The Seaweed Diet: How Kelp Can Help with Weight Loss

You may think of it as an unhealthy side dish when you order a Chinese, but not only is sea weed a nutrition-packed way to enhance your wellbeing, it may also promote weight loss. Wellness writer Tamra Mercieca, founder of Naked Therapy, explains, ‘Seaweed has been used in Asian dishes for centuries but is now fast gaining recognition for weight-loss benefits. High in vitamins A and C, seaweed contains plenty of protein and is one of the few non-animal sources of B12, making it an excellent food for vegetarians. Wakame is a type of brown seaweed often used to flavour traditional dishes such as soups and salads.’


In fact, in 2006, Japanese researchers found that it is the brownish pigment in wakame, fucoxanthin, that helps to promote weight loss. Researchers at the Hokkaido University in Japan gave fucoxanthin to obese rats on top of their regular diet, and found that these creatures lost five to 10% of their body weight. According to Mercieca, ‘Fucoxanthin works by stimulating the production of a protein that increases the burning of fat. It was also found to reduce LDL cholesterol (or bad cholesterol) and improve triglyceride levels (which affect metabolism).’ Study professor, Dr Kazuo Miyashita, noted that if it is effective in humans, fucoxanthin could potentially be developed into new types of medication to combat obesity.


However, despite a lack of research in how effective seaweed can be as a slimming aid in humans, this hasn’t stopped celebrities from trying out seaweed right now. In an effort to keep her weight down, even Victoria Beckham has tried a posh mix of seaweed and algae, and Foods For Life nutrition consultant Yvonne Bishop-Weston argues that this eating regime isn’t as crazy as it sounds. Bishop-Weston comments, ‘Algae and seaweed are superfoods, with many of the vital nutrients our bodies need. Algae such as chlorella aid detoxification, help reduce water retention and break down fat deposits.’ However, she adds, ‘Victoria used algae and seaweed shakes as part of a personalised nutrition strategy. We are all different and there is no perfect one-size-fits-all weight-loss program.’


It’s not just weight loss that eating seaweed provides; seaweed is also an excellent skin treatment, showing promise in the treatment of conditions such as acne. Mercieca notes, ‘Demographic studies haveshown that people who regularly eat seaweed have fewer problems associated with mineral depletion, and generally live longer. Seaweed has been found to help prevent cancer and heart disease, lower blood pressure and even prevent ulcers and kill bacteria. It has been shown to cleanse the body of pollutants and improve hair condition. It has been said that the thick, black, lustrous hair of the Japanese is partly due to their regular diet of brown sea vegetables. The Japanese certainly take seaweed eating seriously, downing as much as four kilograms of the plant per person per year. Japanese women who eat a diet high in kelp have reported lower rates of breast cancers.’


So then, how do you work seaweed into your diet? For sports dietician Emilie Isles, sushi is the answer. ‘When eaten in appropriate portions, sushi can provide an excellent source of carbohydrate and protein, and often includes some vegetables, making it low in fat,’ Isles points out. ‘In the right amounts, sushi is an appropriate everyday option, although you need to watch out for varieties that contain fried meats and creamy mayonnaise because of their saturated fat content. The other thing to be mindful of is portion size, as sushi can be very easy to over-consume. Seaweed is most likely to promote weight loss when incorporated as part of a balanced diet, which includes adequate fresh fruit and veggies, as well as regular activity.’

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