Kelp: A Seaweed Giant
If you have ever had the thrill of seeing, or swimming near kelp you will understand the beauty, strength and fear that this amazing plant encourages.
And like all forests, kelp plays home to hoards of marine life. The organisms in kelp require nutrient-rich water with temperatures between 6 and 14 °C (43 and 57 °F).
That would surely be a visible growth rate for anyone observing. Although it would be virtually impossible to actually detect, as kelp forests surge and undulate dramatically with the tide. It truly is a wonder to behold.
Through the 19th century, the word "kelp" was closely associated with seaweeds that could be burned to obtain soda ash (primarily sodium carbonate). The seaweeds used included species from both the orders Laminariales and Fucales.
The word "kelp" was also used directly to refer to these processed ashes.
Kelp Is An Iodine Rich Sea Vegetable
Kelp is most famous for its high levels of iodine, with a single tablespoon providing over 500% of the recommended daily intake.
Kelp releases iodides - ionic forms of iodine - as a defence mechanism against light and air exposure at low tide. These iodides coat the seaweed and protect it from chemical threats and free radical damage.
Iodine produces similar protective effects in the human body
While seaside communities have eaten and enjoyed the nutritional benefits of seaweed throughout history - most notably the Japanese - westerners have only recently embraced seaweed as a ‘superfood’.
The consumption of kelp and other marine foods is considered a possible factor in the low incidence of cancer in Japan, and similar seafood loving cultures.
Some people have also tried to mega dose or “max out” their iodine stores with kelp in order to protect themselves from absorbing radioactive iodine. Most recently, this technique was used in Japan after the Fukushima disaster.
However, kelp is no one-nutrient-wonder. It contains a spectrum of beneficial compounds, which it absorbs from the surrounding marine environment, plus a host of antioxidant alkaloids (different to those of land plants) and healing alginates.
Kelp has been included in Athletic Greens because it is an important source of both iodine and vanadium, two nutrients which are difficult to obtain through land foods. And most people in the western world do not consume sea vegetables regularly.
The Natural Goodness Of Kelp
Let’s break down this giant seaweed into bite size nutritional pieces so we can understand all of the health benefits of kelp.
→ Kelp provides 500% of the recommended daily intake of iodine per tablespoon-full.Iodine is necessary for healthy thyroid function, metabolism and fetal development.
→ Kelp contains high levels of magnesium, iron, iodine and calcium, plus trace minerals such as phosphorus, zinc, copper, manganese and selenium.
→ Kelp offers a source of the rare mineral vanadium.
Vanadium plays a role in carbohydrate metabolism and the regulation of blood sugar, and may potentially increase insulin sensitivity.
→ Kelp provides antioxidant alkaloids.
These are different from the usual antioxidants found in land plants such as flavonoids and carotenoids. Different to the extent that they may have as-yet-unknown additional benefits from their land-based relatives.
Kelp: I Need Somebody….Well, Some For My Body.
Such are the potential health benefits and applications of kelp that its addition to our diets may be useful for:
✔ Thyroid health
Kelp contains ample iodine to support the synthesis of active thyroid hormone.
✔ Cancer prevention
Preliminary studies suggest that kelp may slow the spread of cancer - specifically, hormonally dependent cancers such as breast and prostate. Kelp also contains a compound called fucoidan which may prevent the spread of lung and colon cancer.
✔ Fat blocking and weight loss
Isolates from seaweed have been shown to increase feelings of fullness and reduce blood sugar levels after meals.
✔ Diabetic support
Kelp may promote healthy blood sugar regulation, decreased blood lipids and increased antioxidant activity. In association with the Alpha Lipoic Acid and Chromium Picolinate in Athletic Greens, it is ideal for regulating blood sugar levels.
✔ Healthy fetal development
Adequate iodine in the female body is crucial for optimal development of the baby’s brain cells. Together with the folate (5MTHF) contained in Athletic Greens, you have the essential building blocks for fetal development.
✔ Reduced inflammation
Fucoidan, a sulfated polysaccharide, has been shown to inhibit the excessive production of inflammatory compounds and when paired with the ginger, hawthorn and rose hip extract content of Athletic Greens, all act as natural anti-inflammatories.
Kelp Dosages For Those With Thyroid Issues
The recommended dosage of kelp is different for people with marked iodine deficiency and thyroid problems to that of a generally healthy population.
Current recommendations for iodine supplementation are 150 micrograms per day for maintenance and wellbeing - with more or less indicated based on individual needs.
It’s best to seek professional advice before taking kelp as a standalone supplement in high doses, especially if you have an existing thyroid complaint or are managing high blood pressure via a sodium-restricted diet.
Recent studies show that someone suffering from hypothyroidism could notice benefits reasonably fast with kelp supplementation. The most notable benefits being improved energy levels and a faster metabolism, which may manifest in the form of increased hunger and an increase in the desire to be active.
In the longer term it can help people maintain healthy thyroid levels and can also be used as a natural step back for people who want to get off their thyroxin medication once their levels have become more stable.
Kelp: Finding A Place On Land
Kelp really is an exciting addition to the human diet.
We need to tip our caps to the Japanese for bringing kelp to our tables, not only for its high levels of bioavailable iodine, but also for its unique spectrum of nutrients - some of which we have discovered aren’t even found in land-based plants and ‘superfoods’!
Kelp works well with the other mineral-dense ingredients in Athletic Greens such as chlorella, spirulina, barley grass and wheatgrass. So whether you are getting yours from Athletic Greens, in a capsule or straight from a plate in Japan, you can now reap the benefits of eating prehistoric seaweed.