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Discover just how versatile and nutritious algae really are
Nori, wakame or kombu: these treasures from the sea are appearing on our plates more and more. Not only are they delicious, but nutritious too.
While algae are part of the daily diet in many Asian countries, many are only familiar with them as the outer green layer of sushi rolls. There are countless species of algae and plenty different types of edible algae. Aside from the usual nori leaves used for sushi, the wakame, kombu and dulse varieties are becoming increasingly popular in Germany.
Other popular types of algae are spirulina, chlorella and agar – the popular vegan gelatine substitute made from red algae. Chlorella is mostly found in food supplements. It belongs to the microalgae group, which is less suitable for cooking. Macroalgae, more commonly known as seaweed, on the other hand are very different and ideal for adding to a salad or a soup.
|Calories||12 kcal per 100 g|
|Nutrients||1g carbohydrate, 2g fibre, 0g fat, 1g protein per 100g|
|Storage||in a dry, cool and dark place|
|Shelf life||a few months (dried)|
Algae are a coveted food not only because of their fresh sea flavour, but also their nutritious value. They are low in fat and provide multiple minerals and vitamins. Many varieties contain iodine and omega 3 fatty acids. Algae are also a valuable iron source. The kombu variety provides a great boost of iron. Other algae varieties provide a significant amount of protein; spirulina is particularly protein-rich and, in its powder form, is an excellent ingredient to add to a smoothie for an extra kick.
To make sure you are prepared for your next shopping trip, here is a brief overview of the different types of algae and their uses:
Algae are an excellent source of iodine – sometimes even a bit too good. The trace mineral is important for the body but when eaten in excessive quantities, it can lead to problems such as thyroid dysfunction. However, as long as you follow a balanced diet, there is no need to worry about eating too many algae. Simply keep an eye on the iodine content when helping yourself to your next portion; the recommended daily allowance is 15 mg for an adult.
Seaweed, in its dried form, can often be found in Asian specialty supermarkets or high-end supermarkets. Some varieties are cultivated in Europe, so you should also keep an eye out for some fresh algae. Most European algae come from Brittany in France. However, dried algae have a much longer shelf life and only require a short soaking time before preparing them just as you would normal mushrooms. Depending on the variety and the recipe, simply boil the seaweed or eat it raw in a salad.
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