The slimy, greenish-brown seaweed that clutters the shores of West Coast beaches might look less than appetizing, but kelp is actually an amazing superfood packed with vitamins and minerals. When cooked properly, its savory flavor can be quite tasty too.
What is Kelp?
Kelp, known in Japan as kombu, is harvested from the ocean where it is a home for small fish, sea urchins, and other underwater species. To collect it from the beds where it grows, sea vegetable harvesters only snip a portion of the leaves from the base plant so it can grow back and protect the wildlife in its natural ocean habitat. Kelp naturally grows at a rate of as much as 18 inches per day, making it one of the world’s fastest-growing renewable plant resources.
Kelp is a natural source of iodine, a nutrient essential for maintaining good thyroid health and a fast metabolism. It is also rich in several other vitamins and minerals, including iron, calcium, zinc, thiamin, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12. B vitamins are beneficial for energy and focus. Alginic acid, which comes from all brown seaweeds, helps to reduce excess fat storage.
Kelp for Good Health
It’s easy to enjoy the health benefits of kelp even if you don’t enjoy the leathery texture or the strong savory taste. Throw a small strip on top of other ingredients in a slow cooker, or add a piece to the boiling water in a pot of rice or noodles. Disguise the flavor by chopping it up and adding it to a canned or homemade soup or stew. Kelp is also widely used in a variety of Korean and Japanese dishes.
Kelp for Pet Health
The vitamins and minerals in kelp are not just good for humans, you can also get kelp for pets in the form of supplements, such as the ones offered by The Missing Link. Kelp promotes thyroid health in dogs just like it does for us. Vets also supplement kelp for dogs with flea problems, itchy skin, and allergies. Dogs on a diet that includes kelp have healthy skin and thick, shiny coats.
Seaweeds like kelp are common on lists of healthy foods for dogs and are also believed to prevent tumors and promote longevity in both people and animals. It doesn’t take much kelp in your pet’s diet to reap the benefits. Daily doses range from 1/4 teaspoon or less to 1 teaspoon, depending on the size of the animal. Talk to a vet before supplementing with kelp to avoid iodine overdose, which can cause upset stomach and hyperthyroidism in pets.
Kelp in Asian Cooking
In Korea, dried kelp (also known as dasima) is frequently used to flavor traditional dishes like kimchi and bibimbap. It is not uncommon for Korean families to eat kelp raw as a side dish with sweet chili sauce for dipping. kelp also makes delicious chips. Dasima twigak is a crispy, salty, sweet and savory snack made frying the kelp in oil and sprinkling it lightly with sugar.
Although not as widely used as nori, the seaweed used to wrap sushi rolls, kelp is often incorporated in Japanese cooking. Dashi stock, a staple broth used in many Japanese dishes, is made from boiled kelp and skipjack tuna. Kelp simmered in soy sauce, rice wine, and sugar makes a healthy side dish called kombu no tsukudani. Konbu-cha, or kelp tea—not to be confused with kombucha, fermented green tea—is a nutritious Japanese tea made from dried and powdered kelp.