What in the World is Wakame?

What is Wakame and Why Would Someone Want to Eat It?

According to Wikipedia, wakame, or ワカメ, also known by its scientific name, Undaria pinnatifida, is a sea vegetable, or an edible form of seaweed. Its subtle salty sweet flavor makes it perfect in seaweed salads and miso soups, and Japanese sea farmers have grown it since the Nara period (or the years spanning from AD 710 to 794). It is also found useful as a wrap for sushi in many restaurants.

Flavorful, well-preserved in sea salt, and packing a powerful nutritive punch

Unlike nori, which most commonly adorns sushi rolls, wakame is sold dried as well as fresh. If kept refrigerated, wakame is usually preserved with sea salt and kept soft and moist. Made popular by raw vegans and macrobiotic diets, wakame boasts nutritional properties which make it highly sought after among health enthusiasts who are calling it a Superfood.

Wakame strengthens bones, maintains hormone levels, improves skin health, and even lowers incidence and mortality of breast cancer among certain groups of women

For starters, the University of California conducted a study which suggested that wakame may lower both the breast cancer incidence and mortality among postmenopausal women. Additionally, it is known to strengthen bones, improve circulation, maintain hormone levels, and promote healthy skin.

A component found in wakame, called fucoxanthin, does many wonders for the body

Other health claims include its ability to reverse diabetes (because of its component of fucoxanthin), found in a 2009 Japanese study, which is known for possessing anti-obesity and anti-diabetic effects.

A subsequent study in Japan found that the substance promotes fat-burning inside animals’ fat cells, and another 2004 study indicated the fucoxanthin found in wakame also acts as a chemopreventive and chemotherapeutic compound in colon cancer cells. Again, according to Dr. Axe, fucoxanthin has yet another miraculous purpose: it can also stimulate the liver to reduce harmful cholesterol in the body by producing DHA, making it an excellent cholesterol-lowering food.

It can also balance hormones, reduce PMS symptoms, and boost antioxidant activity

In addition, it’s said to balance hormones due to its high manganese, iron and calcium levels, which also cumulatively reduce symptoms of PMS according to a study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Due to its antioxidant activity and hormone regulating properties, it is believed to possibly be effective as an infertility treatment as well.

The Chinese have used wakame to treat tumors, and studies show efficacy at preventing osteoporosis

15 percent of an average adult’s daily recommended value of calcium is found in one hundred grams of wakame, and is therefore effective in preventing osteoporosis. In traditional Chinese medicine and folk medicine, seaweed has been used to treat cancerous tumors, and there is a small area of research claiming a link between seaweed and a reduced risk of breast cancer.

Ensure a healthy pregnancy by eating a little wakame

Vitamin B-12, or folate, is another essential nutrient found in wakame, and this one is responsible for copying and synthesizing DNA and other functions needed for a healthy pregnancy.

A perfect source of iron

Providing a great source of iron, wakame ups the production of red blood cells in the body, assisting with a metabolic enzyme process which digests proteins and nutrients from food. Iron-rich foods like wakame can both ensure proper iron levels are met nutritionally while keeping excessive iron supplementation resulting in iron overload from occurring.

Reduces high blood pressure, improves metabolism, fights depression, relieves arthritis, and many other benefits

Believed to be especially effective at reducing high blood pressure, studies have proven wakame “significantly decreased systolic blood pressure of spontaneously hypertensive rats.” Another such study in 2011 focused on Japanese preschoolers who lowered significantly their blood pressure over three days of seaweed intake.

The essential Omega-3 fatty acids are rich in wakame, as well, which is necessary for a healthy metabolism. In addition, Omega 3’s can help fight depression, reduce inflammation, promote vibrant, healthy skin, reverse diabetes, lower cholesterol, relieve arthritis, and reduce anxiety. They’re also known to be important in athletic injury recovery, encourage weight loss, and aid thick hair and nail growth.

In a nutshell, wakame provides so many health benefits, it seems silly not to get some into our diets. If you don’t like sushi, try a little in soup or salad. A little seems to go a long way nutritionally!

*as with all my articles, be sure to consult your physician before attempting to treat any illness or nutritional deficiency discussed here

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