbol of pop culture. Kale is everywhere now: chips, salads, wraps, etc. You’d be hard-pressed to go into a trendy restaurant and not see it on the menu.
Why seaweed is becoming the new kale
For many, seaweed just isn’t to be found on any restaurant menu. But around the world for millions of people, especially those who live near coastlines, sea vegetables are and always have been a major part of the diet. Why? Because seaweed is healthy, plentiful, and diverse in what it can add not only to our diets nutritionally, but for culinary diversity as well. Just like kale, seaweed is gaining a seat at the table but unlike kale, there are many, many varieties of seaweed and sea vegetables to choose from. There are three main types of kale:
And seaweed? Seaweeds fall into the somewhat outmoded, but still useful, category of “plants”. Most of them are the green (more than 1800 species), brown (about 2000 species) or red (over 7200 species). While many of these species are not edible, there are many that are, including nori , dulse, and wakame, to name a few.
Nutritionally, USDA’s nutrition facts for seafood, based on a serving size of 100 grams, has 43 calories, 0.6 grams of fat, no cholesterol, 233 milligrams of sodium, 89 milligrams of potassium, 10 grams of carbohydrate, and 1.7 grams of protein. For vitamins, seaweed has 2% vitamin A, 16% calcium and iron, 5% vitamin C, 30% magnesium, and 0% vitamin D, B-12, and B-6. Kale’s nutrition facts, based on a serving size of one cup, have 33 calories, 0.6 grams of fat, no cholesterol, 25 milligrams of sodium, 329 milligrams of potassium, 6 grams of carbohydrates, and 2.9 grams of protein. Kale’s vitamin percentages are 133% vitamin A, 10% calcium, 134% vitamin C, 5% iron, 10% vitamin B-6, 7% magnesium, and 0% vitamin D and B-12. Therefore in theory, seaweed, at least from a nutritional standpoint, is twice the superfood that kale is.
From a culinary standpoint, the sheer diversity of seaweed and sea vegetables make it the obvious choice for those who like to experiment with interesting, fun new ingredients. There are numerous websites that talk about how to cook seaweed or use it in various dishes. You can also find seaweed already prepared and ready to eat. Did you know that dulse, for example, tastes like bacon?! And there are all kinds of seaweed snacks that are delicious and healthy. Naturally, if you’re looking for the health benefits without the hassle of cooking or going out to eat, you can always try a seaweed supplement instead.
So which should you choose: kale or seaweed?
Any healthy diet should include foods from a variety of sources. There’s no reason to “choose” between kale or seaweed; eat them both if you’d like! But if you’re goal is to incorporate a superfood into your diet, seaweed just may be the new kale. Try it and see for yourself!