There's a lot of exciting science at the frontier of seaweed for a healthy life. Here, we break down some of the terms we use on a daily basis when talking about the benefits of seaweed for personal and planetary health.
Acidification: Oceans absorb 30% of the carbon released into the atmosphere; therefore, the more carbon in the air, the more “acidic” the ocean becomes. An increasingly acidic ocean erodes the shells of shellfish, sea urchins, and causes coral bleaching and death. It even impacts certain types of fish in their ability to protect themselves from predators, thus destabilizing the entire marine food web!
Algae: A term used to describe many different species (big and small), including different types of seaweed, spirulina, chlorella, and others.
Antioxidants: a general term for any compound that can counteract unstable molecules called free radicals that damage DNA, cell membranes, and other parts of cells.They are found in many foods, including seaweed, and can boost overall health.
Anti-oxidizing: The process by which antioxidants prevent oxidative stress in the body by neutralizing harmful free radicals.
Anti-inflammatory: Refers to substances that reduce inflammation in the body. Certain compounds in seaweed have anti-inflammatory properties for e.g. Porphyran which is present in our Daily Bites.
Bioactives: These are special compounds uniquely found in foods, like seaweed, that provide health benefits beyond basic nutritional value. Bioactives can have a therapeutic effect on metabolism, energy intake, and even against certain types of chronic disease like cancer and heart disease.
Bioavailable: A term used to describe the proportion of a nutrient that is absorbed and used by the body. Because of the complexity of nutrients and bioactives available in food, nutrition is most bioavailable from whole food sources vs. pill and powder-based supplements.
Biodiversity: The variety of plant and animal life in a particular habitat or in the world as a whole. It's an essential measure of the health of an ecosystem.
Blue Zones: Specific regions, for e.g. Okinawa, Japan, around the world where people live longer and healthier lives. The term was first used by National Geographic explorer Dan Buettner. Seaweed is a foundation of many blue zone diets.
Brown seaweed: A class of algae that ranges in color from olive green to dark brown and is typically found in colder waters in the Northern Hemisphere. Kelp is a type of brown seaweed.Your seaweed salad oftentimes is made with Wakame, another type of brown seaweed.
CO2: Short for Carbon Dioxide, it is a colorless, odorless gas that is present in the atmosphere and is absorbed by plants during photosynthesis. It is released by various human activities, such as burning fossil fuels and deforestation. High levels of CO2 contribute to global warming and climate change because it traps heat in the atmosphere, creating a "greenhouse effect". Because seaweeds grow very quickly, they efficiently absorb CO2 and can play a role in climate change mitigation.
Cultivated seaweed: Seaweed that is farmed and harvested. Seaweed can be cultivated in the ocean or in tanks.
Drawdown: The point at which greenhouse gases in the atmosphere begin to decline. The term was popularized by environmentalist Paul Hawken.
Dulse: A variety of red seaweed that people have been harvesting for food and medicinal purposes for thousands of years across the world. Dulse is has a milder, sweeter flavor profile. When roasted, Dulse can taste like bacon!
Ecosystem: A community of interacting organisms and their physical environment. Ecosystems can be different sizes and include areas like forests, ponds, or even smaller areas like tide pools.
Eutrophication: A process where water bodies receive excess nutrients that stimulate excessive plant growth such as algae and other aquatic plants. This enhanced plant growth often leads to the depletion of oxygen, reducing the biodiversity in the water. Kelp and other types of seaweed can play a significant role in mitigating the effects of eutrophication. Kelp forests are particularly skilled at absorbing these excess nutrients from the water. They absorb these nutrients for their own growth, a process called bioextraction or bioremediation. In doing so, they help to restore the nutrient balance in the ecosystem.
Endocrine system: The collection of glands that produce hormones to regulate metabolism, growth and development, tissue function, sexual function, reproduction, sleep, and mood, among other things. Some studies suggest that seaweed may have beneficial impacts on the endocrine system.
Essential nutrients: Nutrients that the body can't produce on its own, so they must be obtained from food. This includes certain amino acids, vitamins, minerals such as iodine, and fatty acids. Seaweed contains several essential nutrients, most notably, iodine.
Fatty acids: A group of compounds that make up fats and oils, they are an essential part of the diet and are also present in seaweed. Recent literature suggests fatty acids are especially important for cognitive health.
Frond: The leaf-like part of the seaweed. More importantly, our community of seaweed friends!
Fucoidan: A type of complex carbohydrate found in brown seaweed. Research indicates that it provides various health benefits, including anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.
Goiter: A swelling in the neck resulting from an enlarged thyroid gland, often due to an iodine deficiency or iodine excess.
GHG’s: Greenhouse gases.
Hyperthryoid: An overactive thyroid condition where the gland produces too much of the thyroid hormones. Symptoms include unexpected weight loss, rapid or irregular heartbeat, sweating, and irritability.
Hypothyroid: An underactive thyroid condition where the gland doesn't produce enough thyroid hormones. Symptoms include fatigue, cold sensitivity, constipation, dry skin, and unexplained weight gain.
Immunity: The state of being resistant to specific diseases, typically by the presence of antibodies.
Iodine: A trace mineral that is needed for the production of thyroid hormones. Seaweed is a rich source of iodine. The human body does not produce iodine, which is why it is a necessary part of a healthy diet.
Kelp: A type of brown seaweed that grows in underwater forests in shallow oceans. Fun fact: all kelps are seaweeds, but not all seaweeds are kelp.
Laver: A type of red seaweed. In Wales, it is used in the traditional delicacy, laverbread. This is also the type of seaweed we use in our bites!
Macronutrients: Nutrients that the body needs in large amounts. These include carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
Magnesium: A mineral that's crucial to the body's function. Seaweed is a rich source of magnesium.
Metabolism: The set of life-sustaining chemical reactions in organisms. It involves the conversion of food to energy to run cellular processes, convert food/fuel to building blocks for proteins, lipids, nucleic acids, and some carbohydrates, and eliminate waste.
Micronutrients: Nutrients required by organisms in small quantities for proper growth and development. Seaweed is both a good source of macronutrients and micronutrients, making it a nutritional powerhouse.
Nori: A type of edible seaweed used in cuisine, especially as a wrap for sushi. It is a member of the red algae family.
Omega-3 fatty acid: A type of fatty acid that is beneficial for heart health. Some seaweeds are a plant-based source of Omega-3.
Omega-6 fatty acid: A type of fatty acid that is important for brain function and normal growth and development.
Organic: A term used to describe food that is grown without the use of synthetic pesticides, chemical fertilizers, or genetically modified organisms.
Phytonutrients: Also known as phytochemicals, these are natural compounds uniquely found in plants, including seaweed, which have health-promoting properties.
Polyphenols: A type of chemical found in plants, some of which are antioxidants. Refers to a large family of naturally occurring beneficial compounds in plants, that are associated with enhanced health. Seaweeds are rich in polyphenols.
Porphyran: A water-soluble polysaccharide that is found in red algae, particularly in laver or nori. Emerging research suggests that porphyran may have several health benefits. However, it's important to note that more research is needed to fully understand these potential benefits and their mechanisms. Research indicates health benefits of porphyran include:
- Antioxidant properties: Some studies suggest that porphyran may have antioxidant activity, which means it can neutralize harmful free radicals in the body, reducing oxidative stress and the risk of certain chronic diseases.
- Anti-cancer effects: Some laboratory studies have found that porphyran may inhibit the growth of certain types of cancer cells. However, more research, particularly in humans, is needed to confirm these effects.
- Impact on gut health: Some research suggests that porphyran could act as a prebiotic, fostering the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. This could potentially improve digestive health and boost the immune system.
- Anti-viral effects: Some in vitro (lab-based) studies suggest that porphyran may have anti-viral properties, but more research is needed to understand these effects fully.
Potassium: An essential nutrient used to maintain fluid and electrolyte balance in the body. Seaweed is a source of potassium.
Prebiotic: Typically high fiber foods that feed the supportive gut bacteria.
Probiotic: Live microorganisms commonly found in fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, and kombucha.
Quercetin: This is a type of flavonoid antioxidant that's found in plant foods, including some types of seaweed. Quercetin has been studied for its potential anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and heart health benefits.
Regenerative: A type of farming that works to reverse climate change by rebuilding the organic matter in soil and restoring degraded soil biodiversity.
Restorative Aquaculture: Refers to a type of ocean farming where commercial or subsistence aquaculture provides direct ecological benefits to the environment, with the potential to generate net-positive environmental outcomes.
Rewild: The process of returning land to a more natural, uncultivated state in order to restore ecosystems.
Sea moss: Also known as Irish moss, it is a species of red algae that grows abundantly along the rocky parts of the Atlantic coast of Europe and North America.
Seaweed: A general term for countless species of macroalgae that grow in the ocean as well as in rivers, lakes, and other water bodies. Interestingly, seaweed does not grow in freshwater.
Selenium: An essential mineral, meaning it must be obtained through the diet. It's important for cognitive function, a healthy immune system, and fertility in both men and women. Seaweed is a source of selenium.
Superfood: A nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being.
Sustainable: A way of producing goods and services in a manner that utilizes resources efficiently, is economically viable, and is socially responsible.
Thyroid: A butterfly-shaped gland in the neck that produces hormones that regulate growth and development through the rate of metabolism. It's like the master battery for the body regulating energy, metabolism, and hormones.
T3: Triiodothyronine, a hormone produced by the thyroid gland that plays an important role in managing the body's metabolism.
T4: Tetraiodothyronine, also known as thyroxine, another hormone produced by the thyroid gland. T4 gets converted to the active hormone T3 in various tissues in the body.
TSH: Thyroid Stimulating Hormone, a hormone that stimulates the production and secretion of T3 and T4 from the thyroid gland.
Ultratrace minerals: Also known as trace minerals. These are minerals required by the body in very small amounts, less than 100 micrograms per day. Some ultratrace minerals like iodine, iron, and zinc can be found in certain types of seaweed.
Underwater forests: This term often refers to kelp forests, which are underwater ecosystems formed in shallow water by the dense growth of several different species known as kelps. They are a rich habitat offering food and shelter to thousands of marine species.
Uptake: In the context of nutrients, uptake refers to the absorption or assimilation of substances by a living organism. Seaweeds are known for their efficient uptake of nutrients and CO2 from the marine environment.
Vegan: This term describes a diet and lifestyle that excludes the use of animal products for food, clothing, or any other purpose. Many seaweed products are vegan, as they come from plant sources and can serve as a source of many important nutrients, including iodine and omega-3 fatty acids.
Vitamins: Organic molecules that are needed in small quantities for the body's metabolic processes. Seaweed is a source of several vitamins, including vitamin C, several B vitamins, and vitamin K.
Vascular plant: These are plants that have a particular system (xylem and phloem) for transporting nutrients and water throughout the plant. Seaweeds are not vascular plants; they belong to a group of organisms known as algae and absorb nutrients directly from the water around them.
Wakame: A type of edible brown seaweed popular in East Asian cuisine, and is often used in salads and soups.
Whole food nutrition: A strategy of consuming a diet comprised mostly or entirely of foods that are unprocessed and unrefined, or processed and refined as little as possible before being consumed.
Wild harvested seaweed: Seaweed that is harvested directly from its natural habitat, rather than being cultivated.
Xanthophyll: This is a type of pigment that gives many fruits and vegetables their yellow-orange color. Certain types of seaweed contain xanthophyll pigments, like fucoxanthin, which is found in brown algae. Fucoxanthin has been studied for its potential anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and weight loss effects.
Zero-input: A term used in both land and ocean agricultural systems to describe a type of farming where no additional nutrients or substances (such as fertilizers, water or pesticides) are added to aid in the cultivation of the crop.