You've probably come across edible seaweed at your favourite sushi place. But did you know that sea vegetables, such as seaweed are exceptionally good for the rapidly growing bodies of young children and Mamas too?
History indicates that humans have been eating sea vegetables as far back as 8000BC by Japanese cultures. However, many other water surrounded cultures have incorporated sea vegetables in their cultural diet including Indigenous Australians. Like most traditional foods, sea vegetables play a very important part in providing nourishment.
Sea vegetables contain the broadest range of minerals of any food, containing pretty much all of the minerals found in the ocean- which also happen to be the same ones found in human blood. Sea vegetables are somewhat of a powerhouse when it comes to nutrition. They are an excellent source of calcium, iodine and sodium; a very good source of folic acid and magnesium; and a good source of iron, potassium and B vitamins. People in Australia (and other countries) are simply not getting enough minerals in their diet, especially iodine. This is due to several reasons such as mineral depleted soil (resulting in vegetables very low in minerals including iodine), consumption of processed food and not enough intake of iodine rich
food sources. Iodine is exceptionally important for children. The thyroid gland uses iodine to produce hormones that are responsible for growth and development as well as metabolism. Iodine plays critical role in brain function and development. Increased intake of iodine has been shown to improve cognitive function in children with deficiency. Research has also found that many pregnant women in Australia are also iodine deficient. Adequate intake of iodine is important in pregnancy and breastfeeding because brain development begins in the womb and iodine is passed on through the breastmilk. (If you are taking an over-the counter prenatal and/or breastfeeding supplement it is likely that it does not contain enough iodine. I recommend speaking to a nutritionist or naturopath about this.). It is possible to have to much iodine, but when eating sensibly, this is difficult to do.
There are many forms of sea vegetables that you can serve, the easiest and most available is nori (I choose Gold Mine organic toasted sushi nori). This can obviously be used for sushi, but a handy serving suggestion for children is to cut a sheet into ‘chips’ either on its own or part of a meal. Be wary of prepackaged seaweed crisps as they are often made with vegetable oil, which is unhealthy for many reasons ( I have yet to find a brand that does not contain vegetable oil). Other forms of sea vegetables include, wakame, dulse and arame. Be sure to buy and store products in airtight packaging to preserve.
Sea vegetables don’t have to be an everyday food, but just a couple of serves a week will boost the iodine content in yours and your child’s diet, making all the difference for long term health and welbeing.