Kelp is vegan and is basically a sea vegetable.
Kelp is a brown algae seaweed that’s packed with iodine, fiber, and magnesium. It provides great health benefits. However, you have to take it in moderation due to its high iodine content, which can cause iodine toxicity.
In this article, you will learn more about kelp, and how to make it part of your diet in the healthiest way possible.
Table of Contents
What Is Kelp?
Close to the shore, in the shallow waters, you will find the kelp forest that feeds thousands of sea animals. A carbohydrate derived from kelp called alginate is used as a food thickener in ice cream, salad dressings, jellies, cakes, and even in toothpaste or shampoo.
Kelp grows in a dense group just like a forest. Due to its sturdy anchor on the ocean floor, it’s considered a sea tree, where many sea mammals seek shelter. The kelp canopies typically grow in cool, nutrient-rich open waters and depend on sunlight for growth.
Because of their sunlight dependence, kelp can’t grow any deeper than 131 feet. According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), kelp gets dislodged during weather changes such as El Niño. This leaves a torn forest that grows again in the spring.
Other species of kelp like kombu are also a staple of many East Asian food cultures. Kombu is used to flavor different stews and broths, and as a flavored garnish for various dishes.
How Healthy Is Kelp?
As a great source of iodine, minerals, calcium, antioxidants, among others, kelp has been a part of many Asian diets. Not only that it became a staple in Asian cuisine, but it has also been a popular ingredient in other dishes throughout the world.
Apart from alginate that’s used as a food thickener, you can actually eat kelp in any form – cooked, raw, powdered, or through supplements. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), kelp is one of the great sources of iodine, a trace element that’s essential to thyroid hormone production.
It’s also a big factor in the development of the skeletal and central nervous systems in infants and fetuses. Kelp also helps boost energy levels and brain functions. However, too much iodine intake can pose risks of thyroid problems.
According to health experts, the recommended dietary allowances (RDA) for healthy adults should only be 150 mcg of iodine. Infants to 12 months old should get at least 110 to 130 mcg while toddlers and teens should take up 120 mcg. Pregnant and lactating women should get more intake of between 220 and 290 mcg of iodine per day.
Kelp also provides more vitamins and minerals such as:
- Vitamin K1: 55% of the daily value (DV)
- Folate: 45% of the DV
- Magnesium: 29% of the DV
- Iron: 16% of the DV
- Vitamin A: 13% of the DV
- Pantothenic acid: 13% of the DV
- Calcium: 13% of the DV
Sea vegetables, including kelp, may help slow down or reduce the risk of breast and colorectal cancer, according to certain studies. This is due to the compounds found in the seaweed extract, which have anticancer agents.
Because kelp is a great source of antioxidants, this can help prevent or lower the risk of several chronic diseases such as cardiovascular problems and stress. Kelp is also low in fat and calories, which may help weight loss in obese, especially when paired with pomegranate oil.
Its natural fiber called alginate, which is used as a food thickener, is said to have the capabilities to stop fat absorption. Several studies also suggest that kelp can help reduce blood sugar levels, which benefits those who are suffering from type 2 diabetes.
Why Should Vegans Eat Kelp?
Seaweeds, particularly kelp, are rich in antioxidants, and other vitamins and minerals that are beneficial to a vegan diet. Both iodine and calcium are found in seaweeds, which can be difficult to find in non-dairy or non-meat products. Since kelp is simply a sea vegetable, vegans like you can include it in your diet.
Kelp as a broth can also give the food a rich and full flavor with a meaty hint that satisfies one’s umami cravings. Others would even use it as a replacement for salt.
Ways To Eat Kelp
Asian cuisine is known for using kelp as one of its ingredients. However, it also became a popular ingredient in many cuisines throughout the world. You too can do it.
Here are a few ways how to include kelp in your vegan diet. It’s safe and guilt-free as long as you consume it in moderation.
Stew And Soup
In vegan cooking, you can add organic and dried kelp to your stew or soup. You only need some garlic, sesame oil, mushroom, carrots, or any vegetable soup or stew dish according to your preference.
If you want a low-carb noodle, this is a perfect fix. Kelp noodles are also popular as a salad ingredient as an addition to your vegetable dish. These are sold in many grocery stores or on Amazon.
For someone who’s passionate about healthy living, kelp is one of your great choices when it comes to beverages. You can use it to blend with your vegetable or fruit juice. Who cares about what it tastes like as long as you like it? Go figure!
Kelp flakes are also used as a seasoning to give food its richness and fullness. It’s perfect for any dish in vegan cooking, especially since it’s rich in calcium and iodine. Kelp seasoning can also be useful for marinades, stir-frys, and popcorn.
Vegan Taco Tuesdays
If you love Taco Tuesdays, we know that salsa is essential to have the perfect vegan tacos. To make your life easier, go for Barnacle Foods Kelp Salsa. Flavors include Sea Verde, Campfire, and Original. And hey, it’s vegan!
Chips And Dip
When it’s about your umami taste, crunchy kelp chips help with a vegan dip. These are also sold in many grocery stores, so go check them out.
The easiest and most possible way to consume kelp is the powder. It’s available almost in all grocery stores or supermarkets. You can even add it to your tea, smoothie, or salad dressing.
Of course, we can’t ditch the dessert. Have you tried vegan kelp carrot cake, seaweed pudding, or seaweed kelp cookies? If you haven’t, I say you should.
Kelp caviar is great for vegans, vegetarians, and even meat-eaters. It’s rich in vitamins and minerals and is very sustainable. It’s also gluten-free, cholesterol-free, and high in omega-3 fatty acids. It’s a great replacement for fish caviar, which is not suitable for vegans.
So, the next time you crave sushi, check those who offer kelp caviar. It’s healthier!
Best Vegan Kelp Dishes To Try
Vegans nowadays have created a lot of healthy and sustainable dishes. Not only that they involve plants on land but also those in the sea.
So, here are the best vegan kelp dishes that you can benefit from. These are common in Asian cuisines, but we know that it’s everywhere, right?
- Kelp Noodle Chili Salad
- Chinese Seaweed Salad
- Kelp Noodles in Peanut-Miso Sauce
- Sweet Potato, Red Cabbage, and Kelp Noodles with Miso Dressing
- Kitsune Udon Noodles with Seasoned Tofu Pouches
- Zesty Raw Pad Thai
- Kelp Noodle Sea Salad
- Chili Thai Kelp Noodles
- Savory Saffron Kombu Congee
- Miso Soba Soup with Mushrooms
- Sunflower & Tahini Kelp Noodles
- Kelp Noodle Salad with Peanut Dressing
Is Kelp Sustainable?
Kelp is very sustainable. It grows by itself even after climate change destroys its forest. Kelp doesn’t need pesticides, fertilizers, or freshwater. It only needs sunlight in order to maintain its growth through photosynthesis.
It can even reduce ocean acidification because of its independence from any fertilizers and takes up huge quantities of carbon dioxide that worsens climate change. Kelp, in particular, has the ability to lock away and absorb nitrogen and phosphorus.
So, yes, kelp farming is one of the most sustainable aquaculture farming, especially since it only requires marine nutrients and sunlight.
Kelp is both sustainable and vegan-friendly. With its nutrients, it’s essential to make it part of anyone’s diet may it be vegan or non-vegan. As we’ve discussed in this article, seaweeds are a great replacement for meat, especially with their calcium and iodine content.
Kelp is also beneficial to your healthy lifestyle and is highly recommended, especially when you don’t consume meat and dairy products. Just don’t forget that too much is always bad. So, you should limit your iodine intake to 150 mcg a day to avoid any iodine toxicity.