9 Surprising Benefits of Dulse

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

The important health benefits of dulse may include its ability to build bone health, optimize the digestive system, increase growth and repair, lower blood pressure, improve vision, and protect the immune system. Dulse also helps to improve the thyroid gland and strengthen the nervous system.

What is Dulse?

Dulse, scientifically known as Palmaria palmata, is an alga, which consists of a short stem (stipe) and broad red-tinted fronds (leaves) that are somewhat thick and leathery in texture. All variations of this red alga contain a rich mixture of minerals, although some grow faster than others, and have various flavors depending on geographic location. This nutrient-rich form of alga has been an important food source for more than a thousand years in various parts of the world. It primarily grows on the northern coasts of the world’s major oceans and is readily available in many areas. Most times, the alga can be picked by hand from the shoreline and then dried, fried, chopped, or ground for various culinary and medicinal uses. [1]

Dulse is used to flavor soups and salads, used as an herb for flavor (particularly certain varieties that taste vaguely of bacon when fried), and as a side to meat dishes. Palmaria palmata is the most widely used variety, but there are others that can be found in more exotic locales or in export shops. Dulse is very similar to seaweed in many ways but tends to have more fiber and protein content. It is also said by many to be more flavorful and is popular snack food.

Health Benefits of Dulse

The wealth of nutrients makes this an incredibly good food to add to your diet, so let’s take a closer look at the many health benefits of dulse.

May Help Build Strong Bones

There are a wealth of minerals found in dulse, which may include calcium, magnesium, and iron, all of which contribute to bone mineral density. These minerals can also help protect joints and tissues, helping to keep you stronger into your old age. If you’re concerned about developing osteoporosis, then ensuring that you have enough calcium in your diet is crucial for long-term health. [2]

Close-up of a bowl of dried dulse seaweed flakes and whole plant on a white table

Dulse is characterized by its unique color and the way it grows on the face of rocks. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

May Help Lower Blood Pressure

Potassium may be another of the essential minerals found in high supply within dulse. Potassium is well-known as a vasodilator, meaning that it can help reduce the strain and damage to blood vessels and arteries caused by high blood pressure. Helping to lower blood pressure also protects against atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease, strokes, and heart attacks. Potassium can also help increase blood flow to the brain and capillaries, making dulse a bit of a “brain” food as well! [3]

May Help Improve Eyesight

The possibly high levels of vitamin A found in dulse make it an ideal solution for vision problems. Vitamin A acts as an antioxidant and prevents free radicals from damaging the tissues of the eye and causing macular degeneration. It can also slow down the development of cataracts; acting as an all-around vision booster. [4]

May Boost the Immune System

Dulse is rich in vitamin C, thus perhaps helping the body increase its white blood cell count and contributing to growth and repair through its important role in collagen production. Keeping the immune system in working order is crucial for overall health, and vitamin C is one of the easiest and most readily accessible ways to do that. [5]

May Help Prevent Thyroid Disorders

Although many people forget that iodine can be a key part of dietary health, when your thyroid gland begins to act up, a lack of iodine is the usual explanation. Dulse’s possibly high iodine content can keep your thyroid gland behaving normally, helping to regulate many different hormonal interactions within the body. Thyroid disorders can be disastrous to the quality of life, so proper iodine intake is more important than you think! [6]

May Improve Digestion

Similar to seaweed, dulse is very high in dietary fiber, meaning that adding it to one’s diet may help regulate digestive processes, particularly for people suffering from constipation or diarrhea. The dietary fiber bulks up the stool and stimulates peristaltic motion, while also reducing inflammation and symptoms like bloating and cramping. [7]

May Help Strengthen Nervous System

What many people don’t know is that polyunsaturated fatty acids are not only important for heart health, but also for the efficient functioning of your brain and nervous system. Studies have linked high levels of omega-3 fatty acids (found in good concentrations in dulse) with improved brain activity and nervous system function. [8]

May Improve Blood Circulation

There is a huge amount of iron found in dulse, as in seaweed, and given iron’s role in the production of hemoglobin, adding this type of seaweed to your diet may aid in circulation. Having an appropriate level of iron in the blood staves off anemia, with its unpleasant symptoms of stomach issues, headaches, cognitive disorders, and overall weakness. [9]

Potential Antioxidant Properties

Many of the vitamins and minerals found in dulse, both alone and in conjunction, may provide a huge amount of antioxidant support against free radicals. This can mean a reduced risk of chronic diseases for those enjoying this miraculously nutritious and delicious plant! [10]

Word of Caution

The only component of dulse with potential dangers attached to it is iodine, as ingesting too much of it can be toxic and disrupt your thyroid gland as much as having too little. Therefore, as with all things, consume dulse in moderation, and discuss any major dietary changes with a trained medical professional or dietitian.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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