Maine Coast Sea Vegetables

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Nutritional Information

Note: Also see MEDICINAL BOTANICAL. You can also find more in-depth nutritional and medicinal/botanical information in Sea Vegetable Celebration, our cookbook and sea veggie information resource.

DISCLAIMER: The information and products provided throughout this site have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. They are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please consult a health professional before undertaking any new health regime.

For an overview of nutritional information on most of our products go to Nutritional Charts.

Minerals and Trace Elements

Sea vegetables provide all 56 minerals and trace elements required for your body's physiological functions in quantities greatly exceeding those of land plants. Examples:

  • About 1/3 cup (1/4 oz.) serving of Dulse or Kelp gives up to 30% of the RDA, 4 times the iron in spinach, and more than kidney beans, apricots, and peas
  • The same size serving of Alaria contains more calcium than cup boiled kale or bok-choy
  • Magnesium is twice as abundant in Kelp and Alaria than in collard greens, and exceeds walnuts, bananas, potatoes, oatmeal, and even sockeye salmon.

Sea vegetables present these essential nutrients to your body in a chelated, colloidal optimally balanced form so they are bio-available; that is, your body "understands" how to absorb and utilize them. Major minerals examples are:

  • Calcium (for skeletal health, healthy heartbeat, nervous system function)
  • Magnesium (activates enzymatic activity, essential for healthy heartbeat)
  • Potassium (naturally prevents high blood pressure, provides cellular energy)
  • Sodium (essential for the correct balance of body fluids our internal "ocean")
  • Iron (as hemoglobin, transports and distributes oxygen to all your cells)

Trace elements are especially essential to the countless enzymatic functions constantly occurring in your body. Examples are:

  • Chromium (works with insulin to regulate blood sugar)
  • Iodine (thyroid health)
  • Copper (protects nerve sheaths, builds supple arteries, required for iron absorption)

Finally, consider this somewhat poetic image: we evolved from simple unicellular creatures in the briny, mineral laden Mother Ocean. Now, billions of years later, our "inner ocean" the saline fluids around and in our cells and organs recreates the primal birthing environment, with a similar range and balance of minerals. Sea vegetables concentrate this mineral matrix. When you eat sea veggies, your cells recognize this natural, harmonious, health giving balance.

What about Sodium?

Sodium is a major mineral that is essential to human health and life. Along with potassium it provides the electrolytic "battery" that pumps nutrients in and out of cells. It also works with potassium to maintain the proper balance of fluids inside and outside each cell. The evolutionary assumption is that dietary sodium is not easily found in the environment; therefore our bodies are set up to retain scarce and valuable sodium. Sodium's partner, potassium, was plentiful in the evolutionary diet (found in vegetables, nuts, seeds, and fruits) and so we do not retain potassium.

Modern humans run into trouble when our modern "civilized" diet reverses the natural availability of sodium and potassium potassium is leached out of processed foods, and sodium is used extravagantly as a flavor enhancer and preservative. Topsy-turvy! Because this imbalance and the lack of magnesium and calcium is implicated in high blood pressure disease, and because unnatural, manufactured table salt is exclusively sodium chloride, sodium has gotten a bad rap!

Sea vegetables provide bio-available, essential sodium balanced with potassium (as well as with calcium and magnesium) at relatively low levels per serving. For instance, Dulse contains less sodium per serving than one slice of most commercial breads and one half to one third the sodium in one cup of cooked beet greens. Kelp has 1/3 as much sodium, Alaria , Dulse 1/8 and Laver 1/9 as 1/2 tsp. table salt!

Susan Asanovic, M.S., R.D., states unequivocally, "Almost everyone, except renal, severely hypertensive and CHF (congestive heart failure) patients, can enjoy organic Maine Coast Sea Vegetables in varying amounts. Even patients on modified clinical diets can healthfully incorporate moderate to liberal amounts of sea vegetables into their diets; just remind them to limit shoyu, tamari, miso and processed foods. For patients on a no-added-salt diet (about 2500 mg), sea vegetables can give just the right saltiness, and are far better in nutrition and taste than commercial 'lite' salts. Used in moderation, they can be enjoyed in a typical serving of 5 to 10 grams (about 1/4 oz.)."

If you have questions about your sodium intake, please consult your health care provider and or dietary counselor. In any case, a light rinse of whole sea vegetables before use lessens sea vegetables' sodium and potassium content without effecting calcium or iron, etc. If you're specifically interested in sea veggies as salt substitute, check out our Sea Seasonings, milled sea vegetables in convenient shakers.

What about Iodine?

Dr. Ryan Drum, noted herbalist and sea vegetable gatherer, states in Therapeutic Use of Seaweeds (Proceedings of the 2001 Pacific Northwest Herbal Symposium) "Seaweeds, eaten regularly, are the best natural food sources of biomolecular dietary iodine... no land plants are reliable sources of dietary iodine." For comparison, you would have to eat about 40 lb. of fresh vegetables and/or fruits to get as much iodine as you would from 1 gram of our whole leaf kelp.

Iodine is the main component of the hormone produced by the thyroid gland, which regulates our metabolism thyroid hormone accelerates cellular reactions, increases oxygen consumption and basal metabolism, and influences growth and development, energy metabolism, differentiation and protein synthesis.

Dr. Linda Rector Page, author and herbalist, writes in Healthy Healing, p.205: "Iodine is essential to life... it is an important element of alertness, and rapid brain activity, and a prime deterrent to arterial plaque. Iodine is also a key factor in the control and prevention of many endocrine deficiency conditions prevalent today, such as breast and uterine fibroids, tumors, prostate inflammation, adrenal exhaustion, and toxic liver and kidney states."

Unfortunately, not all iodine is good for us and the human thyroid cannot distinguish between life sustaining iodine-127 and radioactive iodine-131. On this subject Ryan Drum further warns, "The real reason for making sure that iodine consumption is at the high end is to insure a full body complement of iodine at all times as preventative medicine against the next nuclear disasters [whether from intentional radioactive pollution as the result of armed conflict or terrorism, nuclear power plant failures, or industrial contamination]. A full body load of iodine 127 from seaweeds (or any source) will tend to allow the body to reject topical and air and food-source iodine 131, particularly from fresh milk."

In general, brown sea vegetables (kelp) offer more bio-available organic iodine than red sea vegetables (dulse, laver, and nori). Whole leaf kelp (Laminaria longicruris) has approximately 450 mcg (micrograms or parts per million) iodine per gram. Our milled rockweed (Ascophyllum nodosum) has higher amounts. In comparison, dulse contains about 150 mcg per gram. These amounts are approximations as there is variation depending on season of harvest and the age of plant.

Finally, a cautionary note about getting too much of a good thing. Between 150 and 1,100 micrograms in our daily diets is the reputed range to keep our thyroids healthy and prevent uptake of radioactive Iodine. Healthy thyroids will "spill" unneeded iodine. But some people with sensitive thyroids, particularly nursing mothers, postmenopausal women, or anyone with an unusual thyroid dysfunction may have adverse reactions to excess dietary iodine (most often if you decrease the intake of dietary iodine the condition goes away). Please consult with your health care practitioner if you have any questions about your consumption of iodine.>

Sea Vegetables and Vitamins

Sea vegetables contain significant amounts of vitamins especially the B vitamins. A serving of Dulse (about 7g, 1/3 cup) provides about 10% RDA Vit B-2 (Riboflavin) and about 42% RDA Vit B-6. Laver is rich in these B-vitamins and also contains 7% to 10% RDA Vitamin A. Alaria offers even more Vit A, up to 20% RDA, along with the B vitamins.

Please click on Nutritional Charts for a detailed analysis of our sea vegetables.

What about Vitamin B-12

Vitamin B-12 shows up in many seaweeds, using several different methods of analysis. But is it really Vitamin B-12, or an "analogue," a molecule that looks like Vitamin B-12, but it not able to be utilized by the body? Dietitians and nutritionists disagree on this hot topic, but a definitive clinical study has yet to be done, something MCSV has tried to organize but has not found the funding to accomplish.

However, an investigation by two researchers in Great Britain in the 1950's yielded an important clue as to how sea veggies could be a rare vegetable source of Vitamin B-12 - which is produced by bacteria and usually found only in animals. They confirmed the presence of cyanocobalamin (Vit B-12) in dulse, but could not find the mechanism by which the plant might be metabolizing the Vit B-12. The two scientists speculated that it was made "perhaps by bacteria living in the surrounding seawater or on the surface of the plant." (It is well known that various species of bacteria, or epiphytes, use the plants' surface as their substrate).

So, while we feel it is likely that low temperature dried, minimally processed sea vegetables may be a source of Vitamin B-12, you, of course, must decide for yourself. Please consult with your health care practitioner if you have any questions about your consumption of B-12.

Sea Vegetables and Protein

The protein content of our sea vegetables ranges from to 16% to 28%. The red sea vegetables, Dulse and Laver, are higher than the browns, Kelp and Alaria. The amino acid composition of these sea veggie proteins is generally well balanced and contains all or most of the essential amino acids (the ones your body can't produce by itself). Thus the sea veggies provide higher quality protein than certain grains and beans that are lacking one or two essential amino acids, although the sea vegetables provide less quantity per serving. (Example: A serving of Dulse would yield about 1-1/2 g of high quality protein).

One of the more important amino acids found especially in kelp is glutamic acid, the basis for synthetic MSG. This amino acid naturally enhances flavors and tenderizes high protein foods like beans while aiding in their digestion. Glutamic acid also improves mental and nervous system activity; provides energy, and is thought to help control alcoholism, schizophrenia and the craving for sugar.

Please click on Nutritional Charts for a detailed analysis of our sea vegetables.

Sea Vegetables and Fats

Sea vegetables are good for people who are managing their weight. Not only are they very low in mostly unsaturated fat (1% to 2%) their iodine can stimulate the thyroid to increase metabolism and burn calories. Further, their fiber aids digestion.

We've had our brown sea vegetables tested for Omega-6 and Omega-3 essential fatty acids, and while they are present in only small amounts, they occur in a favorable ratio of between 1.5 and 2 to 1 (the NIH suggests an optimal ratio of between 2 and 3 to 1). As importantly, sea veggies contribute all those minerals, vitamins, and trace elements needed for the optimum utilization of the omega 3's and 6's.

Sea Vegetables and Fiber

Fiber is any substance that remains essentially undigested by the time it reaches the large intestine. A high fiber diet is thought to help prevent certain types of cancer. It also helps glucose metabolism, a factor especially important for diabetics. The fiber in land plants (oats, apples, and veggies) is made up of cellulose, lignans, and pectin. Sea vegetables have their own unique fiber with interesting medicinal properties you can read about in the MEDICINAL BOTANICAL section. For instance, alginic acid in kelp has been shown to be an important detoxifier for radioactive isotopes and heavy metals.

Our four sea vegetables Dulse, Kelp, Alaria, Laver tested about 30% total fiber, about one half of which is soluble fiber and one half insoluble. For comparison, Dulse has about 33% total fiber, as much as oat bran. Of course, because you usually eat a larger serving size of oat bran than of sea vegetables, you'll get more fiber per serving from the oat bran. But every time you eat sea vegetables, you're getting high quality and very special fiber.

DISCLAIMER: The information and products provided throughout this site have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. They are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please consult a health professional before undertaking any new health regime.

Maine Coast Sea Vegetables Hancock, Maine
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