As if sushi cakes and sushi donuts weren’t enough, science has given us another reason to indulge our seaweed cravings. According to a new study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, seaweed can also help counteract food allergies. This might be great news for the 15 million Americans who suffer from food allergies each year.
A staple in sushi restaurants, seaweed is a popular health food that is sprouting up in salads, popcorn and even granola. Eager to find out if it helped with food allergies, the researchers rounded up a group of mice that had a sensitivity to shellfish. After exposing them to the allergen, half of the mice were fed Gracilaria lemaneiformis, a type of red algae seaweed.
When compared to those that weren’t fed the seaweed, the mice that ate it experienced reduced food allergy symptoms. While this discovery is promising, the researchers noted that further studies are needed to better understand seaweed’s power to combat food allergies.
How to Pick Seaweed That’s Good for You
Seaweed is low in calories and packed with nutrients, including vitamins A and C, calcium and iodine — an element that regulates our thyroid and hormones. While it certainly can’t hurt to nosh on this super food once in a while, it’s important to keep in mind that not all seaweed is created equal. Koko Collado, Founder of Namaste Holistic Health, recommends considering the following when buying seaweed products:
1. Know where your seaweed was grown. If the ocean water in which the seaweed grew is contaminated, chances are your seaweed is as well. Generally, if the seaweed comes from the US, it can be regarded as safe, since the FDA regulates its use in food. However, the FDA does not regulate its use in supplements, so talk to your doctor before taking any sort of seaweed pill.
2. Avoid monosodium glutamate (MSG). This source of sodium is used as a flavor enhancer and can be found in Asian foods and seaweed products. Although generally recognized as safe by the FDA, MSG has been known to cause headaches, sweating and rapid heart rates.
3. Steer clear of carrageenan. This popular food additive comes from red seaweed and is often used as a thickener for ice cream, cottage cheese and soy or almond milk. According to Dr. Joanne K. Tobacman, a leading researcher on the product, carrageenan has shown to cause stomach problems and chronic inflammation, which is why she recommends avoiding it altogether.
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