Billions of pounds of seaweed are harvested each and every year and happily eaten by many cultures around the world for their beneficial effects. Consuming seaweed is linked to a lower incidence of chronic disease, both physical and mental. However, did you know that this powerful plant can also have a positive impact on your immune system?
Due to its easy accessibility, seaweed serves as a major staple in the diets of various cultures. This plant is an excellent source of vitamins A, C, E, K, and B-vitamins and is rich in minerals including iodine, selenium, calcium, and iron. The fiber in seaweed may also help prevent fat absorption due to its alginate, a special phytochemical in seaweed.
In one study, researchers studied the effect of seaweed on human immune cells in vitro, meaning in a test tube or petri dish. This study extracted eight different types of seaweed into “teas” which were then applied to immune system cells to study the impact of the seaweed. The researchers found that the seaweed, wakame, the type most commonly found in seaweed salad, can quadruple the potential activity of T cells. T cells are special immune cells called lymphocytes produced by the thymus. Having a sufficient amount of T cells is critical to support your immune system as it fights viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens.
In addition, researchers discovered that wakame seaweed has the ability to support immunomodulation of human lymphocytes. Further studies are required to determine the full impact of seaweed on human health and immune system support, but the early results are promising.
How can you add seaweed to your diet? One type of seaweed, nori, is commonly found in health food stores. Just add a few strips to any main dish. Another type, wakame, can add a delicious saltiness to salads or other Asian-inspired dishes. Try an appetizer of seaweed salad before a meal. Be careful of the salt content – seaweed salad is relatively low in calories but can contain large amounts of sodium naturally present in seaweed. One cup of seaweed salad may contain only 130 calories but up to 1,200 mg of sodium, almost half a full day’s worth of sodium in just a single food!
Overall, adding a bit of seaweed to your diet on a regular basis can be delicious and also help maximally support your immune system. Go for it!