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Superfoods From the Ocean

Superfoods From the Ocean

The Ocean has a lot to offer in terms of hidden superfood treasures. This article is all about understanding the best superfoods from the ocean and the nutrients and benefits that they offer. There are many greens and superfoods on the market at the moment to choose from, read on to understand the main difference between each of them, as recommended by our Head Naturopath Jana.

1) Good old Spirulina

Spirulina contains significant amounts of B group vitamins including thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folic acid and vitamin and vitamin B12 (although vitamin B12 is in a form that appears to be not absorbed by humans), as well as Vitamin C, E and D. This algae also has a high mineral content with considerable amounts of magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, iron, calcium and other trace elements.

Spirulina is high in protein, low in fat, and also contains large amounts of betacarotene, chlorophyll, phytochemicals, and fatty acids including the essential fatty acid linoleic acid and gamma-linolenic acid (GLS). Spirulina is a very useful food/supplement for vegetarians due to the high amounts of iron, calcium and protein.

Health benefits of spirulina

Spirulina is popular as a type of "natural" multivitamin supplement especially amongst vegetarians and vegans who take spirulina to improve their dietary intake of iron, calcium and protein. However, spirulina was reportedly given to children after the Chernobyl nuclear accident to improve their immune function and general health.

Some studies have demonstrated that spirulina helps to maintain stable blood glucose concentrations and reduced insulin levels, this indicates a usefulness of this algae in conditions such as diabetes, hypoglycaemia, hyperinsulinaemia and potentially other conditions such as heart disease. By regulating blood glucose concentrations spirulina may also help to regulate appetite and by useful for those trying to lose weight.

Spirulina may be useful in the management and prevention of anaemia, may encourage the healing of peptic ulcers, and be useful in liver disease, skin conditions intestinal inflammation, and malnourishment.

2) Cognitive function Enhancing Blue Green algae

Blue green algae or Aphanizomenon flos-aquae (AFA) is an edible, highly nutritious fresh water microalgae that grows in wild pristine waters of Klamath Lake, Oregon where all pure AFA grows and has been harvested since the 1980's.

It is considered a top superfood among many health experts for its specific actions on improving cognition, physical energy, immune and mental health as well as nervous system functions.

Health benefits of AFA:

It contains a wide spectrum of nutritional components including phenethylamine (PEA), chlorophyll, carotenoids, B vitamins, polysaccharides, omega fatty acids, phycocyanin, active enzymes, complete proteins, a host of macro and trace minerals as well as a full array of other phytonutrients.

You can purchase Spirulina (and related products) at Santos Organics in the bulk section or pre-pack in-stores or online.

3) Cleansing and Immune boosting Chlorella

Unlike spirulina, chlorella has a tough cell well that reduces digestibility. However, the benefit of this cell wall is that it contains significant amounts of fibre that provide bulk to the stool, alleviate constipation, and also helps in the removal of heavy metals and environmental poisons form the body. The cell wall of chlorella also contains polysaccharides that are thought to enhance the function of the immune system by stimulating the production of interferon and exhibiting anti-tumor activity.

Chlorella is also reported to contain a substance called 'chlorella growth factor' that may encourage growth, cell division, and immune function.

Chlorella has a similar nutrient profile to spirulina. However, chlorella contains less protein and beta-carotene, and significantly more chlorophyll and fatty acids (particularly omega 3 fatty acids).

Health benefits of chlorella

Chlorella is used for many of the same conditions as spirulina including blood glucose regulation in diabetes and hypoglycaemia, as an antioxidant in the prevention of cancer, malnourishment and debility. However, chlorella is perhaps more specific due to its immune modulating effects for conditions such as arthritis, cancer, and chronic viral infection. Due to the presence of omega 3 fatty acids chlorella may also be useful for inflammatory conditions, skin conditions and heart disease.

You can purchase Chlorella at Santos Organics in the bulk section or pre-pack in-stores or online.

4) Nourishing Seaweeds your thyroid will love and much more!

There is many different types of edible seaweeds with each having a different flavor, texture, method of use, and not surprisingly, nutritional content. The most commonly used seaweeds in Australia are wakame, kombu, nori, arame, hijiki, and agar-agar. Other less-commonly used seaweeds include dulse, caragheen, Irish moss, and purple laver.

The nutrient content of seaweeds differs according to type and the location the seaweed come from, however as general rule sea vegetables are good sources of many minerals including calcium, iron, iodine, potassium, phosphorus, sodium, selenium and magnesium.  The high mineral content of seaweeds makes them very useful sources of iron, calcium, and iodine in the diets of vegetarians and vegans, in fact consuming just 25 gm of seaweed a week would ensure that an individual's iodine needs are met.

Seaweed are also low in fat and contain significant amount of soluble fibre, carotenes, and antioxidant phytochemicals (including frucoxanthins), as well as protein, omega 3 fatty acids, and vitamin B12 (although it appears that this vitamin is not in a form that can be absorbed by humans).

Health benefits of seaweeds

Due to their iodine content seaweeds support the health and function of the thyroid gland. Iodine is a part of the structure of thyroid hormones that are necessary for regulating the body's metabolic rate and the health of skin, hair and the nervous system. Low rates of breast cancer in Japanese women may be due to their consumption of seaweeds containing high amounts of iodine and selenium. Adequate intake of iodine appears to protect against fibrocystic breast disease, which may be a risk factor for breast cancer.

Seaweeds may also protect against cancer due to the presence of phytochemicals with strong antioxidant activity, although studies have most strongly shown an association between seaweed intake and breast cancer.

Seaweed in the diet may also assist those trying to lose weight. This may partly be due to the presence of iodine and seaweeds contain considerable amounts of soluble fibres that fill and reduce appetite. These gels may also help to reduce cholesterol and soothe ulceration and inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract, indicating a use in sore throats and peptic ulcers. Some chemicals in seaweeds have been shown to have anticoagulant properties and assist in detoxifying heavy metals.

Seaweeds have traditionally been used as blood and lymphatic cleansers to support kidney, liver and thyroid function.

Seaweeds are usually sold dry in several forms, including whole dried seaweed, sheets, flakes, granules and powders. Dried seaweeds should be stored in airtight containers in a cool, dry place.

Nori is sweet seaweed that is dried and then pressed into thin sheets, commonly used to wrap sushi. Nori may also be crumbled or sliced and used to garnish soups, stir-fries, and salads. Most other seaweeds need to be reconstituted before use by soaking them in water until soft. They can then be used in cooking or eaten as a salad.

Seaweeds contain sodium and have a mildly salty flavour enabling them to be sprinkled over dishes in the place of salt. Kombu may be cooked with beans and pulses and is said to have a tenderising effect and reduce flatulence.

Agar agar is a soluble fibre extracted from seaweed and used as a vegetarian alternative to gelatin.

It should be noted that seaweeds may also contain chemical pollutants and heavy metals, including arsenic and cadmium. Although all products now sold in Aus are required to be routinely monitored for safety it is important to ensure that seaweeds are purchased from reputable suppliers.

You can purchase seaweed in the bulk section or pre-pack at Santos Organics in-stores and online.

Free naturopathic consults are available in our Byron Bay store and Mullumbimby Store Mon-Sat.