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Seaweed Added To Processed Foods Could Improve Cardiovascular Health

Nov 23, 2015 04:47 PM EST
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Adding seaweed to everyday meals could improve cardiovascular health, say researchers from the University of Southern Denmark, who suggest their findings could even aid in preventing premature death. That's because seaweed is loaded with antioxidants, minerals, dietary fibers and beneficial proteins. These could be used in many forms to make processed foods such as frozen pizza and hot dogs healthier, according to the university's press release. Additionally, seaweed's potassium salt content does not lead to high blood pressure, unlike common sodium, which is used in processed foods.

"It is difficult to determine how much seaweed a person should consume to benefit from its good qualities. Five to ten grams of dried seaweed per day is my estimate," said Professor Ole G. Mouritsen, a co-author of the recent study and an author of several books on seaweed as food.   

Seaweed refers to several, diverse species of marine plants and algae that can be found growing along the seabed in oceans as well as in rivers and lakes. Some species are microscopic and act as the base of most marine food chains; others grow very large and abundant.

For their study, researchers explored 35 different seaweed species within the context of how they might add health benefits to processed food. An important component of seaweed is what's known as "umami," the fifth basic taste that humans can perceive – after sweet, bitter, sour, salty – that enhances flavor and is known to reduce cravings for less healthful salt, sugar and fat. Dried or granulated seaweed, for instance, could become a routine substitute when making pasta, bread, pizza or snack bars, researchers explained.

"We know that many people have difficulty distinguishing between healthy and unhealthy food. By adding seaweed to processed foods we can make food healthier. In many cases we also get tastier food, and it may also help reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases," the authors wrote.

The study's findings were recently published in the journal Phycologia.

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