Better known as the wrappers around sushi, nori is a sea vegetable that functions as a potent metabolite in our body, thanks to its rich content in essential minerals required in our everyday diet. They contain virtually all the trace minerals found in the ocean – a very broad range of them – which are rarely found on land vegetables but are vital nutrients to the human blood.
The seaweed is popular in the Asian, Mediterranean, and the Nordic countries. In fact, archaeologists have found that the Japanese cultures have been consuming the sea vegetables for more than 10,000 years. In the West, people usually call it “laver”, as it is the main ingredient used for making laver bread, a traditional Welsh dish constituting mainly of seaweed.
According to reports from the UN Food and Agriculture Department, nori make it as one of the most nutritious seaweeds out there.
Nori, and other sea vegetables in general, is gaining a lot of attention in the celebrity culture right now. Victoria Beckham reportedly encouraged her fellow Spice Girls members to drink her algae and seaweed-based shake for their bodies to get in shape in preparation for their 2007 comeback tour. Advocates of “macrobiotic” diets such as Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow consume a wide range of ocean vegetables in hopes of slowing down signs of aging and staying healthy. “Aging is basically going from grape to raisin, and sea vegetables keep you young and juicy,” said Jessica Porter, author of The Hip Chick’s Guide to Macrobiotics. According to her, eating a single large serving of arame seaweed twice a week will allow the skin “bouncing back like a baby’s ass.”
How is that so? Well, the main reason would be that nori has practically zero fat and usually contain very little calories.
Up to 50% of nori’s dry weight is pure protein (just 100g of nori gives you 40g of protein!), which is important for the body and its cells to grow the fundamental building blocks of its organs and strengthen the muscles. These amino acids found abundantly in nori promotes cell regeneration in the liver and kidneys, two important organs associated with healthy hair and skin. When these organs are healthy and functioning, they stimulate the growth of luscious hair and younger-looking skin. With the liver’s function maintained well, blood sugar gets stabilized, avoiding future weight gain. We will get on to its fat-burning effects in a moment.
A whopping 3% of nori is made up of omega-3 fatty acids, the essential fats our brain needs to maintain its healthy condition. Since our brains are practically a lump of fat (weighing 3 lbs!), intake of omega-3 fats is vital for nourishing nerve cells. Eat one dried sheet and you’ll more than one cup of avocado serving of omega-3 fatty acids, plus the equivalent of one cup of fiber from raw spinach.
Nori also constitute generous amounts of vitamin A to support clear vision, B-vitamins (including B12, also known as biotin, which is usually found in most meats, responsible for cognitive functioning), and vitamin C as an immunity booster. Because of its relatively high calcium content, vegans can benefit from eating seaweed regularly as an alternative to dairy products.
Nori can also be treated as medicine, and for other therapeutic purposes. Studies on the sulfated polysaccharides in seaweed, also called fucoidans, show that they have anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and anti-cancer properties. In 2003, these starch-like compounds have been found to increase mortality in rats suffering from meningitis infection. A study presented during the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy in Chicago. In the same year, a Japanese study also shows that fucoidan improves our immune system and plays a huge role in killing tumor cells and inhibiting future tumor growth. Other studies show that fucoidans help improve blood cholesterol levels, slow down glucose absorption for better blood circulation, increase chemical compounds for the breakdown of fat cells, and many other anti-oxidative effects in the body.
It is generally recommended to eat the seaweed rather than consume the extracts. Similarly, topical application of the seaweed on the hair and scalp, or onto the skin does not have any effect that it has when taken orally.
Metabolism boost, improved fat burn
Scientists are seeing the extract as a future pill for curing obesity in the near future. It’s safe to take as a dietary supplement, as it does not show any adverse side effects. In 2010, University of Newcastle researchers found that the algae can reduce the rate of fat absorption into the body by 75%, as a result of its inhibitory effects on lipase, the digestive enzyme responsible in breaking down fat. Jeff Pearson, a molecular physiology professor, noted the seaweed extract alginate for this effect, saying “some of the existing obesity pills work by inhibiting the enzyme lipase, which digests fat; but the fat is diverted into the colon, where it is digested by bacteria, causing bloating.” Alginate has a different mechanism in the body as it simply inhibits lipase.
Hokkaido University researchers did a 2007 study on more than 200 rats, where they give the dark pigment of seaweed fucoxanthin for their regular consumption. By the end of the study, the rats lost 10% of their original weight, especially around the gut. Though it’s not confirmed yet whether we will see the same anti-obesity effects in humans, nothing stops A-list celebrities from giving it a go.
Some of the body’s most important compounds require particular minerals as part of the makeup of their chemical structures. For example, iron is required for the formation of haemoglobin in our red blood cells. This process provides you sustained energy through optimal blood supply and better circulation throughout the body. Iodine, which can be found abundantly in nori, is responsible for the release of the thyroid hormone thyroxine. Victoria’s Secret Angel Karolina Kurkova, who once suffer from irregular metabolism, resulting her weight fluctations. The Czech supermodel, one of the sexiest women in the world, stated that hyperthyroidism is the cause of her weight gain, which contributed to “too much back fat, love handles and cellulite.” Along with her, about 27 million American women are suffering from the same thyroid disorder, which is a condition of underactive thyroid. Women who show signs of thyroid dysfunction can adopt smart-snacking habits of eating seaweed regular and see improvements in their metabolism while losing weight along the way. Eating just 3 to 5 grams of dried seaweeds will provide you the daily requirement for iodine (100 to 150 micrograms).
Nori seaweed also has powerful calming effects. This is because melatonin, a hormone associated with good sleep and relaxation, is abundant in seaweed. Many recent studies show that the average American finds more difficulty in sleeping every night, resulting them in sleep deprivation and correlated this effect to their consuming more calories during the day, causing them to gain weight. For starters, including nori into their diet will benefit their feelings of lethargy by promoting hormonal balance. Since its high melatonin content can contribute to better and longer sleep, making seaweed as their last meal of the day is the perfect way to combat insomnia. Because higher quantity and quality of sleep helps people struggling with their weight, eating nori for dinner will lead to healthy weight loss and maintenance in the long run.
A Day of Nori: Sample Seaweed-Snacking for the Day
Dried nori sheets
Picture from Squidoo
Picture from The Kitchn
Seaweed salad appetizer
Picture from Use Real Butter
Nori furikake on popcorn (or anything you like)
Picture from Herbivoracious
Cold seaweed soup, or Korean miyeok naeng-guk
Picture from Kitchen Wench