Nori is a type of edible seaweed that is widely used in Asian cuisine. In the US, it is a common ingredient in sushi dishes and some consumers call it laver. With that in mind, here are some of the health benefits of nori.
Nori is the Japanese word for do and it refers to dried seaweed sheets made from the edible red algae species called porphyra yezoensis and porphyra tenera.
Nori tends to turn a blackish green when dried. In Asian countries such as Japan, China, and South Korea, it is used to prepare different types of snacks. In the US, this seaweed species is used to wrap sushi.
Health Benefits of Nori
Loaded with B vitamins
According to a study appearing in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Nori contains significant amounts of vitamin B12. In fact, the researchers involved in this study state that Nori is the best source of vitamin B12, especially for strict vegetarians.
Another study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that the status of vitamin B12 deficient subjects improved substantially after they were fed a diet supplemented with nori. The researchers involved in the second study were able to determine that nori contains about 54.5 to 58.6 micrograms of vitamin B12 per 100 grams of dry weight.
In addition, the researchers were able to establish that nori contains five types of biologically active vitamin B12 compounds including cyano-, hydroxo-, sulfito- adenosyl-, and methylcobalamin coenzymes.
Significant Dietary Source of Iodine
Iodine deficiency can cause serious health problems including mental retardation in infants, hypothyroidism and enlargement of the thyroid gland. This is according to the American Thyroid Association.
Luckily, a study published in the Journal of Food and Drug Analysis (JFDA) states that edible seaweeds such as nori are good sources of dietary iodine because they accumulate significant amounts of iodine from seawater. Various studies have found that nori contains an iodine content of 29.3e45.8 mg/kg. What’s more, a recent study by the Thyroid Research found that iodine intake from edible seaweeds in Japan is amongst the highest globally.
Nori Contains Unsaturated Fatty Acids
Nori is rich in unsaturated fatty acids. More specifically, a study appearing in the Journal of Applied Phycology states that nori is a rich source of unsaturated fatty acids with more than 10% of its total fatty acid content comprised of linoleic, linolenic, and arachidonic acids.
Moreover, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) accounts for almost 50% of the fatty acids in nori. The scientists involved in this study say they believe that EPA is more effective in preventing atherosclerosis than arachidonic acid.
Nori also contains high levels of inositol and choline, which play important roles in the body’s ability to bio-avail and utilize fats as well as nourish brain cells.
Researchers have also found that y-butyrobetaine, a betaine compound found in nori, lowers high levels of plasma cholesterol. For this reason, you can consume nori without worrying about developing heart disease or high blood pressure.
Loaded with Minerals and Trace Minerals
The aforementioned study published in the Journal of Applied Phycology found that nori contains quite a large amount of essential trace elements including zinc, manganese, iron, selenium and copper. Results of a clinical study conducted by Preventive Nutrition and Food Science show that these minerals have beneficial antioxidant properties.
In particular, zinc, copper, and selenium destroy free radicals via cascading enzyme systems. Furthermore, zinc plays a key role in buttressing the body’s immune system. Remember, scientists have linked zinc deficiency to a weak immune system, wound healing problems and the loss of taste acuity. Similarly, manganese deficiency is associated with congenital malformations in offspring, compromised reproductive performance and retarded growth.
Nori Contains Important Amino Acids
Nori seaweed is a rich source of free and bound amino acids such as alanine, aspartic acid, glycine, glutamic acid, lysine, arginine, leucine, histidine, and isoleucine. These amino acids are beneficial in several ways.
To start with, taurine controls blood cholesterol levels through the formation of taurocholic acid. This is according to the study appearing in the Journal of Applied Phycology. Moreover, taurine enhances enterohepatic recirculation of bile acid throughout the body. It is worth noting that amino acids play a key role in muscle building.
Scientific research has confirmed that chemical compounds found in nori have anti-carcinogenic properties. Researchers from the Mie University’s Laboratory of Marine Biochemistry based in Japan found that a basic diet mixed with nori prevented the metastasis of induced intestinal carcinogenesis in humanized rats.
Side Effects of Nori
Since nori has high levels of sodium, excessive consumption of this seaweed species could cause health issues such as chronic kidney disease, cirrhosis, and congestive heart failure according to the National Institutes of Health. The University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) states that the docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) found in nori can interact negatively with certain blood pressure medications.
How to Incorporate Nori into Your Diet
Nori is found in many green powder drinks such as Garden of Life and Athletic Greens meaning you can take it as a health beverage. You can also eat it together with sushi.
Nori, and seaweed in general, is an extraordinary superfood that when incorporated into your diet can have profound health benefits.