Kelp: What Is It, Really?
Kelp is one of several seaweed varieties growing in coastal regions around the world, from Japan to Ireland, and the U.S. Coming in black, green, red and brown, some are small; some are so gigantic they form a sort of bed or cushion on the ocean floor and can be seen growing thickly on shorelines.
According to Organic Facts, an online website that provides unbiased information on various food items:
“Giant kelp, which is one of the largest plants in the world, grow enormously and stand like an underwater tree with its roots at the foot of the sea. Unlike a weed that grows liberally and can be harmful to the area it dwells in, seaweed plays an extremely vital role for the marine life.
It serves as a foundation for the majority of the food chains and provides home to a number of marine creatures. In addition to this, seaweed possesses anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties that have been trusted for providing health benefits to the humans from ancient times.”
Also called a sea vegetable, this marine algae is like a leafy green grown in a seabed rather than a garden bed. It’s quite popular in coastal areas of Japan, no doubt because it’s so abundant. Many Japanese claim it’s one of the reasons for their longevity.
Kelp: The Largest Source of Iodine
Many foods contain iodine, but nowhere near the tremendous amount in kelp. A single tablespoon provides a whopping 500 percent of the DRV. Nothing else comes close — not scallops, with 90 percent of the DRV, or cod, with 88 percent in servings of 4 ounces each, or a cup of yogurt, which nets 47 percent of the DRV.
According to the George Mateljan Foundation, a non-profit foundation that shares scientifically proven information about the benefits of healthy eating:
“Iodine is a key component of the hormones made in the thyroid gland. These hormones are absolutely critical to human health, helping to control energy production and utilization in nearly every cell of the body.”
Iodine also helps regulate your thyroid gland to produce strong, healthy hair, skin and nails, as well as to form thyroid hormones, thyroxine and triiodothyronine. It’s also essential for proper formation of your skeletal framework and regulating your body’s energy and brain metabolism in a process regulated by your pituitary gland.
The myelination process in the central nervous systems of newborns is another key function of the thyroid hormone. Balanced iodine in the mother’s body is imperative in pregnancy and breastfeeding for optimal development of the baby’s brain cells.
However, it’s important to understand that balancing your iodine levels is crucial. Specialists usually recommend around 150 micrograms (mcg) daily. Consuming too much could lead to either hypo- or hyperthyroidism.
How Does Kelp Produce These Amazing Health Benefits?
As mentioned, kelp is an excellent source of magnesium, potassium, calcium, boron, soluble fiber and iron, as well as vitamins A, B12, C and E.
The iron in kelp helps form healthy blood and prevent anemia and the antioxidants fight free radicals, altogether ensuring the growth of strong bones and optimal muscle function. According to the George Mateljan Foundation:
“One tablespoon of dried sea vegetable will contain between one-half milligram (mg) and 35 mg of iron, and this iron is also accompanied by a measurable amount vitamin C. Since vitamin C acts to increase the bioavailability of plant iron, this combination in sea vegetables may offer a special benefit.
The balance of iodine in the thyroid gland is tricky, and both too much and too little iodine can slow down the production of hormones. This is not a situation where more is always better.” – Dr Mercola