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What Is Seaweed?

Some forms of seaweed look like long strands and branches.
Some types of seaweed, like kelp, look like sheets.
A nutrient-rich microorganism typically found in oceans and seas, seaweed has long served as a food for some populations.
Seaweed can be found in many beauty products.
Carrageenan powder, which is often made from seaweed.
Nigiri sushi assortment with one piece wrapped with seaweed.
Dried seaweed.
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  • Written By: Phil Shepley
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 11 November 2014
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Seaweed is a microorganism that grows in oceans, lakes, rivers and other bodies of water and is comprised of algae. Algae is a plantlike organism that doesn’t contain actual roots, flowers, leaves and stems, but does contain the green pigment known as chlorophyll. This allows the organisms to grow through the process of photosynthesis. Seaweed can include members of green, red or brown algae families, and there are around 10,000 species within many marine habitats around the world.

Some forms appear as long strands and branches, while others look like sheets. A root-like part called the holdfast is used to attach it to rocks and other marine objects, but does not act like a true root since it does not contribute to its growth. This organism can grow in massive quantities in various places from the poles to the equator. It is used by many other marine animals as a source of food as well as a location for mating.

Kelp is a large type of seaweed that has large leaf-like protrusions known as fronds and can grow as long as 200 feet (61 m). Gulfweeds, or sargassum, are a type of brown algae that grow in warmer water and can float in large masses, particularly in an area known as the Sargasso Sea. Varieties comprised of red algae are generally smaller and more delicate, and appear to have many branches.

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Seaweed has many uses for different types of products around the world. One of the major uses is for food, as it can be quite rich in nutrients, vitamins and minerals. People living on coasts use it to make noodles, bread, drinks and more. Another popular use is when dried sheets are used to wrap sushi.

Two things that can be extracted from algae are agar and carrageenan, which are used in food, drug, and other industries. Carrageenan is used to help make paper and toothpaste, among other things, while agar can be used as a thickening agent in foods. Agar is also used widely in laboratories to help grow bacterial cultures. Seaweed can also be used in beauty products, medicine, animal food, fertilizer, and more.

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orangey03
Post 8

I use liquid seaweed fertilizer in my yard. It's really powerful, so I only have to use a little. I dilute it with water, so the majority of what the plants are getting is water.

I've used it on my grass, my vegetable garden, and my flowers. It has worked really well. It contains all kinds of nutrients that plants need, and a bottle lasts a long time.

StarJo
Post 7

@pretzelfish – It can be a bit weird when you first try it, but Nori seaweed is so good for you. It has all kinds of vitamins and minerals, and I've read it can promote weight loss.

Also, I think that it is part of the reason I get satiated when I eat just one sushi roll. It never looks like it will be enough to fill me up, but I stay full for many hours after eating it.

My favorite kind of sushi roll is wrapped in seaweed and then covered in tempura batter and fried. This makes the seaweed easier to chew, and you barely notice the flavor.

wavy58
Post 6

There's nothing creepier than natural seaweed. I like to swim in the Gulf of Mexico, and some locations are slightly murky, so you can't tell what's down there.

On more than one occasion, I have gotten seaweed tangled around my arm or leg. Since I can't see it right away, I panic and run out of the water. I am always afraid that a jellyfish has gotten its tentacles wrapped around me or something!

In its natural environment, seaweed is pretty slimy at times. It's gross to get tangled up in it.

lighth0se33
Post 5

My friend works at a spa that offers seaweed body wraps. They are supposed to detoxify your body, and they also are promoted as a way to lose weight quickly.

The weight loss thing is kind of a disappointment, because what the wrap does is make you sweat, so you lose water weight only. However, seaweed is supposed to boost your metabolism, so you might get a little benefit from this.

The main thing that it's good for is cleansing your body. If you've been feeling achy and fatigued, you might want to give it a try.

Valencia
Post 4

I got a whole basket full of seaweed beauty products for my birthday last year. I was a bit wary of using them at first as it did seem like an odd choice of ingredient. Now I'm a dedicated fan and will be buying more when they run out.

yumdelish
Post 3

@Acracadabra - Seaweed is only slimy looking on the beach because of the water! When it is dried it's totally different, and I'm not sure that the type you eat is the same as that washed up on the shore anyhow.

If you want to try cooking with it there are loads of different types. The taste and texture is easier to disguise in recipes and would get you started. Personally I swear by wakame seaweed for it's supposed fat burning qualities.

I like nori too, though it can be a bit salty so watch for that.

Acracadabra
Post 2

@pretzelfish - I haven't been brave enough to try eating seaweed, although I like the idea of sushi. I really struggle to get past the smell! In my mind seaweed is strongly associated with walks on a beach, slime and as I said, that strong odor. None of these make me want to actually eat it!

pretzelfish
Post 1

The first time I made sushi was really strange, the seaweed has a really interesting texture that works really well with the dish. It's really interesting for me to consider that seaweed is sort of like the lettuce of the sea. It's used in such a variety of foods, and it's a green plant but people tend to be so hesitant to try it.

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