Wakame Seaweed: Health Benefits, How To Eat, And Side Effects

Written by Aparna Mallampalli

Seaweeds are becoming a regular part of one’s diet thanks to their health benefits. One such seaweed that is dense in nutrients and deserves a special mention is wakame. It has a subtly sweet taste and a unique flavor, and is often added to soups and salads. Wakame is also known for its rich nutrition profile and offers important health benefits. Keep reading further to know more about wakame.

What Is Wakame?

Wakame is a seaweed that generally grows on the northwest Pacific Ocean. It is also known as sea mustard. It is mostly grown by Japanese and Korean sea farmers.

Wakame is mostly used in soups and salads either in dry or fresh forms. It is also freeze-dried for use in various other products. It is rich in beneficial nutrients and we have covered them in the next section.

Wakame Nutrition Facts

100 grams of raw wakame contain:
Energy: 45 Kcal
Protein: 3.03 g
Fat: 0.64 g
Carbohydrates: 9.14 g
Fiber: 0.5 g
Calcium: 150 mg
Iron: 2.18 mg
Magnesium: 107 mg
Phosphorus: 80 mg
Sodium: 872 mg
Manganese: 1.4 mg
Vitamin C: 3 mg
Niacin: 1.6 mg
Choline: 13.9 mg

  • All values are sourced from USDA

This nutrient-dense food may offer multiple health benefits. We discuss them in the next section.

Health Benefits Of Wakame

1. May Possess Anti-Cancer Properties

Wakame contains fucoidan, which is a polysaccharide. Fucoidan is proven to exhibit many beneficial activities. It may influence the inflammatory response in those dealing with cancer. It also may enhance the efficacy of certain anti-inflammatory drugs. Studies have also shown that fucoidan from wakame exhibits anti-cancer properties. It may inhibit cancer cell growth and proliferation. This anti-cancer activity is attributed to the sulfate content in fucoidan. The compound was found to help fight against the cancers of the breast and lung.

2. May Help Manage Obesity

Studies have shown that wakame contains fucoxanthin that may help manage fat deposition in the body. The compound may also regulate weight. Fucoxanthin was also found to effectively reduce white adipose tissue.

However, more quality research is warranted to determine the exact mechanism of fucoxanthin in this regard.

3. May Help Manage Diabetes

Studies suggest that the dietary lipids in wakame may treat insulin resistance induced by a high-fat diet. In rat studies, the fucoxanthin in wakame was also found to exhibit anti-diabetic action. However, further human studies are required in this aspect.

4. May Support Cardiovascular Health

Research shows that regular seaweed intake may have an inverse relationship with cardiovascular mortality.

Seaweed polyphenols are also known to help treat cardiovascular disorders. Regular consumption of wakame was found to effectively reduce systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

5. May Have Anti-Hypertensive Properties

Animal studies show that hot water extracts of wakame can significantly inhibit the activity of angiotensin I-converting enzyme (ACE). This particular enzyme is proven to play a major role in causing hypertension. Single or multiple doses of wakame were also found to reduce blood pressure.

6. May Support Thyroid Function

Seaweeds are rich in iodine. Iodine plays a major role in supporting thyroid gland function. Some studies have also shown that regular consumption of seaweeds is linked to healthy thyroid functioning. However, excess intake of seaweed may have negative effects too. Those with hypo- or hyperthyroidism must seek medical advice before consuming wakame or any other seaweed.

These are the important health benefits of wakame. This seaweed needs some preparation before you can add it to your dishes. We have discussed this further in the next section.

How To Use Wakame

Wakame is available in dried, powdered, or semi-wet forms. It is generally soaked in water for 30 minutes before use. This rehydrates it fully and enables you to separate its strings. These separated strings can be a healthy substitute for other green leafy vegetables.

You can also include wakame in your diet in various ways. We have listed them below.

How To Eat Wakame

The slight sweetness of wakame makes it a perfect addition for various dishes. We have listed some popular culinary uses of wakame.

  • In Soups: You can add turkey to your favorite soups or noodles. Cut or chop wakame and add it to the hot soup/noodles. Let the flavor of wakame infuse into the food item.
  • In Salads: Wakame adds a unique flavor to any salad. It complements almost all vegetables. Add soaked wakame to salads as a garnish. You can also mix it with some white or rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, and sesame seeds for a tasty salad.
  • In Pickles: Another popular use of wakame is adding it to pickled vegetables. It can go perfectly with pickled cucumbers or pickled squashes.
  • To Fruit Juices Or Smoothies: Instant wakame can be added to smoothies or fruit juices as a topping. Rehydrated or soaked wakame tastes better if blended with fruits or smoothie mixtures.

To Teas: Wakame powder can be added to many herbal teas. You can also prepare wakame tea by adding a teaspoon of dried wakame powder, a tablespoon of green tea powder, and water. Additionally, you can also add a spoon of lemon juice to boost freshness and taste.

Wakame is often confused with nori, another popular seaweed. Continue reading to understand the major differences between the two.

Wakame vs. Nori

While both wakame and nori are seaweeds mostly used for culinary purposes, they are distinct in their own ways.

WakameNori
Available as dried strings or threadsAvailable as dried sheets that are compressed before packaging
Sold in the air-dried formSold slightly roasted
Requires rehydration before useCan be used directly without soaking
Mostly used in salads and soupsMostly used in sushi, rice balls, and noodles

 

Even though wakame is a natural food, it may cause side effects if consumed in excess. Continue reading to know more.

Side Effects Of Excess Wakame Consumption

1. May Interfere With Thyroid Hormones

Even though wakame is consumed for its iodine content, excess intake may impair thyroid function. As per a study, excess consumption of wakame or other seaweeds may impair thyroid function due to their potentially high mercury content.

High seaweed consumption may also increase the risk of papillary carcinoma of the thyroid.

Additionally, consumption of seaweed supplements may lead to an imbalance in thyroid hormones in pregnant women. Hence, caution is highly advised before consuming wakame, more so if you are dealing with hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism.

2. May Elevate Blood Pressure Levels

Certain brands of wakame are high in sodium, which is added to increase its shelf life. This added sodium is found to have many detrimental effects on overall health, in addition to causing blood pressure levels to rise. If you are dealing with hypertension, it is highly recommended to consult your doctor before you start consuming wakame.

3. May Cause Loose Stools

Anecdotal evidence suggests that wakame may cause loose stools if consumed in excess. This could be attributed to its high fiber content. A study had shown that insoluble fiber may exhibit a laxative effect. However, more research is required in this regard.

Conclusion

Wakame is replete with many beneficial nutrients. Including it in one’s diet offers an array of benefits. However, it must be consumed in moderation to avoid any negative effects. Including it in specified quantities as per the recommendations can help you reap its benefits.

Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

What happens if you eat excess seaweed?

Most seaweeds are rich in Iodine. Excess intake of seaweed may cause thyroid dysfunction.

Can I eat seaweed every day?

Yes, you can, but only in limited amounts.

What does wakame taste like?

Wakame has a unique salty and sweet taste. However, the salt taste tends to dominate as wakame originates from the sea.

What is the substitute for wakame?

Alaria is mostly used as a substitute for wakame. It slightly mimics the taste of wakame.

Does dried wakame go bad?

No, it doesn’t go bad even after drying. Many use it in the dried form for convenience.

Sources

Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

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    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC6471298/
  2. Fucoidan Extracted from Undaria pinnatifida: Source for Nutraceuticals/Functional Foods
    https://www.mdpi.com/1660-3397/16/9/321/htm
  3. Fucoxanthin from edible seaweed Undaria pinnatifida shows antiobesity effect through UCP1 expression in white adipose tissues
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  4. Anti-obesity and anti-diabetic effects of fucoxanthin on diet-induced obesity conditions in a murine model
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  5. Frequency of Seaweed Intake and Its Association with Cardiovascular Disease Mortality: The JACC Study
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  7. Antihypertensive effects of Undaria pinnatifida (wakame) peptide on blood pressure in spontaneously hypertensive rats
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  10. Minerals from Macroalgae Origin: Health Benefits and Risks for Consumers
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  12. Dietary Sodium and Health: More Than Just Blood Pressure
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Aparna is a professor-turned-content writer with over 5 years of experience in life sciences. Her passion for writing and interest in the healthcare and wellness industry pushed her toward a career in content writing. She has a master’s in Microbiology and aims to use her knowledge of life sciences to break down complex information into easily understandable content for the readers. When she’s not working, Aparna loves cooking and collecting keychains.