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Seaweeds are up and coming. In addition to seaweed in the local Asian supermarket, nowadays you can buy seaweed salads, seaweed chips and even seaweed burgers.

What is so special about seaweed, and is it really that healthy? For example, it is a coincidence that the Japanese, where most of the seaweed is eaten, live longer lives? And without seaweed, would we ever have developed the same brain capacity? Maybe the seaweed ‘s evolutionary back story will get you as excited about them as I am .

From fish to humans

Anyone who knows anything about evolution, knows that life originated in the sea. First there were bacteria, later came fish, fish crawled onto land. Then were the monkeys, and finally we come to homo sapiens. It is clear from the outside that we are no fish anymore. But in many ways, it remains visible that we did swim the seas at some point: the composition of our body fluids (blood and tears) resembles seawater. And if a fetus grows in the womb, its embryotic beginnings resemble those of fish; it even "swims" in water for the first nine months. The figure below illustrates this nicely.

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Seaweed as food

Deep down we still resemble sea fish. And what do fish eat? Seaweed. There are also sea predators, but these eat fish that eat seaweed. In this way all fish get their nutrients from, ultimately, seaweed. Millions of years ago, when fish came ashore and gradually became monkeys, they still ate seaweed. And even when apes became people, the latter ate seaweed. Some scientists even believe that our human brain had never become so intelligent, had it not been for fish, shellfish and seaweed present for the eating. Food from the sea is the most rich in brain-specific nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, iodine and iron.

Lost

In the past 100,000 years - a relatively short period in evolutionary terms - a lot has happened: coast-dwelling people were drawn inland and began eating other foods. Grains, for example, and berries, as well as other animals. On these new diets we can live just fine. There was - and is - not an absolute necessity to eat seafood, or more specifically seaweed, but not doing so is in our opinion far from ideal. Especially in today’s world. We are increasingly turning our backs to the sea and this piece of nature is a hole in our ancient diet.

Seaweed and health

It seems very logical: if we eat seaweed, that's good for us. Indeed, seaweed contains more vitamins and minerals than any land vegetable whatsoever. In addition, there are all sorts of other ingredients that are good for us. Of direct scientific evidence there is unfortunately very little: remarkably, there are hardly any scientific studies done on the health effects of seaweed on humans. Therefore, we cannot say it's good for you. In animals, the evidence is luckily more advanced. We know that many animals thrive very well on seaweed. Pigs, horses and even salmon are fed with these very first of plants to appear on earth.

So should I eat seaweed?

You may be able to answer this question for yourself. Of course, you could just try it. In quality organic stores you will find a variety of species. If you don’t feel like cooking with seaweed, then Seagreens seaweed capsules (European origin) provide a very good choice. Seagreens is an award-winning seaweed supplement specially produced for human consumption.

zeewier-bannerAuthor: Toine Wilke, Dutch nutritionist, biochemist and seaweed expert.