Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Edible Algae (seaweed)

Simple plants found in fresh water and oceans throughout the world. Algae are largely undifferentiated and, unlike terrestrial plants, algal leaves and stems are composed of the same tissue. Edible species are either grown or collected along coastal intertidal zones. In Japan, six types are consumed, and together they account for an estimated 10 percent of the country’s total food production.
Edible brown algae, which represent most of the edible seaweed harvested worldwide, include arame, hiziki, kelp, and kombu. Edible red algae include CARRAGEENAN (Irish moss), dulse, and nori.
These “sea vegetables” are rich sources of MAGNESIUM, IRON, IODINE, and CALCIUM, and some are as rich in vitamins such as VITAMIN C, BETA-CAROTENE, VITAMIN E, and the B COMPLEX as the best cultivated sources. In addition, various algae are used commercially as sources of gums (AGAR, carrageenan, and ALGINATE). Carrageenan has the ability to form salt gels in milk products and is used to keep fats from separating, and to thicken ICE CREAM. Alginic acid (alginate) in brown seaweed can bind toxic metals in the body and speed their removal. These algae can be added to SOUPS, VEGETABLES, SALADS, BEAN dishes, and GRAINS to add zest and boost nutritional value. Their flavor is neither fishy nor salty. There is little information on toxic metal contamination of any domestic or imported seaweed. One study found very low amounts of arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury in common imported varieties; the levels were well below limits set by the Food Chemicals Codex of the Food and Nutrition Board. Mercury levels were far below the limits set for fish.

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