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Vegetables from the Sea

You may think that this does not sound like anything “normal” or it sounds weird and could never possibly taste good. But before you decide that, read on and then do a little experimentation. 

Do you want to be really healthy and get the maximum benefit from the food you eat? Do you want to lose weight? Do you want to reduce your blood pressure without taking medication? Do you want to cleanse or get rid of toxin from your body? In a nut shell, do you want to be healthy and robust and feel light and alive? Then read on, and as I said, do some experimentation. Life is dull if one never experiments, researches, dreams or is willing to dive into something beyond the “same ole”, “same ole.” Curiosity and openness are the trademarks of a vibrant life.

Sea vegetables have been in the diet of numerous countries since ancient times, but one country which has and does really utilize them the most, is Japan. Long coastlines and a rich, abundant variety of sea vegetables have made it possible for the Japanese to take full advantage of this source of food. Marine algae play a vital role in Japan’s coastal fishery industries also. Seaweeds were mentioned in the famous ancient Japanese anthology, compiled in the eighth century, called the Manyoushu and is filled with interesting information about the daily lives of the Japanese of the sixth and seventh centuries. Of the roughly four thousand poems in the collection, about one hundred mention seaweeds. In ancient times seaweeds were burned for salt, and were the main food that saved them from famine several times in more recent history during the 1700‘s and early 1800s.Throughout the stages of Japanese history, seaweeds have continued to be popular with most of the people. The complexities and cosmopolitan nature of the modern Japanese diet might seem to suggest that such old-fashioned foods as seaweeds are on the way out. But the production and consumption figures give lie to this fact. 

There are dietary applications of the sea vegetables, of course, but did you know there are medical applications as well? Indeed, there are a variety of sea vegetables in the Traditional Oriental Medicine (TOM) pharmacy. They are used in designing medicinal formulas, along with the thousands of land plants in Oriental medicine. When living in their natural habitat, sea vegetables are composed of from 80 to 90 percent water; dried, they contain only from 10 to 20 percent water and consist of from 80 to 90 percent carbohydrates, proteins and minerals. In this state, they contain only from 1 to 2 percent fat. Vitamins, nucleic acids and pigments similar to those found in land plants occur in sea vegetables too. Sea vegetables contain a high percentage of minerals and vitamins as well as characteristic mucilages. 

The polysaccharides of the thick, soft cell walls of seaweeds are specialized in structure to control entry and exit of inorganic ions. This is very important because of the high concentrations of salt in the seawater environment. A characteristic mucilaginous cell-wall framework surrounding both sides of the cellulose protect the fronds, which, because of their soft walls, would naturally suffer damage as a result of the constant swaying motion of the sea. In addition, these mucilages admit ions needed for the plant’s survival and reject unnecessary ones. 



Sea vegetables can be a source of proteins. Nitrogen content of sea vegetables ranges from 1.5 to 7.6 percent dry weight. When raw protein is calculated by multiplying nitrogen content by 6.25, the protein range becomes from 10 to 48 percent. Since they grow uncultivated, this protein source could be used as food and could help solve the food crisis, and particularly improve the diets of the one-third of the population of the world today suffering from protein deficiency. But not much nutritional research is currently being conducted on their utilization for this. According to research done by Seibin and Teruko Arasaki, protein purified by alkaline extraction from some of the seaweeds harvested along the Japanese coast has an almost constant nitrogen content of from 11 to 14 percent. Amino acids in these proteins are about the same as those in ordinary proteins and the amino-acid composition is actually better than that of land plants. Interestingly, this amino-acid composition closely resembles ovalbumin—egg-white protein. There is a great food source in the sea, not just for Japanese and Koreans, but could be for many people. We don’t need GMO (genetically modified organisms) grains and vegetables to feed the world and ultimately destroy nature; we have natural sources, such as sea vegetables right before us. 


Amino Acids

There are some twenty to thirty types of free amino acids in fairly large amounts in seaweed ethanol extracts. In addition, there are some special amino acids peculiar to seaweeds. Because of their saline seawater environment, taxonomically, seaweeds fall between bacteria and higher plants and, then assumed, to have a special metabolic system, which probably requires the presence of at least the ten known kinds of amino acids peculiar to them. Seibin and Teruko Arasaki have found many peptides–including glutamic acid and aspartic acid–in aqueous extracts from Laminaria japonica. 



High vitamin and mineral content are the most outstanding nutritional features of sea vegetables. Almost all edible Japanese sea vegetables contain fairly large amounts of vitamins B1, B2, C, and Beta-carotene. Though there is no vitamin A in them, Beta-carotene has the same effects as this vitamin found in land plants. The type of sea vegetable you are familiar with in sushi rolls, Akakusa-nori, commonly called nori, is a virtual storehouse of vitamins with a vitamin A content twenty times that of green peppers, ten times that of spinach. Its vitamin C content is about the same as that of tomatoes but four times that of apples. Nori provides ample amounts of Vitamin B1. (This means, with its high Beta-carotene and B1 content, it is great for the eyes and hair, when consumed!)

The better the color and flavor of the nori the higher its vitamin content. Since dried or toasted nori must be stored out of the sunlight and in a dry place, it loses none of its vitamin C through breakdown. 



Sea vegetables contain more minerals than any other kind of food. Mainly because of the action of their surface tissues, polysaccharides absorb freely and selectively inorganic substances from seawater. An extremely wide range of minerals accounts for up to 38 percent of their dry weight. All of the minerals required by human beings, including calcium, sodium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, iodine, iron and zinc, are present in sufficient amounts. In addition, there are many trace elements in seaweeds.



Deficiency of iron is one of the causes of malnutrition and anemia brought on by reduction of food intake for the sake of weight loss. The iron content of sea vegetables is from two to more than ten times that of egg yolks and spinach. 



For centuries, the Chinese have treated goiter, caused by an iodine deficiency, by means of iodine obtained from kombu (Laminaria) harvested from the waters around Japan, especially the vicinity of the northern island Hokkaidou. Brown algae are very high in iodine content. one gram of kombu daily would provide the 0.1 to 0.2 milligrams required by a normal adult or the 0.2 milligrams needed by children and pregnant women. In Japan, because of the regular consumption of seaweeds, there is no need to iodize table salt, as is done in the United States and Canada. 


Nutritional Value

Sea vegetable polysaccharides, which are very different from land-plant polysaccharides, cannot be digested by the enzyme alpha-amylase. Because of this, they provide the human system with no calories, but fish and shellfish have an enzyme that decomposes them for the sake of energy. The soft cell walls of the sea vegetables regulate intestinal action in the human, when consumed, without damaging intestine walls. In terms of amino-acid composition, seaweed protein is similar to that of egg whites and legumes; but we are not certain of the digestibility of this protein. Low in fat, sea vegetables have more of such vitamins as A, B1, B2, B6, B12, and C; pantothenic acid; folic acid; and niacin than fresh fruits and land vegetables. A wonderful food, low in calories, very high in nutrient value.


Medical Applications

Modern medicine tends to regard the ancient Chinese and Japanese tradition of medical uses of sea vegetables as mere folklore. What it is missing! What it is doing to the populations of the world, selling them synthetic chemicals, called medications, instead of using what nature has given us!  A huge shame. Modern medicine has been able to convince the majority of the population that only they have the answers and everything else is folklore. The practitioners of modern medicine are missing out on really helping their patients with natural methods that work and that have no risk of side effects or long-term damage to the health of the person.

Though modern research on the medical use of sea vegetables is still in an early, undeveloped stage, sea vegetables have been shown to contain antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, antiprozoal and antineoplastic elements. In addition, they are toxic to certain insects and fish. The antibiotics they contain help preserve the ecologocal system of the sea and must be studied for use in prventing that system from falling into the polluted state that large-scale use of chemicals has created on the land masses of the world. 

Sea vegetables have an anthelmintic and blood-cholesterol reducing effect on the human body when consumed. Thyroxin and similar substances with thyroid hormonal actions are especially widely distributed in the sea vegetables. Sea vegetable polysaccharides have been shown to have blood anticoagulant actions similar to those of heparin. Japanese have long held that sea vegetables are effective at preventing tumors. Recent research has shown these effects in a variety of different studies. Besides being antibacterial in function, sea vegetables are anthelmintics (effective against parasites). One more thing, sea vegetables are antihypertensive in nature, especially Laminaria japonica (kombu). 


In summary: Sea plants contain ten to twenty times the minerals of land plants and an abundance of vitamins and other elements necessary for human metabolism, making them an excellent source for food and medicine. Certain ones actually remove radioactive and toxic metal wastes from the body. (No wonder they are used in the traditional Oriental medicine pharmacy).

Sea vegetables have a cooling thermal nature, salty flavor, soften hardened areas and masses in the body, detoxify, moisten dryness, transform phlegm and remove residues of radiation in the body. They also help to build fluids in the body and improve water metabolism, act as lymphatic cleansers, alkalize the blood, alleviate liver stagnation and beneficial to the thyroid. Sea vegetables are useful in reducing excess weight and for lowering cholesterol and fat in the blood. Sea vegetables in general are used to treat swellings, nodules, lumps, goiter, swollen lymph glads, edema, chronic cough with heat signs such as yellow or green phlegm. In addition to containing a wealth of minerals, vitamins, amino acids; they are especially good sources of iodine, calcium and iron.



Know your source of the sea vegetables you purchase. As with land plants, it is important where seaweeds originate, because certain areas of the ocean are polluted with heavy metals. But since no body of water can be pristine now days, it is helpful to know that wherever sea vegetables grow, they do not simply absorb and concentrate toxins. Rather, they detoxify and transform a certain amount of toxic metals, converting them to harmless salts, which the body excretes through the intestines.



I can’t include them all here. There are numerous, with the different varieties of sea vegetable. One that all Americans are likely familiar with is nori, because they have eaten it in sushi rolls, like nori-maiki sushi and California roll.


Here is a very simple recipe for an awesome, refreshing summer dessert.


Fruit Gel


3-4 tablespoons of agar-agar flakes

4 cups of organic apple juice (best to squeeze your own, from locally sourced apples)

1/2 cup of organic raisins (grown in California, local!)

2 cups of fresh, not canned, not frozen, fruit; such as strawberries, any berries, peaches, whatever is in season.

1 teaspoon of real, natural vanilla or almond extract, or squeeze of an organic lemon


Soften the agar in the juice in a saucepan and bring the mixture to a boil, add the raisins. Simmer five minutes until the agar is all dissolved. Stir in the fresh fruit and flavoring. Pour into a mold or a glass pan and allow it to set. It will set without refrigeration, but to store it, you should keep it in the refrigerator. This will make 6-8 servings. So good in the summer!


Other sea vegetables to learn to cook with are kombu, wakame, hijiki, arame and dulse.

A variety of sea vegetables are available for sale at Acupuncture Plus Works, as well as a recipe source. You can look online or at local health food stores also. Happy hunting and experimenting with some life from the sea.


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