As we get older, it becomes more and more important to get the right nutrients from the foods we eat. For women, that means nutrients that support healthy hormone levels, help prevent disease, and enable us to maintain a healthy weight — just to name a few. And while it may feel like there are a lot of “superfoods” to choose from, seaweed really checks all three of these boxes.
Of course, you know seaweed as the algae that grows in the ocean, but it’s also a delicious treat. It’s primarily eaten in Asian countries like Japan and South Korea (if you’re a sushi fan, you’re already onboard), and it’s loaded with nutrients that can boost thyroid health, lower blood sugar, and fight cardiovascular conditions.
Seaweed benefits the thyroid because it’s rich in iodine — a nutrient the thyroid relies on to make certain hormones. Thyroid problems are significantly more common in women, and things get even trickier during and after menopause when we are more likely to become iodine deficient. So getting more iodine in your diet can help ward off thyroid troubles. In fact, one sheet of nori seaweed (the most commonly used seaweed snack) contains 25 percent of the RDI (recommended daily intake) for iodine, and one teaspoon of kelp contains as much as 59 times the RDI for iodine! Seaweed also contains another thyroid boosting nutrient called tyrosine, which is used with iodine in thyroid hormone production.
Additionally, seaweed is being studied for its potential benefits to those struggling with blood-sugar conditions like diabetes. Researchers from one study including 60 adult subjects concluded that fucoxanthin, a substance found in seaweed, may benefit blood sugar control. Specifically, this study found that even those who were genetically predisposed to insulin resistance (a marker of type 2 diabetes) had improved blood sugar by the end of the trial. Fucoxanthin has also been linked to reductions in body fat, and another animal study found that the alginate in seaweed prevented blood sugar spikes after subjects were fed a meal high in sugar. It’s believed that alginate could reduce sugar absorption into the bloodstream.
Not only can seaweed help fight thyroid and blood sugar issues, but it could also help ward off age-related conditions like heart disease. Seaweed has been shown in studies to lower cholesterol levels, and high cholesterol levels are a major indicator of heart disease. What’s more, seaweed contains fucans — a type of carbohydrate that prevents blood clotting, which can cause heart disease.
With all these benefits and a dense nutrient profile, seaweed might just be one of the healthiest superfoods for women — particularly as we age. You can get seaweed from sushi or seaweed salad in a Japanese restaurant, and you can also purchase roasted seaweed sheets to eat as a savory snack throughout the day. Luckily, supermarkets and health food brands are making seaweed more and more available to buy — you can even buy seaweed snacks online. We love these from from Annie Chun’s ($19.99, Amazon).
This article originally appeared on our sister site, For for Women