Animal, mineral or vegetable? It’s a trick question, because I consider it 2 of those – a sea vegetable that is very high in minerals! It’s also a great source of vegetarian protein and in any dish, a bit of kelp provides that coveted Umami.
Additionally, multiple forms of kelp contain a cancer fighting compound called Fucoidan, which is thought to cause apoptosis (cancer cell die off) and increased mortality following meningitis infection. (1 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fucoidan)
Kelp comes in many varieties and sizes for use in the kitchen. If the idea of chomping on a big ‘ol hunk of seaweed, turns you off, check out this primer I created for you:
Arame – Also known as sea oak. Add to sautéed vegetables, salads, and baked goods. Sweeter and milder than its cousin hiziki. Rich in beneficial fiber. Low fat, low sodium, and a good source of vitamin A, calcium, and magnesium.
Dulse – Table condiment for almost any dish. Keep it handy to “season” grains, vegetables, salads, pasta, baked potatoes, popcorn, eggs, etc! healthy alternative to the salt shaker.
Hiziki – Rich flavor and delicate texture. Great with grains and in stir-fries and salads. Enjoy concentrated sea vegetable nourishment. It is fat free and very low sodium.
Kombu – Widely used in soup stock (including the Holistic Kitchen Healing Mineral Broth) and 'dashi' noodle broth as a flavor enhancer. It’s low sodium and fat free Add a piece to beans or root vegetables for improved flavor and a softer texture – it will expand and you can remove and discard, once it’s given its gifts to your dish/broth or you can cut it up and munch on it for its fiber (though I prefer chewing the other forms of kelp over kombu).
Nori – Lightly toasted and most known as paper thin sheets, used to wrap sushi rolls, but it also comes in “crinkles”. These are thin crispy strips, which are mild and sweet. They’re a versatile, tasty condiment and easy snack, eaten right out of the bag. Great addition to miso soup, you can also garnish grains, noodles, and salads with them. Where previous varieties of kelp require rehydration, nori is eaten crispy. Very low sodium, fat free, and a good source of vitamin C.
Wakame – To preserve its beneficial fucoidan, do not cook. Soak it twelve minutes and just add some (all natural) ponzu sauce or blend toasted sesame oil, brown rice vinegar, and shoyu (soy sauce) to put on it. Mildly sweet and supremely healthy! Use in soups and salads or as a garnish on top of cooked rice or other grains, traditional noodles, and in sushi rolls. Fat free and very low sodium.
You can find all of these and more in your local Asian market or the Asian aisle of most supermarkets. My favorite brand is Eden Organics, because they are ahead of the curve on clean, organic standards for their food and packaging.
What’s your favorite kelp?? Leave your comments below!