Algae: Nutrient-Rich Explosion for Athletes

November 18, 2022

The study of common diseases over the years has led to research into food and food products, and the evolution of their production over the years.


Food quality is linked to the quality of health and lifestyle. Consuming fresh, natural, or organic food is becoming a priority for families worldwide. Food education is evolving, and we seek to consume less processed products and more whole grains, nuts, seaweed, legumes, vegetables, seasonal fruits, seeds, and natural seasonings.


Scientific studies reveal that in places where it is common to eat seaweed regularly, people live longer and healthier lives since common diseases have a lower incidence. 


Japan is the country with the highest consumption of seaweed (algae) in the world. 


Algae are plant organisms, normally aquatic (fresh or saltwater), which can be unicellular or multicellular and, in general, are provided with chlorophyll. 


In the past, they were used to make medicine, cosmetics, sports supplementation, or vitamin complexes. Nowadays, they have infinite uses, not only those mentioned above but also for the manufacture of biofuels, among others. 


Algae are valuable food and are of great benefit to industrialized countries, where overfeeding is a threat to nutritional balance. 


Thanks to their high mineral content, they produce an alkalizing effect in the blood and can purify our system by eliminating the acidic effects of the modern diet. 


Sea vegetables contain more than 25% more minerals than milk and provide no calories. Their fat content is low, they are rich in vitamins A, B, C, D3, E, and K, and in less quantity, B12.


Seaweed can also help dissolve fats and mucus deposits that appear in the body due to excessive consumption of meat and dairy products.


There’s no doubt that seaweed and seaweed supplements are an excellent addition to sports nutrition. The high content of proteins and amino acids in seaweed provides perfect muscle recovery and muscle gain support. 


Athletes from all around the world are finding an ally in many algae varieties because they are packed with nutrients, vitamins and minerals, providing rapid recovery time after extreme workouts. 


Apart from that, seaweed is low in calories, besides providing muscle support they are also useful for weight loss and excess fat reduction. 


SEAWEED TYPES AND THEIR PROPERTIES


Kombu


Kombu or kelp includes a wide variety of brown algae that grow abundantly below the tide line. They vary considerably in shape but generally, all have smooth, shiny leaves.


Boiled for a long time, it provides a delicate and tasty broth that can be used as a base for soups and stews. 


This broth known as "dashi" is the basis of many Japanese dishes. For centuries, the Chinese have used it for the treatment of gout. There is no need to add iodine to table salt in the Far East because the broth has a high iodine content. 


Properties


  • Rich in alginic acid (natural purifier for the intestines, eliminating toxins from the colon walls in a natural way).

  • Rich in glutamic acid, the original and natural version of the famous monosodium glutamate.

  • Contains two simple sugars: fucose and mannitol, of great importance for diabetics.

  • One of the richest seaweeds in iodine.

  • Beneficial against hypertension


Wakame


Wakame is native to Japanese waters. These plants grow up to about 20 inches long in water depths of 20-40 ft. Their growth is most rapid during the winter months and harvesting takes place in the spring. It is extracted from boats using a long hand rake or a hook attached to a rope that pulls the part that holds the wakame to its base.


On the shore, the plants are simply dried and packed or briefly dipped in boiling water and then immediately in cold water before being hung on a rope to dry. This blanching process does two things: it preserves the wakame's appetizing green color, and prevents the growth of any fermentation-producing microorganisms, allowing the plant to be sold as a fresh vegetable for a longer period.


In Japan, it is the third most popular seaweed, behind nori and kombu. In the West, its mild flavor makes it one of the most popular among beginner seaweed enthusiasts. 


Properties


  • Rich in calcium

  • Contains high levels of vitamin B and C

  • Second only to nori seaweed in protein content


Dulse Seaweed


Dulse seaweed is the most popular sea vegetable native to the North Atlantic and has been used as food for thousands of years by the people of northwestern Europe. For many centuries, the inhabitants of Iceland and Alaska have also regularly included dulse seaweed in their diet.


In the 17th century, it was used by British sailors as chewing tobacco. In the 18th century, Scottish and Irish immigrants spread its use along the east coast of Canada and New England, until the end of the 19th century, when dulse seaweed arrived in western ports.


The plants are small, measuring between 5-10 inches. Harvesting takes place between May and October, and the algae are collected by hand at low tide.


They are simply dried in the sun and wind and then packed. Since their natural habitat is around the tide line, they may contain small shells, so they should be cleaned before use.


Properties


  • It is the most iron-rich seaweed

  • Slightly spicy flavor

  • Improves the blood in pregnant women, adolescents, infants, and people with iron deficiency.

  • High in potassium, magnesium, iodine, and phosphorus.

  • After nori seaweed, it is the seaweed with the highest protein content.


Sea Spaghetti Seaweed


Known for its elongated ribbon-like shape, sea spaghetti is common in Spain's region Galicia. 


Galicia has a temperate climate and a latitude similar to Japan. It has a varied coastline of contrasts, which, together with the differences in salinity, means this coastline has a great biological variety composed mainly of underwater forests and orchards of colors with algae such as sea spaghetti and kombu.


Properties


  • High iron content

  • Rich in potassium and phosphorus

  • Strengthens the nervous system

  • Provides vitamin C

  • Cholesterol regulator

  • Very suitable for athletes due to its high protein content and low levels of calories and fat.


Cochayuyo Seaweed


This seaweed is characterized by its size, reaching up to 50 ft in length. It grows along the coast, attached to the rocks, especially in areas with high waves and cold waters. The cochayuyo differs from other seaweeds because of its special volume and fleshy, elastic, and firm consistency, which give it more the appearance and texture of a mushroom than that of a sea vegetable.


Properties


  • Source of good quality proteins (its contribution per 100g is 11.26g, higher than that of corn, wheat, and rice).

  • Contains all the essential amino acids in sufficient quantities to form proteins.

  • Rich in minerals and trace elements


Arame Seaweed


The arame seaweed belongs to the group of the brown souls. It is harvested mainly around the famous Isé peninsula, on the eastern side of the main island of Japan.


The plants have the shape of wavy strips of leaves 11 inches long. The arame seaweed grows on rocks below the water level and is traditionally harvested by women who dive into the water and extract it by hand.


Properties


  • Sweet taste due to its high natural sugar content.

  • Combats hypertension

  • The traditional remedy to treat disorders of the female reproductive organs.


Nori


Nori seaweed is undoubtedly the best-known seaweed for its use in sushi preparation. Unlike the previous seaweeds, all nori production comes from cultivation.


Nori can change color: from bright green to brown, purple, black, or olive green, depending on its age and degree of exposure to light.


Properties


  • High in vitamins C and B1 and especially rich in vitamin A.

  • Contributes to lower cholesterol by helping to dissolve and eliminate fatty deposits.

  • It also helps digestion


Hiziki Seaweed


The hiziki seaweed grows especially in the Far East, where these shrub-like plants cover the rocks just below the water level. 


Each shrub reaches about 3 feet in height, and harvesting takes place between January and May.


This seaweed has been consumed for centuries in Japan, and always in small quantities, providing hair elasticity and shine. 


Properties


  • Contains a large amount of calcium, minerals, and trace elements.

  • Controls blood sugar level

  • Rich source of minerals


Agar-Agar Seaweed


Known as "kanten" in Japan, it is wonderful natural gelatin with a very mild flavor, nutritious, and rich in minerals. The name "kanten" means "cold sky". It provides a cooling and relaxing effect on overworked muscles. 


You can use agar-agar in the form of bars, strips, or thin flakes, found in health food stores. Agar-agar powder is very commercial and has a very smooth and hard texture.


Properties


  • Laxative properties

  • Anti-inflammatory 

  • Relaxing and soothing


Final Word


It's ideal to add seaweed to your daily meals little by little until they are integrated as one more food in your daily life. Add small quantities to the meals throughout the day, in salads, stews, broths, and pasta, especially if you're a high-performance athlete seeking a healthy protein and amino-acid source with no calories.