The health benefits of kelp include its ability to regulate the thyroid gland, improve the body’s metabolism, reduce cancer risks, help in weight loss, keep the body hydrated, protect against radiation poisoning, strengthen the bones, balance the pH levels in the body, and improve the immune system.
What is Kelp?
Kelp is a type of large seaweed that actually belongs to the brown algae family, whose scientific order is Laminariales. They are famous for forming massive kelp forests that grow from the sea floor to the surface, seeking sunlight. To achieve this, it can grow at amazingly fast rates, sometimes more than half a meter a day for certain genera, such as Macrocystis and Nereocystis.
Kelp is found in nearshore ecosystems around the world but was first utilized in Scotland, then gradually moved to the Americas. However, China and other Asian cultures also used it in various industries, due to its versatile nature. Kelp remains an important part of Japanese and Chinese cuisine and has recently become widely used in other countries as a delicious food source. A lot of this growing popularity is due to the health benefits, which are being widely studied around the world since kelp grows so quickly and in such abundance. Some people have even considered kelp as a future renewable energy resource, since it grows so quickly and can be processed in a similar way to corn ethanol, except without the need for irrigation.
Nutritional Value of Kelp
The many health benefits of kelp can be attributed to its rich sources of vitamins, minerals, nutrients, and other organic compounds, including dietary fiber, amino acids (nearly a complete protein), vitamin C, pantothenic acid, vitamin K, riboflavin, folate, zinc, copper, calcium, potassium, sodium, iron, magnesium, boron, iodine, and manganese.
Health Benefits of Kelp
Let’s investigate what all of these important nutrients can do in our diet.
In terms of antioxidants, kelp is rich in vitamin C and other vitamins that are shown to be effective in seeking out free radicals and neutralizing them. Furthermore, kelp contains “fucoidan”, which induces apoptosis, or cell death, in cancer cells, while leaving healthy cells alone. Kelp is often consumed specifically by women in Asia because of its proven record against breast cancer.
Prevents Radiation Effects
In a similar vein, kelp has high levels of iodine, which can actually prevent the uptake of irradiated iodine by the thyroid gland, thereby protecting the body from the disastrous effects of radiation poisoning, which often leads to cancer. This is especially important in Japan, following the radiation disaster at Fukushima.
Protects Thyroid Health
Iodine is one of the most important elements in our thyroid gland and it helps to regulate hormonal function throughout the body. Proper amounts of iodine guarantee a functional metabolism and proper enzymatic activity throughout the body.
Maintains pH Balance
Improves Bone Mineral Density
The impressive amount of minerals (more than 40!), including essential minerals like calcium, boron, zinc, copper, and manganese all ensure that our bones remain strong and that any bone damage heals quickly. A healthy diet of kelp can prevent the onset of osteoporosis or other bone mineral deficiencies.
Increases Protein Content
Kelp contains 16 different amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein. By helping to boost the protein content in our body, kelp can help us regulate cellular growth, wound healing, muscle development, organ function, and a wide range of other necessary bodily processes that require proteins.
Stimulates RBC Production
Since kelp is such a rich source of chlorophyll, which closely resembles human blood, it actually stimulates red blood cell production, thereby increasing oxygenation and optimizing organ function throughout the body.
A Few Words of Caution: Iodine is important, but in large quantities, it can be toxic, so only consume as much kelp as is recommended. Also, kelp is very high in sodium, and although that is balanced somewhat by the potassium content of kelp, it is still not good for people with pre-existing heart conditions or high cholesterol.