I recently discovered the root of some health issues I was concerned about. I couldn’t put my finger on what exactly was troubling me. I just knew something about my body chemistry was “off.” Turns out, my thyroid was not functioning at its finest, and a simple homework exercise revealed the culprit: iodine.
Like many other women my age, I was low on this essential mineral. Even for those of us who eat a nutritious diet, it’s surprisingly easy to skimp on the daily amount of iodine we need. Deficiency doesn’t necessarily lead to the telltale goiter that is often associated with thyroid problems. It can reveal itself in rather ambiguous ways, such as dry skin, hair loss, fatigue, cold extremities and slower reflexes (a few of which I experienced). But I wasn’t comfortable resorting to pharmaceuticals to fix the problem. So often, pills only mask symptoms and end up throwing our systems further out of whack. Nor was I comfortable with chemically iodized salt, which doesn’t react in the body the same way natural iodine does.
My deficiency was a natural result of aging, and I knew there must be a natural solution, a food source that would restore balance to my system. Indeed, I found my cure in a tasty and versatile veggie whose virtues are all but forgotten in North America, and it cleared up my thyroid issues within a couple of months. No kidding. My solution? Seaweed.
Before you cringe at the notions of “slimy” and “fishy” that might be coming to mind, let me assure you that seaweed, in all its colorful incarnations, is neither. Think crunchy, vibrant, rich and slightly salty in flavor — everything we love in a snack food. Seaweed has been a powerful source of nutrition for thousands of years. No matter where your ancestors hailed from, there’s a good chance they were nourished by the sea’s plentiful plant life. Sea vegetables have been a vital food source for coastal people throughout the ages. They may not have had science to back it up, but instinct told them that seaweed was a super-food. Research now tells us that sea plants contain 10 to 20 times the minerals of land plants, plus an abundance of vitamins and powerful detoxifying properties.
Even though I’m blissfully back in balance, I still enjoy a seaweed snack on a regular basis. It’s also delicious in savory soups, salads and stir-fried dishes. Thanks to the good people at Mountain Rose Herbs (www.mountainroseherbs.com), I’ve learned how to choose and prepare different varieties.
Sources of Seaweed
Generally, seaweed is sold in a dehydrated form. You’ll find flakes, leaves, granules, sheets or powder, all of which are easy to use and store. Munch it dry, enjoying the unique shapes, flavors, and textures of each variety, or experiment with different methods of preparation. Here are a few suggestions from Mountain Rose Herbs:
— Dried Kelp fronds are delicious and may be used in entrees, soups and salads. In addition, powdered Kelp can be added to smoothies, juices or teas.
— Shredded Kombu and leafy Wakame may be pickled with sweet and sour flavoring or cut into small strips and eaten as a snack. Kombu can also be sprinkled and crushed into practically any dish that requires a salty taste.
— Sheets of dried Nori (often used in sushi) may be added to soups, salads and entrees.
— Fronds of gorgeous red Dulse can be munched dry or ground to flakes or powder. It can also be pan-fried quickly (garlic butter optional) into tasty chips. Dulse can be used in soups, sandwiches and salads as well.
Note that most dried seaweed expands considerably when soaked in water. Mountain Rose Herbs offers bulk quantities of several different seaweeds in whole dried, flaked, powdered and even encapsulated forms. They work directly with several harvesters on the Pacific Coast who gather seaweed by hand, assuring sound and sustainable harvesting.
Check out the seaweed recipes at www.healthy-green-lifestyle.com and www.oceanvegetables.com.
Try this simple self-test for iodine deficiency
— Small bottle of tincture of iodine (from any drugstore)
— Cotton ball
Dip the cotton ball in iodine and dab a 2-inch circle of iodine on the soft skin of your inner arm or thigh. Let it dry, then monitor the spot over the next few hours. If the yellow-orange stain takes more than 6 hours to disappear, you’re okay on iodine. But if the stain is absorbed within 1-3 hours, you may be low. Consult your doctor to discuss further testing (From the Women to Women Web site, www.womentowomen.com).
Gomasio is an easy and delicious way to eat seaweed, and it can be used any time salt is used. It is often used in Japanese cooking, and tastes great when sprinkled on top of salads, stir-fries and rice.
– 4 tablespoons sesame seeds
– 2 tablespoons seaweed of choice (Kelp, Dulse, Nori or Sea Lettuce would be best)
– 1 tablespoon of sea salt
1. Toast the sesame seeds in a small skillet over low heat for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Let the mixture cool.
2. Combine sesame seeds, seaweed and salt in a mortar and pestle and lightly grind to mix the ingredients together.
3. Pour the mixture into a jar with a tight-fitting lid and keep stored in a cool, dry and dark place for up to three months — a kitchen cupboard is perfect.
Copyright 2010, MaryJane Butters.
Distributed by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.