Seaweed Salad: Nutrients, Benefits, Downsides, Recipe

Seaweed salad is a popular dish in many Japanese and Korean restaurants. You’ve probably come across it at a sushi restaurant, where its bright neon-green color is hard to miss.

Though there are many versions of seaweed salad, the most popular type is made from wakame, which is a highly nutritious and versatile seaweed.

However, many people argue that the seaweed salad found in most restaurants is not the same as the homemade types. In fact, wakame seaweed isn’t supposed to be bright green at all.

This article tells you all you need to know about seaweed salad, including its nutritional profile, potential benefits and downsides, and how to make it at home.

The seaweed salads you may find in most restaurants — the bright, neon-green side dishes — are often premade by another food manufacturer and may contain a long list of food additives, colorings, and flavorings.

A 100-gram serving of seaweed salad provides (1):

  • Calories: 70
  • Protein: 1 gram
  • Carbohydrates: 11 grams
  • Fiber: 5 grams
  • Sugar: 6 grams
  • Fat: 2.5 grams
  • Sodium: 36% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)

Many premade seaweed salads also contain added sugar, salt, high fructose corn syrup, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, and food colorings such as yellow #5 and blue #1.

While there’s little data to suggest that these ingredients are inherently harmful, they provide little to no nutritional value.

The dish’s high fiber content actually comes from agar agar, another type of seaweed that is sometimes added to seaweed salad. Thus, there is some benefit to consuming a mixed seaweed salad.

Still, wakame seaweed on its own is a much better source of nutrition. A 2-tablespoon (10-gram) serving of raw wakame seaweed — the amount often used in homemade versions — contains (2, 3):

  • Calories: 4.5
  • Protein: 0.3 grams
  • Carbs: 1 gram
  • Fiber: less than 1 gram
  • Sugar: less than 1 gram
  • Fat: less than 1 gram
  • Iodine: 280% of the RDI
  • Manganese: 6% of the RDI
  • Folate: 5% of the RDI
  • Sodium: 4% of the RDI
  • Magnesium: 3% of the RDI
  • Calcium: 1% of the RDI

Wakame seaweed on its own is quite low in calories, high in iodine, and a decent source of manganese and folate.

In contrast, the additional ingredients found in premade seaweed salad — such as added salt, sugar, and oils — contribute greatly to its calorie content. Plus, portions are usually larger when seaweed salad is premade than when it is homemade.

Therefore, if you’re watching your calories, it may be best to make homemade seaweed salad, since you can decide which ingredients it contains.

Summary

Seaweed salad usually contains wakame, a highly nutritious seaweed that’s low in calories and high in various nutrients. That said, most premade versions contain high amounts of salt, sugar, food colorings, and flavorings, and are therefore less nutritious.

If you make your seaweed salad at home, you can significantly improve its nutritional profile and increase its benefits.

Low in calories

Generally speaking, seaweed salad is low in calories, providing fewer than 100 calories per serving — regardless of whether it’s premade or homemade (1, 2).

Most of the ingredients in seaweed salad — such as wakame, agar agar, various vegetables, and small amounts of sesame oil — are low in calories but high in nutrients.

Some premade seaweed salads may contain higher amounts of oils that can add up in calories, but if you make seaweed salad at home, it’s up to you how much oil it contains.

High in iodine

Wakame is an excellent source of iodine, an essential mineral that helps regulate your thyroid and produce thyroid hormones responsible for metabolism, growth, and cellular repair (4).

Though it’s rare in the Western world, iodine deficiency affects 2 billion people worldwide and can lead to health conditions such as goiter and hypothyroidism (5).

Fortunately, wakame and other seaweeds are some of the top sources of iodine, behind iodized salt. In 2 tablespoons (10 grams) of wakame, you’ll get 280% of the RDI, which is more than enough (3).

Can be nutritious

Seaweed salad can be an excellent source of nutrition, especially when it’s homemade.

While wakame is its main ingredient, seaweed salad can also contain other nutrient-dense ingredients, such as sesame seeds, other types of seaweed, leafy greens, ginger, edamame, daikon radish, shredded carrots, and corn.

However, premade seaweed salad usually provides fewer nutrients since it’s often made with just wakame seaweed and various flavor enhancers.

Summary

Seaweed salad is low in calories and rich in important nutrients such as iodine. You can make it even more nutritious if you make it at home instead of ordering it in a restaurant.

There are some potential downsides to seaweed salad, especially the premade versions found in many restaurants.

High in salt

A 100-gram serving of premade seaweed salad has 820 mg of sodium, which is equivalent to 36% of your daily needs. This comes mostly from added salts rather than the salt in the seaweed itself (1).

While sodium is important for your health, consuming too much of it can lead to high blood pressure in people who are sensitive to its effects (6).

Considering that most Americans get too much sodium in their diets, it may be best to limit your intake of premade seaweed salad to special occasions. Opting for a homemade version instead can significantly reduce your sodium intake.

Contains many added ingredients

Because most restaurants use premade seaweed salad, they do not get to decide which ingredients go into it.

These salads often contain many added ingredients, such as food coloring, high fructose corn syrup, added sugar, excess salt, and various flavor enhancers.

Further, they often contain a flavor enhancer known as hydrolyzed vegetable protein. While not harmful to most people, it does contain wheat. If you need to avoid gluten, this is something to keep in mind.

If you’re looking to limit or avoid such ingredients, then it may be better to pass on premade versions.

Summary

Premade seaweed salad is usually high in salt and often contains many added ingredients, such as sugar, salt, syrups, flavors, and food coloring.

If you want to make your own seaweed salad, there are many great recipes available online. You can also make your own version by getting creative in the kitchen.

To make seaweed salad, you’ll first want to buy dried wakame, which is available in many Asian grocery stores or online.

To begin, rehydrate the wakame by adding it to a pot of boiled water (removed from heat) and leaving it for a few minutes. Then, strain it in a colander and run cold water over it. Be sure to squeeze out any excess liquid.

After this, you can add a variety of nutritious ingredients, such as shredded carrots, ginger, sesame seeds, daikon radish, and edamame. It’s OK to get creative and experiment with different vegetables, herbs, and spices.

Finally, choose a type of seasoning for the salad. Usually, sesame seed oil, soy sauce, and vinegar are used as a base for the dressing. You can also add chili flakes, a little sugar, and salt to taste.

One recipe by Yeung Man Cooking offers a nutrient-dense sesame salad that is easy to make and equally delicious. Check out his video here.

Another quick and simple recipe comes from Caroline Caron-Phelps, a Japanese-French Canadian recipe creator who offers many delicious Japanese-inspired recipes on her website, Pickled Plum.

Summary

You can easily make seaweed salad at home by following popular recipes online or getting creative in the kitchen. You can purchase dried wakame by visiting an Asian supermarket or ordering from an online retailer.

Seaweed salad is a popular dish found in many Japanese and Korean restaurants.

Though the dish is made from highly nutritious wakame seaweed, the versions you see in restaurants are likely to be premade and contain high amounts of sugar, salt, syrups, oils, food coloring, and flavorings.

If you want a healthier version, it’s best to make it at home. That way, you can decide which ingredients to put in it and how much to use, which can boost its nutritional content.

If you prefer the premade versions, that’s OK, but it may be best to save them for special occasions.

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