We often associate seaweed with the slimy, smelly thing found on the beach, but it is also nutrient-dense and surprisingly tasty. Seaweeds of various colours, shapes, and sizes are found in oceans worldwide. For example, kelp (laminaria) forests supply an edible seaweed species known as wakame, which people recognise as a habitat for marine life species in shallow, coastal waters worldwide. You might have already eaten wakame (Undaria) without even realising it.
Wakame, like most seaweed, is beneficial to humans and the environment. It’s adaptable, easy to incorporate into your diet, and low in calories, carbs, and fat. As a result, wakame can help with weight loss, blood pressure control, energy levels, hormonal balance, bone health, diabetes prevention, and skin and hair health. It also aids foetal development, heart health, and blood circulation.
Wakame: An Introduction
Wakame (Undaria Pinnatifida) is a Japanese, Korean, and Chinese edible seaweed that people often use in soups, salads, and side dishes. This is a type of seaweed seen in the Pacific Northwest, and sea mustard is another name for the plant. It is one of the three most prevalent seaweed kinds in Japan, produced primarily by Japanese and Koreans. As per research, its distinctive dark or deep green colour comes from the presence of fucoxanthin, a rare chemical found only in plants with various medicinal and nutritional properties.
Wakame has a silky texture and a unique briny (salty), somewhat sweet flavour. It’s a brown alga that looks like nori and kombu but turns green when processed. It can also be freeze-dried and used in other foods. This delightful seaweed is also gaining popularity in different regions, particularly France.
Wakame, a type of seaweed, has a diverse nutritional profile and several health advantages.
Nutritional Facts of Wakame
The USDA provides this nutrition value for one hundred grams of Wakame (Undaria Pinnatifida).
- Water: 80 g
- Calories: 45 kcal
- Carbohydrate: 9.14 g
- Total Fat: 0.64 g
- Protein: 3.03 g
- Calcium: 150 mg
- Iron: 2.18 mg
- Phosphorus: 80 mg
- Magnesium: 107 mg
- Manganese: 1.4 mg
- Potassium: 50 mg
- Sodium: 872 mg
- Folate: 196 µg
- Carotene, beta: 216 µg
- Vitamin C: 3 mg
- Niacin: 1.6 mg
The HealthifyMe Note
Wakame is high in vitamins, minerals and other vital nutrients. It is a low-calorie, low-cholesterol, low-fat food containing a reasonable amount of fucoxanthin, a marine carotenoid with anti-inflammatory and anti-proliferative properties. Most of its health benefits come from the rich supply of vitamins and minerals in its delicate green leaves, which benefit one’s health.
Just like other seaweeds, wakame is low in carbohydrates. In 100 grams of raw wakame seaweed, 9.14 grams of carbohydrates are present, mainly from starch and fibre. Furthermore, wakame is a non-starchy vegetable that can also fit into the ketogenic diet. As per research, Wakame’s glycemic index (GI) is low at just 4 in 100 grams serving, making it suitable for people with diabetes.
There is a trace of fat in 100 grams of Wakame seaweed, and the fat content of Wakame is 0.64 grams per 100 grams. And the fat is mainly healthy poly-unsaturated fat (0.218 grams).
Research shows that the protein content of wakame is relatively high compared to other seaweeds (3.03 grams per 100 grams). Therefore, wakame can boost the protein content of your favourite soup, salad or entree, depending on how much you use.
Data shows that wakame is high in several micronutrients, with niacin (1.6 mg), potassium (314 mg), magnesium (107 mg), sodium (872 mg), beta-carotene (216 µg), and folate (196 µg) topping the list.
Besides the nutrients mentioned above, it contains a small quantity of pantothenic acid, magnesium and potassium. Both potassium and magnesium contribute to reducing your blood pressure. In addition, potassium counters the effects of high sodium in the blood with urination and helps release tension in the blood vessels.
Due to the high amount of sodium, wakame is a good source of iodine, providing more than the recommended daily intake for adults.
Health Benefits of Wakame Seaweed
Rich in Antioxidant
Research suggests that antioxidants boost the immune system, maintain neurons and keep the blood vessels healthy. In addition, they neutralise free radicals that cause oxidative cell damage and protect the body against macular degeneration and diseases like heart disease and cancer.
Wakame seaweed is high in antioxidants such as fucoxanthin, the primary carotenoid in brown algae. Studies show that it has 13.5 times the antioxidant potential of vitamin E. In terms of cellular membrane protection, fucoxanthin surpasses vitamin A. While the body doesn’t always absorb fucoxanthin well, eating it alongside fat can help.
Wakame contains a variety of valuable phytochemicals, including flavonoids, folate and beta-carotene, along with antioxidant vitamins A, C, and K. As per studies, they also protect the cells in your body from free radical damage. However, these benefits still require more research because there is not enough human study to support these assertions. But, at the same time, experts believe that eating wakame has no side effects and you can extract fucoxanthin easily from wakame.
Skin and Hair Care
Wakame offers many essential elements, including vitamin C, required for the function of numerous body functions. Wakame provides 3 mg of vitamin C in 100 g. In addition, studies show that wakame seaweeds help produce collagen, an element of skin tissue utilised for making and repairing damaged skin and organ tissues. The antioxidants in wakame help rejuvenate, moisturise, and smoothen the skin. In addition, it helps thicken hair and nails by contributing to keratin synthesis.
Regular consumption of wakame prevents early symptoms of ageing, such as scars, blemishes, wrinkles, and age spots, due to ample amounts of minerals, antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, vitamins, and dietary fibre.
Wakame’s antioxidants defend the body from oxidative stress and unstable molecules known as free radicals. Wakame is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce overall inflammation. These inflammations can lead to chronic illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, and digestive issues. Additionally, wakame contains polyphenols, which act as anti-inflammatory and antioxidant agents that lower the risk of diseases like cancer, heart disease, and inflammation.
Helps in Weight Loss
According to the study, fucoxanthin, a carotenoid found in wakame, assist in controlling fat deposition and triglycerides. The substance also helps people lose weight. Fucoxanthin also helps reduce white adipose (fatty) tissue effectively. However, the majority of research on wakame and weight loss is animal-based. But, studies show that fucoxanthin increases fat oxidation in obese mice, particularly harmful belly fat. Fucoxanthin is recognised for its fat-burning abilities since it prevents fat formation in cells and accelerates fat oxidation.
Regulates Thyroid Hormones
Thyroid hormones aid in growth, metabolism, protein synthesis, and cell repair, regulate metabolism and are necessary for brain development during pregnancy and infancy.
Iodine is essential for thyroid gland function. Wakame is a good source of iodine, with an average of about 42 micrograms per gram. Research suggests that iodine intake for adults should be 150 micrograms per day. In addition, several studies prove that regular consumption of wakame seaweeds positively correlates with healthy thyroid function. However, studies also show that excessive consumption may have harmful impacts.
Remember that insufficient iodine can elevate TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone), leading to goitre or an enlarged thyroid gland. It’s usually the initial symptom of hypothyroidism. As per research, a deficiency in this vital micronutrient can lead to hypothyroidism, a disorder in which your thyroid cannot produce enough thyroid hormone to support normal function. Furthermore, iodine deficiency shows symptoms like weight gain, fatigue, hair loss, and dry, cracked skin. However, people with hypo or hyperthyroidism should consult a doctor before eating wakame or seaweed.
Reduces the Risk of Diabetes
Fucoxanthin exerts an anti-diabetic effect in obese individuals. An animal study found that wakame lipids reduce hyperglycemia, hyperinsulinemia, or hyperleptinemia. Even in humans, wakame’s fucoxanthin has shown an anti-diabetic impact. However, it requires more human research.
A study found that eating wakame can help balance blood glucose and insulin levels since it contains 107 mg of magnesium. Research also shows that regular consumption of wakame might help prevent prediabetes. Furthermore, research suggests that the dietary lipids in wakame help address insulin resistance caused by a high-fat diet. So if you’re looking for a diabetic-friendly cuisine, wakame is an excellent option to include.
Wakame has abundant fucoidan, a bioactive sulfated polysaccharide. As per research, fucoidan offers many beneficial properties, including antioxidant and antiviral properties. Wakame’s most well-known health benefits are suppressing cancer cell development and proliferation. In addition, researchers discovered that fucoidan from wakame had anti-cancer properties. Fucoidan’s sulphate content is responsible for its anti-cancer properties.
Iodine in wakame seaweeds also aids in cancer cell death or apoptosis. However, excessive iodine consumption might have adverse effects such as thyrotoxicosis.
Wakame can also help control the inflammatory response in cancer patients. Hence, it is an ingredient in some anti-inflammatory medications. However, some studies show contradictory results. For example, as per a study, increased seaweed consumption results in a greater risk of thyroid cancer, possibly due to too much iodine. However, it requires more research to see how wakame affects human cancer cell production.
Reduce Cholesterol Levels
Cholesterol plays a role in multiple aspects of health, from hormone generation to fat absorption. In contrast, excess cholesterol levels can clog arteries and reduce blood flow, increasing heart attack and stroke chances. However, wakame can help lower cholesterol and boost heart health.
According to a study, the fucoxanthin in wakame induces the liver to produce more DHA, a kind of fatty acid that decreases LDL (bad) cholesterol. Despite these promising results, limited to animal studies, additional research requires learning how wakame can affect human cholesterol levels.
Strengthens the Bones
Calcium maintains the strength and integrity of our bones. The high calcium content (150 mg) in 100g of wakame aids bone growth and repair.
Wakame also contains a significant amount of vitamin K, which benefits bone health, bone metabolism, and overall wellness. It also helps retain calcium in the bone matrix by raising protein levels. According to research, increased vitamin K consumption helps minimise fractures and bone loss.
Wakame also acts as an anti-inflammatory due to omega-3 and polyphenols, preventing joint inflammation and keeping you healthy and active far into old age.
Wakame contains a reasonable amount of carbohydrates (9.14 g), proteins (3.03 g), and iron (2.18 mg), which helps enhance energy. In addition, the high magnesium content (107 mg) of wakame aids in converting dietary carbohydrates into energy. As a result, magnesium can help effectively transfer energy and produce and utilise protein, which is necessary for every bodily function associated with development and repair. Therefore, getting adequate magnesium through wakame can assist in maintaining energy levels and prevent fatigue.
Reduce Blood Pressure Levels
High blood pressure affects the heart and blood arteries, weakening heart muscle and increasing the risk of heart diseases. According to certain studies, including wakame in your diet can help lower blood pressure and improve heart health.
According to animal studies, wakame extracts can considerably reduce angiotensin I-converting enzyme activity (ACE), linked to hypertension development. Furthermore, wakame also lowers systolic blood pressure when given in single or multiple doses. However, further human research is needed to determine how wakame affects blood pressure in the broader population.
Ways to Use Wakame
There are plenty of wakame recipe options with several different ideas for incorporating this into your diet. Here are a few delightful and healthful ways to incorporate this unique ingredient into your diet.
Japanese Wakame Salad
Serves: 2 servings
Preparation Time: 5mins
- Dried seaweed (Wakame type): 28g (1 tbsp)
- Shallots, finely chopped: 1
- Soy sauce: 1½ tbsp
- Rice vinegar: 1 tbsp
- Mirin (sweet rice wine): 1 tbsp
- Sesame seed oil: 1 tbsp
- Cayenne pepper: 1 pinch
- Ginger Root, grated: 1 tsp
- Sesame seeds [optional]: ½ tbsp
Method of Preparation
- Rinse the seaweed and soak it in at least five times its volume of water in a container. Allow resting for 10 minutes, or until rehydrated and tender.
- In a salad dish, add the remaining ingredients (excluding the sesame seeds).
- Squeeze the seaweed gently to remove extra water. Add it to the salad bowl.
- Toss, taste, and adjust seasoning as needed. Serve with sesame seeds as a garnish.
Nutritional Value per Serving
- Calories: 120 kcal
- Carbohydrate: 14 g
- Protein: 3 g
- Fat: 7 g
- Cholesterol: 0 mg
- Fibre: 5 g
- Sodium: 1390 mg
- Calcium: 11%
- Iron: 6%
- Vitamin C: 9%
Serves: 8 servings
Preparation Time: 30 mins
- Wakame, cut into bite-size pieces: About 2 cups
- Boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into bite-size strips: 1 cup
- Garlic, grated: 6 cloves
- Reduced-sodium tamari: 2 tablespoons
- Toasted sesame oil, divided: 3 teaspoons
- Low-sodium chicken broth: 8 cups
- Sesame seeds for garnish (optional)
Method of Preparation
- Soak wakame seaweed in a large container of cold water for about 30 minutes. Two or three rinses later, drain. Cut into small pieces if necessary.
- Add the chicken, garlic, tamari, and two tablespoons of oil to a large mixing container. Allow marinating at room temperature for 15 minutes.
- In a heavy saucepan over medium-high flame, heat one teaspoon of oil. Cook, constantly stirring, until the chicken is no longer pink on the outside or about 1 minute. Cook for 3 minutes more, stirring frequently more with the drained wakame.
- Add broth; bring to a boil over high heat, scraping off any foam on the surface. Further, you must cook for 30 minutes at low heat. Serve it immediately, and top with sesame seeds.
Nutritional Value per Serving
- Calories: 110 kcal
- Carbohydrate: 5.3 g
- Protein: 11.4 g
- Fat: 5.2 g
- Cholesterol: 18.9 mg
- Fibre: 1.5 g
- Sodium: 497 mg
- Potassium: 423.9 mg
- Calcium: 44.3 mg
- Iron: 1.5 mg
- Vitamin C: 0.7 mg
Before adding dried wakame seaweed to the soup, rehydrate it in water. Adding dried wakame seaweed directly to the soup can increase the saltiness.
The HealthifyMe Note
Wakame is usually available in dry, powdered, and semi-wet forms. You should usually soak it for at least 10 minutes before using it. Once it goes through rehydration, it allows you to separate the strings. Then, you can use these separated strings just like your green leafy vegetables.
Potential Adverse Effects of Wakame
Wakame is a nutritious, natural meal but can bring adverse effects if consumed in large quantities. Various marketers add excessive amounts of sodium in packed wakame, which can negatively impact overall health and raise blood pressure in sensitive individuals. If you have hypertension, talk to your doctor before attempting to eat wakame.
Although iodine is essential for thyroid hormone synthesis, wakame contains 42 micrograms of iodine per gramme. On the other hand, excessive iodine consumption can disrupt thyroid function and induce symptoms such as fever, stomach pain, nausea, and diarrhoea. Wakame seaweed might also raise the risk of thyroid papillary malignancy. In addition, foods high in iodine, such as wakame, have been associated with skin rashes and other responses in sensitive persons. As a result, you should avoid wakame if you have thyroid disorders. Or consult your doctor before consuming it.
Heavy metals and contaminants might exist in wakame seaweed. In addition, a study shows excessive eating of wakame or other seaweeds can affect thyroid function due to high mercury levels. However, these are of negligible levels. Nonetheless, be cautious while eating them.
Other Essential Tips to Consider Before Using Wakame
Many supermarkets and specialist grocery stores carry wakame year-round. You can purchase fresh brown algae in season at Korean beach markets. Frequently, supermarkets offer dried wakame. When purchasing fresh wakame, look for healthy-looking brown algae free of dirt and sand.
While seaweed collected on the shoreline might be edible, it is not advisable because there is no way of knowing whether the seaweed contains pollutants or other toxins.
Storage and Food Safety
Whether dried or dehydrated, wakame should be kept in an airtight container in a cold, dry place for up to a year. Most dehydrated items are traditional, such as Su-Boshi (wakame dried in the sun without ash treatment) and Hai-Boshi (wakame with ash treatment). They are available all year at US retailers and supermarkets.
Store wakame in a cool, dry place away from moisture and humidity at home. Keep wakame powder and grains in airtight containers.
Wakame is a high-nutrient, low-calorie seaweed that can supplement your diet with various vitamins and minerals. It helps decrease cholesterol, blood pressure, and inflammation and promotes weight loss, thyroid health, heart health, and blood sugar control. However, like other marine food, wakame seaweed contains more significant sodium and other minerals, trace elements, and heavy metals like mercury, arsenic, lead, and cadmium. As a result, purchasing wakame seaweed from places that follow strict water pollution rules and companies that regularly test for toxins is crucial.
Wakame seaweed is high in sodium, and while it has blood pressure-lowering effects, it might not be appropriate for everyone with high blood pressure. However, you can remove excess sodium by rinsing and soaking it in water. Moreover, there are numerous ways to incorporate this delicious wakame seaweed into a healthy diet, making it simple to reap the benefits of its unique health-promoting characteristics.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. Is wakame seaweed good for you?
A. Wakame is a very nutritious, edible seaweed that can supplement your diet with various vitamins and minerals while also low in calories and cholesterol. Wakame is high in omega-3 fatty acids, making it an anti-inflammatory food. In addition, wakame contains enough vitamin C to aid collagen production, which helps repair damaged skin. It also offers various health advantages. For example, it helps lower cholesterol, prevents cancer, lowers blood pressure, hair care, boosts weight loss, and diabetes risk reduction.
Q. Is wakame high in protein?
A. Compared to other seaweeds, wakame has a high protein level of 3.03 grams per 100 grams. Wakame can improve the protein value of your favourite soup, salad, or meal, depending on your use.
Protein helps the body repair and replace cells, maintain normal fluid and acid-base balance, transport nutrients, and provide energy. Protein is also necessary for children, teenagers, and pregnant women’s growth and development.
Q. Does wakame contain omega-3?
A. Wakame is a seaweed popular in Japanese cuisine and high in omega-3 fatty acids, and it is the highest vegetarian source of omega-3s. Wakame seaweed is a good source of omega-3 for vegetarians and vegans because it is one of the few vegetable categories that contain DHA and EPA. Omega-3 is a vital nutrient that treats various chronic ailments, including heart disease, diabetes, and digestive problems.
Q. Is wakame anti-inflammatory?
A. Wakame is an antioxidant that protects the body from free radicals and oxidative stress. Wakame also contains polyphenols, the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant-reducing agents that preserve bodily tissues from oxidative stress and diseases like cancer, heart disease, and inflammation.
Q. Is wakame the same as nori?
A. While wakame and nori are both seaweeds commonly used in cooking, they are distinct. Wakame is widely present as dried strings or threads and is available in the air-dried form. Rehydrate it before use, and salads and soups are the most common uses. Unlike nori, wakame only contains trace levels of vitamin C. Vitamin C is a water-soluble antioxidant that aids in immunity enhancement and prepares the human body to fight pathogenic invaders. On the other hand, nori retails as dried sheets that go through compression before being packaged, and it’s slightly toasted and used right away without soaking. Sushi, rice balls, and noodles are the most common uses.
Q. How many calories are in a wakame salad?
A. According to USDA data, wakame has fewer calories, 45 kcal per 100 g, and is cholesterol-free. The famous Japanese wakame salad is a flavorful and tasty salad prepared with wakame seaweed. Each serving of wakame salad contains 120 calories. Wakame gives a distinct flavour to any salad and goes well with practically every vegetable. As a result, wakame seaweeds are a great choice if you want to lose weight because of their low-calorie content.
Q. Is wakame good for skin?
A. Vitamin C is one of the many vital components found in wakame. In 100 grams of wakame, 3 milligrams of vitamin C. Wakame seaweed aids in collagen production, a protein found in skin tissue that helps form and repair damaged skin and organ tissues. Wakame’s antioxidants aid in rejuvenating, moisturising, and smoothing the skin. Furthermore, due to the abundance of minerals, antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, vitamins, and dietary fibre in wakame, regular consumption helps prevent early signs of ageing such as scars, blemishes, wrinkles, and age spots.
Q. Is Wakame a protist?
A. Wakame is an edible seaweed. The plant is also known as sea mustard. It’s a kelp species that belongs to the ‘Kingdom Protista,’ implying it’s neither a plant nor an animal. Due to the lack of a vascular system (an internal transport system for fluids and nutrients), roots, stems, leaves, and enclosed reproductive organs like flowers, seaweeds like wakame are not natural plants.
Q. Does wakame have iron?
A. Wakame is an essential source of iron because it contains 2.18 mg per 100 g. Wakame’s high iron concentration can aid the body’s red blood cell synthesis, and iron is an essential component of red blood cells. In addition, higher levels indicate better circulation in your cardiovascular system, which offers more oxygen to the body’s vital organs, increases energy, improves skin health, and speeds up the healing process of all tissue organs.
Q. Does wakame salad have sugar?
A. To begin with, one cup of wakame raw seaweed comprises only 36 calories and 0.5 grams of fat, and it also has only 0.5 grams of natural sugar and 7.3 grams of carbs. These fibre-rich meals aid diabetic control by helping balance blood sugar and insulin levels. Therefore, wakame is the perfect option for diabetic-friendly meals, and people with diabetes can safely take this cuisine after consulting with their doctors.