Scientifically known as Sargassum fusiforme, hijiki is a seaweed type that grows along the coastlines of Korea, Japan and China. When cultivated its’ usually dull green or brown and will appear in the form of small buds resembling black tea or small dry twigs when harvested.
A staple food in many Asian cultural dishes, hijiki is also highly versatile because it dries rapidly while maintaining most of its nutritional content.
The seaweed is highly popular in Japan because it’s widely available and easy to prepare. Its health benefits are also widely recognized.
Hijiki is rich in essential minerals such as magnesium, calcium and iron as well as dietary fiber. It has been used for many centuries to restore health and beauty. Regular consumption allegedly yields thick, black lustrous hair.
What are the Health Benefits of Hijiki?
Though iodine’s importance in diet is rarely addressed, it still remains crucial in keeping bodily functions on track. Iodine facilitates hormonal balance in the body through its interaction with the thyroid gland. This is one of the most crucial aspects of the endocrine system. While consuming too much iodine is certainly detrimental, most people don’t get enough. Hijiki can be a good source of this vital dietary component.
Being the ultimate green leafy vegetable, seaweeds like hijiki are packed with dietary fiber. Regular consumption would thus ensure that the digestive process is both smooth and healthy.
It’s known to stimulate peristalsis, the mechanism that moves matter through the digestive track. This not only helps maximize nutrient absorption, but also reduces constipation. The high fiber content in hijiki helps eliminate excess cholesterol from the body’s cardiovascular system, which balances insulin and glucose levels in the body.
Delivers Natural Energy
Hijiki contains unusually high iron levels, with some varieties containing about 5 times the amount found in chicken liver. As such, incorporating hijiki into diet would help prevent anemia. Iron is an essential component of red blood cells which helps increase oxygenation, thus boosting energy levels.
For this reason, hijiki is also great for vegetarians and vegans as iron is hard to get in a meatless diet.
Inevitably, most people’s bones will weaken with age. With a proper intake of minerals however, this can be prevented. Consuming hijiki would thus help suppress osteoporosis since it contains more calcium than milk, which is considered an ideal dietary source of the mineral.
Promotes Better Sleep
For many years, magnesium has been widely regarded as an effective sleeping aid. This is mainly because it facilitates the production of certain hormones that help release stress and induce relaxation. This naturally leads to restful sleep. Due to the high magnesium levels in hijiki, one can use it as a late-night snack if they have trouble falling asleep.
Hijiki Side Effects
In spite of all these health benefits, hijiki is known to have an excessively high level of inorganic arsenic, a substance that both carcinogenic and toxic to humans. Exposure to high levels is also linked with liver damage and gastrointestinal issues.
Still, it would require an extremely high amount of hijiki to accumulate enough arsenic to present a health issue. Some countries have however cautioned their citizens from consuming too much of the vegetable.
Exceedingly too much iodine consumption can be just as bad as too little. Problems like hyperthyroidism are often as a result of too much intake of iodine-rich foods like hijiki.
Other possible side effects include interaction with medication like blood thinners, usually because of the high vitamin K content. Hijiki could thus present a host of health problems if consumed excessively. As with everything else, it would be advisable to eat it in moderation.
Incorporating Hijiki Into Diet
Generally, hijiki is normally prepared in the form of a home-cooked meal. Most restaurants usually don’t serve dishes containing the seaweed. In East Asia, hijiki is normally chopped and mixed with salads, stir fries and seafood dishes.
A good way to eat it is to mix it with traditional vegetables or fish. It can also be added to foods that have been boiled, steamed, marinated in fish/soy sauce or cooked in oil.
Hijiki can also be combined with rice for sushi, although it doesn’t go well as a wrap to prepare the same. Generally, one can add the seaweed to just about anything they feel like.
Some green powder drink products that are readily available online and in most nutrition outlets also contain hijiki extracts.
In a nutshell, hijiki is a highly beneficial vegetable that’s not only rich in vital nutrients, but also carries a host of health benefits.
When consumed in moderation, it doesn’t pose any health risk. Nevertheless, it’s important to choose sea vegetables wisely and only shop from accredited outlets.
Caution should also be observed in preparation prior to cooking; hijiki should be properly cleaned and soaked before it can be used. This basically involves washing, soaking in warm water for about 15 minutes, rinsing well then discarding the soaking water.