Kelp Seaweed: Properties, Benefits, and Side Effects

November 18, 2022

Kelp. You may know of it, and you may not. Kelp is a type of seaweed that grows in marine forests, especially off the coast of Patagonia. 

It has a brown and green color and doesn't need too much depth to grow as it finds all the necessary nutrients towards the surface. 

Due to its high nutrient content, it is considered a superfood, and its consumption is very common in Asian countries. 

It is frequently found in herbalist stores, supermarkets, or as a star ingredient in gourmet recipes. 

This extraordinary "vegetable of the sea", has a considerable size and is formed by flat leaves. It comes from the laminaria family and has numerous beneficial properties for the organism, although, in some cases, it may cause side effects.

If you want to include kelp in your diet, in this article, we will discover everything you need to know about it: its properties, benefits, and side effects.

Kelp Properties

Its rich composition gives kelp particular characteristics. Under its intense sea flavor, it hides a series of properties that translate into benefits, provided that its intake is part of a varied and balanced diet.

  • It is abundant in fiber, which increases its satiating properties that go together with a mild laxative effect.

  • It contains valuable quantities of polyphenols together with vitamins E and C, which make it a powerful natural antioxidant. 

  • To these properties, we must add the ability to accelerate metabolism by promoting thermogenesis.

  • It is a source of important minerals such as iron, magnesium, calcium, and especially iodine, essential micronutrients for the body. 

  • In its special composition, we must also highlight its vegetable protein content, which makes it a high-protein food.

  • It has depurative properties.

  • It is believed that kelp could also be a natural antibiotic due to its antibacterial properties.

  • It has anticoagulant properties that favor the correct transit of blood flow.

Kelp Benefits

Its composition and properties derive several benefits that make kelp considered a complete and healthy food unless there is any contraindication that discourages its intake. Among its main benefits, we must emphasize the following,

  • Good ally in weight loss, mainly due to its high fiber content and the presence of alginates, a particular type of fiber that, according to a study published in the Food Chemistry Journal, could contribute to minimizing the absorption of fats in the body.

  • It promotes good digestion and proper intestinal transit, avoiding constipation problems, as well as fluid retention.

  • Its minerals make kelp effective in preventing diseases such as anemia (due to the presence of iron) and osteoporosis, helping with its calcium to keep bones in good condition.

  • Its antioxidant capacity also favors the optimal condition of the whole organism, slowing down the action of free radicals, which cause aging at the cellular level. We must remember that kelp is not only taken as food, it is also present as an ingredient in many cosmetic products for skin care.

  • The iodine content helps to regulate the functioning of the endocrine system, especially that of the thyroid gland, being beneficial in cases of hypothyroidism (strongly discouraged in the opposite case, i.e. if there is hyperthyroidism). Therefore, you should know that kelp is recommended if you have hypothyroidism. 

  • Its trace elements help to strengthen nails and hair.

  • It protects the immune system and is effective in preventing and improving colds, flu, and nasal congestion.

How to consume kelp?

Kelp is present as an ingredient in many food supplements, and its intake should be done in consultation with a doctor or pharmacist.

Wondering how to take kelp?

You can find it in powder form to add directly to vegetable juices and smoothies, very common in slimming diets, or even to dress and enrich healthy salads, broths, or rice. It is often used as a condiment instead of salt.

Another way to take this superfood is raw, adding it to salads or using its long leaves to make Asian dishes, such as sushi.

Generally, kelp is found dried in specialized stores. To eat it, you only need to rehydrate it while boiling it for a few minutes. 

Then, you will be able to use the leaves in multiple recipes: sautéed with oil and vinegar (as any other vegetable), or, for example, as if they were a particular vegetable spaghetti.

Kelp Side Effects

The main problem with kelp is its high iodine content, therefore, its consumption should always be moderate and should be avoided in specific cases:

  • People suffering from hyperthyroidism should not take it in any case.

  • As a precaution, its intake is also not advisable in the case of pregnant or breastfeeding women.

  • If you are taking any specific medication, especially a drug with anticoagulant effects, kelp is not recommended. In these cases, prior medical consultation is of vital significance. 

Final Word

Kelp is a medicinal and highly-nutrient seaweed of green/brown color that brings a plethora of benefits for human health. 

It can be consumed as part of your dishes or as a dietary supplement. 

It has a high iodine content, so its intake must be moderate.