(NaturalNews) Wakame is an edible brown seaweed native to the cold and temperate coastal areas of Korea, China and Japan. It has a delicate flavor and a slippery texture. Dried or salted wakame is often incorporated into a variety of East Asian dishes, including miyeok guk, miso soup and tofu-based salads.
Though wakame's popularity remains confined to East Asia, many natural food stores in the West have started stocking it as a supplement because of its nutritiousness.
Fat burning properties -- Researchers at Hokkaido University found that fucoxanthin, a compound found in wakame, could reduce the accumulation of fat in mice. This compound, which gives wakame its characteristic brown color and helps the seaweed to photosynthesize, seems to stimulate the liver into producing an omega-3 fatty acid called DHA, which helps to lower the "bad" LDL cholesterol responsible for obesity and heart disease.
Additional weight loss properties -- There are other reasons why wakame is a good weight loss food aside from its fucoxanthin content. One hundred grams of raw wakame, for instance, provide us with only 45 calories, 9 grams of cholesterol and a single gram of fat. Sadly, wakame contains almost no dietary fiber, which is unusual for a seaweed (arame, bladderwrack and agar, for example, are comprised of between 20 and 40 percent fiber).
Iodine -- Due to ongoing soil depletion, sea vegetables have long overtaken land vegetables in the iodine department, and wakame is no exception. One hundred grams of it contains approximately 790 micrograms of this essential trace mineral, which regulates the thyroid (which, in turn, regulates the metabolism). Moreover, a 2003 study in the Breast Cancer Research journal confirmed that iodine can inhibit, and even eliminate, mammary tumors. This fact might help to explain why breast cancer is rare in men and women in Japan, where seaweed is regularly incorporated into meals.
Eicosapentaenoic acid -- Wakame is one of the richest plant-based sources of eicosapentaenoic acid in the world. Between one and two tablespoons of wakame provides us with between 15 and 30 milligrams of this important omega-3 fatty acid, which is normally found in fish and can guard us from depression, anxiety, age-related memory issues and even rheumatoid arthritis.
Calcium and magnesium -- Two of the many minerals found in wakame include calcium (15 milligrams per 100 grams, or 15 percent of our RDI) and magnesium (107 milligrams per 100 grams, or 25 percent of our RDI). Calcium is, of course, needed for strong teeth and bones, while magnesium helps our body to absorb the calcium. Consequently, wakame is an excellent food to eat for preventing osteoporosis and other bone diseases.
Protein and iron -- Sea vegetables are some of the best, if not the best, plant-based sources of protein and iron. One hundred grams of wakame provide us with approximately 3 milligrams of protein (6 percent of our RDI) and 2.2 milligrams of iron (12 percent of our RDI).
The radiation issue
Since the Fukushima disaster of 2011, several reputable seaweed suppliers, such as Maine Coast Sea Vegetables, have started monitoring their products for radiation contamination. If you don't trust these results, however, then stick to seaweed sourced from the North Atlantic Ocean (particularly the pristine waters around Scandinavia) rather than those from the Pacific Ocean. Clean, high-quality seaweed is actually the best food to consume when exposed to radiation, since seaweed (including wakame) contains properties that neutralize radioactive isotopes.
About the author: Michael Ravensthorpe is an independent writer whose research interests include nutrition, alternative medicine, and bushcraft. He is the creator of the website, Spiritfoods, through which he promotes the world's healthiest foods.