Algae: why is it worth eating them?
As the global demand for food continues to grow, people have started looking for alternative forms of food. This issue is very important, especially in countries with a large population, such as China, India. It was in China that people first started eating algae. Today they are already spread all over the world. They have a number of valuable properties that you will learn from this article.
What are algae?
Algae belong to the lichen. They are self-nourishing and live in an aquatic and humid environment. They are among the first organisms to develop photosynthesis.
They can be of various sizes (from millimeter to several meter tall specimens). Their body resembles a leaf or a stalk. They are attached to the ground with grippers. They are found all over the world in all kinds of water – salty, fresh, cold, warm. However, most of them can be found in the waters around Japan, China and Korea. They have different colors depending on the dye that is present. And so there are shades of green, red and brown.
The most commonly used algae are:
Algae – chemical composition
They contain many valuable nutrients, thanks to which they are used in the cosmetics, food and pharmaceutical industries. They are rich in protein, vitamins A, B, E, folic acid, iodine, essential elements (magnesium, sodium, potassium, calcium, iron, phosphorus).
The influence of algae on health processes
Thanks to the content of so many valuable substances, consumption has a positive effect on our health. They have found wide application in the food industry. They are an addition to salads, cocktails, sushi, soups.
They support the work of the thyroid gland
Algae contain iodine and tyrosine, which are essential for the proper functioning of the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland releases hormones (thyroxin, triiodothyronine, calcitonin) that control many processes in the body, including growth, energy production, reproduction and cell regeneration. Iodine is needed for the production of hormones. Its lack causes problems with this gland. It is manifested by goiter, weight gain, fatigue.
The iodine content varies in different species of algae and depends on the location and type of processing. Average amount of iodine in dried sheets of common seaweed:
Nori – 37 mcg / 1g
Wakame – 139 mcg / 1g
Kombu – 2523 mcg / 1 g
* mcg – 0.000001 g
A rich source of vitamins and minerals
As already mentioned, algae are a wealth of valuable nutrients necessary for health. Each type of algae has a different chemical composition, but all of them are perfect for increasing the level of vitamins and minerals in the body.
The algae include;
vitamins A, C, E, K
Using algae once a week will provide you with the right level of these ingredients. The protein found in some seaweed (chlorella, spirulina) contains all the essential amino acids.
Algae contain antioxidants
Antioxidants are needed to fight free radicals. A large amount of them in the body can cause serious diseases – diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Free radicals also cause skin aging. They also contain carotenoids and flavonoids, which also protect the body against free radicals.
They contain fiber, thanks to which they improve the functioning of the intestines
They contain fiber, which has a beneficial effect on the intestinal function. It can make up 75% of the weight of dry seaweed. Fiber is resistant to digestion and can therefore be a food source for bacteria in the large intestine. The sugars that are found in seaweed also increase the growth of good bacteria in the gut.
Algae regulate body weight
Algae are low in calories. In addition, fiber that swells allows you to feel full more quickly, and thus extends the time between meals. In addition, studies in rats have shown that a substance contained, called fucoxanthin, reduces body fat and lowers blood sugar levels.
They can reduce the risk of heart disease
Heart disease is mainly caused by high cholesterol. Algae lower it, which protects us against cardiovascular diseases. Seaweed also reduces the risk of a clot by preventing the blood from clotting.
Algae regulate sugar levels
Diabetes is a serious health problem that affects many people around the world. It occurs when the body is unable to balance the sugar level over time and it increases rapidly. Studies have shown that fucoxanthin (the brown pigment) lowers blood sugar levels in both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. In addition, alginate, which is also found, prevents sugar spikes after a meal.
Algae – side effects
Although algae are very healthy, eating them frequently can increase certain components in the body, which may not be beneficial for our health. E.g:
- increase in iodine levels – problems with the thyroid gland (in this case it is worth contacting a doctor and carrying out appropriate tests);
- seaweed also absorbs heavy metals such as cadmium, lead and mercury.
Algae in cosmetology
- they provide the skin with valuable ingredients and protect it against adverse factors;
- moisturize the skin and prevent water loss;
- tighten and brighten the skin;
- regenerate the skin, reduce scars, regenerate the epidermis;
- seal blood vessels, preventing them from rupturing;
- regulate the fat metabolism, thus preventing the formation of pimples and blackheads.