Wakame is a type of edible seaweed that has been cultivated in Japan and Korea for centuries.
In addition to bringing a unique taste and texture to soups and salads, wakame is low in calories but high in several nutrients essential to health.
It offers many potential benefits, including improved heart health and enhanced weight loss.
Here are 8 surprising health benefits of wakame seaweed.
1. Wakame is low in calories and rich in nutrients
Wakame is low in calories but supplies a good amount of important nutrients.
Even in small amounts, it can help boost your intake of minerals like iodine, manganese, folate, magnesium, and calcium to help you meet your nutrient needs.
Just two tablespoons (10 grams) of raw wakame seaweed offers:
- Calories: 5
- Protein: 0.5 grams
- Carbs: 1 gram
- Iodine: 280% of your daily need
- Manganese: 7% of your daily need
- Folate: 5% of your daily need
- Sodium: 4% of your daily need
- Magnesium: 3% of your daily need
- Calcium: 2% of your daily need
Each serving of wakame also contains vitamins A, C, E, and K, as well as iron, copper, and phosphorus.
Summary: Wakame is very low in calories but contains a good amount of iodine, manganese, folate, magnesium, and calcium.
2. Wakame may support proper thyroid function
Rounding out its stellar nutrient profile, wakame is a good source of iodine.
Wakame contains approximately 42 mcg of iodine per gram, about 28% of the recommended daily intake.
Iodine is an essential mineral that your body uses to produce thyroid hormones, which help support growth, metabolism, protein synthesis, and cell repair.
Still, iodine deficiency is incredibly common, with some reports estimating that about two billion people worldwide are affected.
A deficiency in this key micronutrient can contribute to hypothyroidism, a condition in which your thyroid cannot make enough thyroid hormone to support normal function.
Symptoms of iodine deficiency can include weight gain, fatigue, hair loss, and dry, flaky skin.
Summary: Wakame is a good source of iodine, essential to thyroid function and the production of thyroid hormones.
3. Wakame may reduce blood pressure and heart disease risk
High blood pressure is a condition that places extra strain on your heart and blood vessels, weakening your heart muscle and increasing your risk of heart disease.
Some research suggests that adding wakame to your diet can help keep blood pressure under control and optimize heart health.
For instance, one ten-week study showed that administering substances extracted from wakame to rats significantly decreased systolic blood pressure (the top number of blood pressure readings).
Another study in 417 children showed that a higher seaweed intake lowered blood pressure.
However, more human studies are needed to evaluate how wakame may affect blood pressure among the general population.
Summary: Animal and human studies show that wakame may help reduce blood pressure levels, but more research is needed to understand cause and effect better.
4. Wakame may benefit heart health by lowering cholesterol levels
Cholesterol plays a role in many aspects of health, ranging from hormone production to fat digestion.
However, excess blood cholesterol can build up in your arteries and block blood flow, increasing your risk of heart attack and stroke.
While current research is limited to animal studies, some studies have found that wakame may lower cholesterol levels and help improve heart health.
One study found that supplementing with wakame seaweed effectively lowered levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol in rats.
Similarly, another animal study showed that dried wakame powder altered the expression of specific genes to help significantly decrease cholesterol levels after just 28 days.
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Despite these promising results, understanding how wakame may affect human cholesterol levels requires further research.
Summary: Animal studies have found that wakame may lower cholesterol levels to help promote heart health. However, human research is lacking.
6. Wakame may decrease blood sugar and improve insulin resistance
Some studies have found that wakame can help reduce blood sugar levels and improve insulin resistance to enhance overall health.
One four-week study showed that supplementing with 48 grams of seaweed daily significantly decreased blood sugar levels in 20 people with diabetes.
Another animal study showed that wakame prevented insulin resistance — a condition that impairs your body’s ability to use insulin efficiently for transporting sugar to your cells, causing high blood sugar.
Still, current research on the effects of wakame on blood sugar is limited. Additional studies are needed to discover how wakame may impact human blood sugar levels.
Summary: Animal studies show that wakame can reduce glucose production in the body and prevent insulin resistance to keep blood sugar under control. Yet, human research is lacking.
7. Wakame may aid in weight loss
If you’re looking to drop a few extra pounds, you may want to consider incorporating wakame into your diet.
It is high in several key nutrients and has also been shown to promote weight control in animal studies.
One study found that supplementing with wakame seaweed extract suppressed weight gain in mice on a high-fat diet.
What’s more, another study found that wakame exhibited anti-obesity effects in rats and was able to reduce fat tissue.
Some studies have also noticed that diet plans that regularly include seaweed may reduce body weight and waist circumference.
Because most research has been conducted on animals, additional high-quality studies are needed to examine how wakame may affect human weight.
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Summary: Several animal studies have found that wakame can prevent weight gain and reduce the amount of fat tissue in the body.
8. Wakame is versatile, delicious, and easy to add to your diet
Wakame is enjoyed around the world for its soft texture and mild flavor.
It’s also highly versatile and can serve as an ingredient in various dishes and recipes.
Frequently found in dried form, wakame is soaked in water for about ten minutes before consumption to help soften and remove excess salt.
After soaking, wakame can easily replace leafy greens like lettuce, spinach, or arugula in your favorite salads.
You can also add the strips into soups for flavor and nutrients.
Alternatively, serve wakame as a side dish topped with soy sauce or vinegar to complete your meal.
Summary: Wakame can be soaked and added to soups, salads, and side dishes to enhance the nutrient profile of your favorite foods.
Possible side effects of wakame
Though wakame is generally healthy, consuming excess amounts may cause adverse side effects in some people.
Certain brands may contain high amounts of sodium, which can increase blood pressure in those sensitive to its effects.
It’s also high in iodine, packing in roughly 28% of the recommended daily intake per gram.
Although iodine is necessary for the production of thyroid hormones, consuming excess amounts can harm the health of your thyroid and cause symptoms like fever, stomach pain, nausea, and diarrhea.
Seaweed may also contain some heavy metals and contaminants, yet multiple studies have found that the amounts are too low to be of concern.
Summary: Wakame is high in iodine, and certain brands may also be high in sodium. Both can cause negative side effects if consumed in excess. Seaweed may also contain small amounts of certain heavy metals.
Wakame is a highly nutritious, edible seaweed that can add a range of vitamins and minerals to your diet for a few calories.
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It’s also been associated with various health benefits, including lower cholesterol levels, decreased blood pressure, enhanced weight loss, and reduced blood sugar.
Best of all, there are many different ways to enjoy this tasty seaweed as part of a balanced diet, making it easy to take advantage of its unique health-promoting properties.