9 Amazing Health Benefits of Kelp

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

The health benefits of kelp include its ability to regulate the thyroid gland, improve the metabolism, lower the risk of cancer, and help in weight loss. It promotes hydration, protects against radiation poisoning, strengthens the bones, balances the pH levels, and boosts immunity. It also helps control diabetes, reduce inflammation, and boost blood circulation and maintain healthy skin.

What is Kelp?

Kelp or sea kelp is a type of large seaweed that belongs to the brown algae family, whose scientific order is Laminariales. The Macrocystis and Nereocystis genera of kelp can grow at a rate of half a meter a day, extending up to 30 to 80 meters in height. [1]

Kelp is found in nearshore ecosystems around the world but was first utilized in Scotland, then gradually moved to America. Asian countries like China use it in many medicinal as well as culinary applications.

A bowl of cooked kelp on a wooden table

Kelp is a type of large brown seaweed that grows in shallow, nutrient-rich saltwater. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Nutrition Facts

Seaweed, kelp, raw
Serving Size :
Water [g]81.58
Energy 43
Energy [kJ]180
Protein [g]1.68
Total lipid (fat) [g]0.56
Ash [g]6.61
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]9.57
Fiber, total dietary [g]1.3
Sugars, total including NLEA [g]0.6
Calcium, Ca [mg]168
Iron, Fe [mg]2.85
Magnesium, Mg [mg]121
Phosphorus, P [mg]42
Potassium, K [mg]89
Sodium, Na [mg]233
Zinc, Zn [mg]1.23
Copper, Cu [mg]0.13
Manganese, Mn [mg]0.2
Selenium, Se [µg]0.7
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid [mg]3
Thiamin [mg]0.05
Riboflavin [mg]0.15
Niacin [mg]0.47
Pantothenic acid [mg]0.64
Vitamin B-6 [mg]0
Folate, total [µg]180
Folate, food [µg]180
Folate, DFE [µg]180
Choline, total [mg]12.8
Vitamin A, RAE [µg]6
Carotene, beta [µg]70
Vitamin A, IU [IU]116
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) [mg]0.87
Vitamin K (phylloquinone) [µg]66
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]0.25
14:0 [g]0.03
16:0 [g]0.11
18:0 [g]0.09
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]0.1
16:1 [g]0
18:1 [g]0.09
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]0.05
18:2 [g]0.02
18:3 [g]0
18:4 [g]0
20:4 [g]0.01
20:5 n-3 (EPA) [g]0
Tryptophan [g]0.05
Threonine [g]0.06
Isoleucine [g]0.08
Leucine [g]0.08
Lysine [g]0.08
Methionine [g]0.03
Cystine [g]0.1
Phenylalanine [g]0.04
Tyrosine [g]0.03
Valine [g]0.07
Arginine [g]0.07
Histidine [g]0.02
Alanine [g]0.12
Aspartic acid [g]0.13
Glutamic acid [g]0.27
Glycine [g]0.1
Proline [g]0.07
Serine [g]0.1
Sources include : USDA [2]

Kelp Nutrition

In terms of nutrition, kelp contains dietary fiber, carbohydrates, protein, and amino acids. It is also a rich source of vitamin B1, riboflavin, vitamin B3, folate, pantothenic acid, vitamin C, and vitamin K. The mineral wealth in it includes zinc, copper, calcium, potassium, sodium, iron, magnesium, boron, iodine, and manganese. [3]

Health Benefits of Kelp

Let’s take a look at the benefits of this seaweed.

Anticancer Potential

Sea kelp contains natural compounds called fucoidan and fucoxanthin, which are shown to have potential chemotherapeutic and chemopreventive properties (The Scientific Journal, 2014). Moreover, the study says that the carotenoid of fucoxanthin as well as its metabolite, fucoxanthinol, show evidence of antitumor activity linked to apoptosis and anti-angiogenic effect. Another study in the Journal of Cancer (May 2016) linked the consumption of brown seaweed fucoidan to having a therapeutic effect in breast cancer management.  [4] [5]

Weight Loss

Kelp contains fucoxanthin, a protein that aids in reducing fat tissues. Alginates are molecules present in seaweed that significantly aid in managing obesity. Moreover, this seaweed is low in calories, so you can add it to your weight loss diet. [6]

Protects Thyroid Health

Kelp contains high levels of iodine, which can help prevent hypothyroidism. It is one of the most important elements that help regulate hormonal function throughout the body. Proper amounts of iodine guarantee a functional metabolism and proper enzymatic activity in the body. [7] [8]

Anti-aging Properties

With its antioxidant properties, kelp is able to reduce oxidative stress in your body. This helps in delaying premature aging and its symptoms like wrinkles and age spots. It also aids in skincare and keeps your skin nourished.

Maintains pH Balance

As an alkaline food, kelp helps maintain the acid-base balance in our body, which is essential for many bodily processes and proper digestion. [9]

Helps Manage Diabetes

Type 2 diabetics can easily add kelp to their diet as it helps in regulating the blood glucose levels. It has shown positive results in influencing the glycemic control in people suffering from diabetes. [10]

Improves Bone Health

Vitamin K is a crucial nutrient present in kelp. It aids in improving bone density. The seaweed is also rich in essential minerals like calcium, boron, zinc, copper, and manganese, all of which ensure that our bones remain strong. Including this anti-inflammatory seaweed in your diet can also heal bone damage, and prevent the onset of arthritis and osteoporosis. [11]

Overall Health

Kelp contains 16 different amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein. They have the ability to regulate cellular growth, speed up wound healing and muscle development, and improve organ functioning. [12] [13]

Increases Blood Circulation

Sea kelp is a rich source of chlorophyll, which closely resembles human blood and helps stimulate red blood cell (RBCs) production. This increases oxygenation and optimizes the organ function throughout the body. [14]

Moreover, the fucoidan in this seaweed is also a great nutrient that helps prevent blood clotting. This can significantly lower the risk of stroke and heart attacks. [15]

Side Effects

There are many benefits to eating this seaweed, but overconsumption can lead to many side effects. They are mentioned below.

  • Kelp contains iodine, which can be toxic if consumed in excess.
  • It is also very high in sodium, and although that is balanced by the potassium content, it is still not recommended for people with pre-existing heart conditions or high cholesterol levels.
  • Prolonged use of its supplements is known to cause arsenic poisoning. So make sure you always consult with your doctor before adding it to your diet.
  • There are a number of types of algae available, which if consumed can worsen your health as they are toxic. So make sure you include the healthiest one in your diet.
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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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