Kelp can help.

seaweedSea vegetables are an integral part of a healthy diet. When I encourage my patients to eat seaweed, they look at me like I have two heads and say “that slimy weird stuff?”

Yes, that slimy weird stuff!

Trust me – sea vegetables are so packed with trace minerals and vitamins, they are nature’s multivitamin in food form.

Above and beyond any other food known to man, sea vegetables supply a whopping dose of iodine, a trace mineral essential for healthy thyroid function. People eating the standard North American diet are usually iodine deficient, especially if they restrict salt, which is iodized to prevent deficiency. You just don’t find iodine in many common foods.

Iodine deficiency is linked to fibrocystic breast disease, certain forms of cancer, and most notably thyroid disease.

Hypothyroidism, a condition in which your thyroid becomes under-active, is common in the Great Lakes region due to the lack of iodine in our soil and the lack of sea vegetables in our diet. While iodine deficiency is not the only cause of thyroid disease, it is the easiest factor to correct. When caught early, hypothyroidism due to an iodine deficiency can often be reversed.

Your thyroid is the master controller of your metabolic rate. If it’s underactive, you’ll suffer from fatigue, weight gain, constipation, muscle aches, hair loss and brittle nails. You may also feel chilly all the time, depressed, and “foggy”. Testing for thyroid function is simple and everyone should have it done as part of regular wellness screening.

Now back to seaweed. There are many edible varieties. Kelp, or Kombu, is perhaps the most well known sea vegetable. It also contains the most iodine. Dulse, wakame, nori and arame are other varieties to try. You can purchase them dried, giving them a long shelf life.

Eating seaweed is easy. Simply add a few pieces of dried seaweed to soups and sauces. Rehydrate pieces of dried seaweed, then slice and add to salads. Or add it to a stir-fry. If you want to hide it in your food, add a little kelp powder to smoothies for a daily dose of iodine. Make sushi.. or dine at a Japanese restaurant where you’ll find seaweed in salads, soups and those nifty rolls. Yum.

It’s best to buy seaweed that is certified organic since this tells you it was grown in a relatively clean part of the ocean. Seaweed concentrates minerals from sea water, including heavy metals, so buying it from a reputable source is important.

Don’t over do it! Just because iodine deficiency is bad, doesn’t mean that iodine is safe. Too much iodine can also harm the thyroid gland. Consume seaweed in sensible, culinary amounts and avoid high dose supplements which can lead to toxicity.