What is Kelp? Kelp Benefits and Uses

What is Kelp? Kelp Benefits and Uses | ecoNugenics

The Many Benefits of Kelp

You probably don’t realize it, but seaweed is already a huge part of your daily life. Kelp is used to make many products, including toothpaste, shampoo, and salad dressing. It produces algin (among many other compounds) which is a thickening agent used in these products. (1)

Beyond manufacturing, kelp has many benefits for health and wellness. But what is kelp and what is the best way to use it?

Kelp is a type of seaweed that grows in kelp forests in the ocean. Kelp forests are important habitats for a variety of marine life. They usually grow along rocky coastlines, and kelp has anchors that allow it to hold on to rocks. It then grows up toward the water’s surface, so it can get enough sunlight to thrive. (1, 2)

Kelp is a staple in Asian cuisine, particularly in Japan, where it is served in approximately 21% of meals. This high level of seaweed consumption has been suggested as a reason for Japan’s longer than average lifespan. In Japan, the average life expectancy is 83 years, five years longer than the United States’ average life expectancy of 78 years. (3)

Kelp Benefits for Health

Kelp has a long list of health benefits, from being nutrient-dense and high in antioxidants to being useful for detoxification.

Nutrient-Rich Kelp

Kelp is low in calories but chock-full of nutrients, making it a fantastic addition to any meal. Kelp is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, such as: (4)

  • calcium
  • iron
  • magnesium
  • folate
  • vitamin A
  • vitamin K1
  • pantothenic acid

Iodine in Kelp

Where kelp really shines is its iodine content. In fact, kelp is one of the best natural sources of the mineral because it so effectively absorbs iodine from the seawater it lives in. But why is this important? (3, 5)

Iodine is essential for the production of thyroid hormones. These hormones affect every cell in the body and play a number of key roles including regulating metabolism, influencing how fast calories are burned and how fast food moves through your digestive tract; raising and lowering body temperature, and other actions. They also have an important role in fetal and infant development. Not consuming enough iodine can lead to metabolism issues and goiter, the enlargement of the thyroid gland. (3, 5)

Because of their high consumption of kelp, people living in Japan have one of the highest iodine intakes in the world. Many positive health statistics have been linked to Japanese iodine intake, including fewer heart-related deaths, and a lower rate of infant mortality compared to the U.S. (3)

While it is important to get enough iodine, consuming too much can also cause issues, especially for individuals with underlying thyroid problems. If you have any underlying conditions, talk to your doctor about the iodine dose that’s right for you. 

Antioxidants in Kelp

Not only is kelp dense in nutrients, it is also a great source of antioxidants. Antioxidants fight free radicals, which damage cells and can cause disease and aging. Research has demonstrated that specific chemical compounds in kelp have antioxidant properties, giving kelp even more potential health benefits. (6)

Additionally, studies have shown that various compounds and extracts from kelp have anti-inflammatory effects. Inflammation is another driver of chronic disease, so reducing inflammation in the body can help prevent a long list of health issues. (6)

Detoxing with Icelandic Kelp

Kelp can also play a role in helping to detoxify the body from heavy metals. Humans are exposed to heavy metals from living in an industrialized society. These metals can’t be metabolized and don’t have any function for the body. They can be highly toxic and build up in soft tissues and even bone over time. (7)

Heavy metals that can accumulate in the body include:

  • aluminum
  • arsenic
  • cadmium
  • copper (metallic)
  • lead
  • mercury
  • nickel

Heavy metal buildup can lead to chronic diseases, as well as inhibit disease recovery. It can also cause problems for a host of body systems and negatively impact memory, energy levels, blood pressure, circulation, and cholesterol levels. (7)

Fortunately, kelp can be a huge help in removing heavy metals from the body. It has the ability to bind to heavy metals so that they can be safely removed from the body through regular excretory processes. (7)

How to Use Kelp

People seeking to increase their daily intake of kelp can do so by cooking with it or taking a kelp supplement.

Cooking with Kelp

Kelp is most commonly used in Asian cuisine, but there are endless ways to add it into your cooking. Seaweed salad flavored with sesame oil is an amazing side dish. Kelp is also commonly added to soup. If you’re cooking a noodle dish, try using kelp noodles instead of ones made from wheat or rice.

If you’re looking for simple ways to add kelp to your diet, try using it as a seasoning. 

Once you start cooking with kelp, you’ll be surprised by how many ways you’ll find to incorporate it into your diet.

Kelp Supplements

Taking a kelp supplement is a great option for people who don’t want to cook with kelp every day or who want to know exactly how much kelp they’re taking. The supplement GlyphoCleanse contains kelp for detoxification of pesticides and other environmental toxins.

Along with Icelandic kelp, GlyphoCleanse uses glycine, sodium alginate, and citrus pectin to help eliminate pesticides and common agricultural chemicals, prevent their storage in the body, and promote thyroid and gastrointestinal health. Kelp helps to bind negatively-charged toxins like fluoride, bromide, and chloride, as well as other pesticides and environmental toxins for safe removal. The iodine in kelp competes with these toxins at receptor sites, preventing them from being absorbed into thyroid and other tissues.

No matter how you decide to use kelp, its many benefits make it an essential addition for long-term health and wellness.

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Sources:

  1. How do people use kelp? NOAA's National Ocean Service. https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/pplkelp.html. Published June 25, 2018.
  2. Kelp Forests - a Description. Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. https://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/visit/ecosystems/kelpdesc.html.
  3. Zava TT, Zava DT. Assessment of Japanese iodine intake based on seaweed consumption in Japan: A literature-based analysis. Thyroid research. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3204293/. Published October 5, 2011.
  4. Seaweed, kelp, raw. FoodData Central. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html. Published April 1, 2019.
  5. Iodine Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iodine-HealthProfessional/. Published September 16, 2020.
  6. Gomez-Zavaglia A, Prieto Lage MA, Jimenez-Lopez C, Mejuto JC, Simal-Gandara J. The Potential of Seaweeds as a Source of Functional Ingredients of Prebiotic and Antioxidant Value. Antioxidants (Basel, Switzerland). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6770939/. Published September 17, 2019.
  7. Eliaz I, Weil E, Wilk B. Integrative Medicine and the Role of Modified Citrus Pectin/Alginates in Heavy Metal Chelation and Detoxification - Five Case Reports. Research Gate. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Barry_Wilk2/publication/5632959_Integrative_Medicine_and_the_Role_of_Modified_Citrus_PectinAlginates_in_Heavy_MetIntegrative_Medicine_and_the_Role_of_Modified_Citrus_PectinAlginates_in_Heavy_Metal_Chelation_and_Detoxification_-_Five/links/552bf9690cf2e089a3ab17a2.pdf . Published November 2, 2007.

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