994959885200496
top of page

Seaweeds for health

Chris Holdham

15 Feb 2024

Exploring the Health Benefits of Hand-Harvested Seaweeds from UK Shores: Sustainable Foraging for Nutritional Wellness

Seaweeds have long been revered for their nutritional richness and potential health benefits. In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in seaweed as a nutritious and sustainable food source.


Along the shores of the United Kingdom, a diverse array of seaweeds flourish, offering a bounty of vitamins, minerals, and bioactive compounds. This article delves into the health benefits of consuming hand-harvested seaweeds from UK shores and explores sustainable foraging practices to ensure the health of both consumers and marine ecosystems.


Seaweeds are nutritional powerhouses, packed with essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They are particularly rich in iodine, an essential nutrient for thyroid health and metabolism regulation. Additionally, seaweeds are abundant sources of vitamins A, C, E, and K, as well as minerals like calcium, magnesium, potassium, and iron. These nutrients play crucial roles in supporting immune function, bone health, and overall well-being.


Seaweeds contain a variety of bioactive compounds, including polysaccharides, polyphenols, and omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked to various health benefits. Research suggests that these compounds may have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immune-modulating properties, making seaweeds a valuable addition to a healthy diet.


Health Benefits of Seaweed Consumption:


  1. Thyroid Health: Seaweeds are one of the richest dietary sources of iodine, a vital nutrient for thyroid function. Adequate iodine intake is essential for the production of thyroid hormones, which regulate metabolism, energy production, and growth. Consuming iodine-rich seaweeds can help maintain optimal thyroid health and prevent iodine deficiency disorders.


  2. Heart Health: The bioactive compounds found in seaweeds, such as polyphenols and omega-3 fatty acids, have been shown to have cardio-protective effects. These compounds may help lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol levels, and improve blood vessel function, thereby reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases like heart disease and stroke.


  3. Immune Support: Seaweeds contain polysaccharides and other bioactive compounds that may enhance immune function and promote a healthy immune response. These compounds have been shown to stimulate the activity of immune cells, such as natural killer cells and macrophages, helping the body defend against infections and diseases.


  4. Gut Health: The fiber content of seaweeds, along with their prebiotic properties, can support digestive health by promoting the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. Additionally, certain compounds found in seaweeds may help reduce inflammation in the gut and improve symptoms of gastrointestinal disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).


Seaweeds serve as an excellent source of the essential vitamin B12, making them a valuable addition to a balanced diet. While vitamin B12 is predominantly found in animal products, certain types of seaweeds, such as purple laver, contain this vital nutrient. Incorporating seaweeds into your diet can help supplement vitamin B12 intake, particularly for individuals following plant-based or vegetarian diets. Vitamin B12 is essential for neurological function, red blood cell formation, and DNA synthesis. Adding seaweeds to your meals not only enhances flavour but also supports overall health and well-being, especially for those with dietary restrictions.


While seaweeds offer numerous health benefits, it's essential to harvest them sustainably to protect marine ecosystems and ensure their continued availability for future generations. Here are some guidelines for sustainable seaweed foraging:


  1. Know Your Species: Familiarize yourself with the different species of seaweeds found along UK shores and learn to identify them accurately. Each species has its own ecological niche and growth patterns, so harvesting should be species-specific to avoid damaging sensitive habitats.


  2. Harvest Responsibly: When harvesting seaweeds, only take what you need and avoid overharvesting from the same area. Use hand harvesting methods whenever possible, as mechanical harvesting can cause more significant damage to marine ecosystems.


  3. Respect Marine Protected Areas: Be aware of marine protected areas and other designated conservation zones where seaweed harvesting may be restricted or prohibited. Respect these regulations to protect fragile marine habitats and biodiversity.


  4. Leave No Trace: Practice Leave No Trace principles when foraging for seaweeds by minimizing your impact on the environment. Avoid trampling on marine life, refrain from disturbing nesting birds or other wildlife and take care to leave the shoreline as you found it.


Hand-harvested seaweeds from UK shores offer a wealth of health benefits, from supporting thyroid health to promoting heart health and immune function. By incorporating sustainably harvested seaweeds into your diet, you can enjoy their nutritional richness while supporting the health of marine ecosystems. By practicing responsible foraging techniques, we can ensure that seaweeds remain a valuable and sustainable food source for generations to come.


References:


  • Teas, J., Pino, S., Critchley, A., & Braverman, L. E. (2014). Variability of iodine content in common commercially available edible seaweeds. Thyroid, 24(11), 1679-1687.

  • Brown, E. M. (2012). Functional foods: seaweed and health. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 71(1), 1-15.

  • Cornish, M. L., & Garbary, D. J. (2010). Antioxidants from macroalgae: potential applications in human health and nutrition. Algae, 25(4), 155-171.

  • Hughes, A. D., & Kelly, M. S. (2015). Sustainable harvest of wild seaweed resources. European Journal of Phycology, 50(2), 184-196.

  • The Seaweed Health Foundation. (2017). The Health Benefits of Seaweed and Sea Vegetables. Retrieved from https://www.seaweedhealthfoundation.org/health-benefits/.

bottom of page