All of us would have been to the beach and seen the seaweed washed up and lying there. We would not have immediately thought of it as food or even possible food. In the future this may be a food of choice.
Seaweed is already heavily used in some countries and industries but is not a food that would be top of mind in most western countries. Thickening, gelling agents, and food colourings are regularly made from seaweed, and are used in a variety of foods.
We have all heard of Sushi, which uses a specific type of seaweed as the outer layer and this means that many have tasted it already and therefore may not be as averse to it becoming a bigger part of their diets. Insects do not have this advantage, but like seaweed, are an outstanding source of excellent nutrition and will form key parts of our future diets.
Seaweed is a common name for just one type of a group of species called Algae. There are basically three types of microalgae; Brown, Red and Green.
Brown algae is often seen as kelp and grow up toward the water surface. They are high in iodine and other hydrocolloids. Amongst their health benefits are anti-obesity and anti-diabetic properties.
Red algae is high in carotenoids and the B group vitamins. They are commonly processed to form products used in the food industry.
Green algae is an excellent source of chlorophyll, as well as iodine and magnesium. A commonly used type is Spirulina, which is probably the world’s best source of natural blue food colouring. It is used in drinks, ice creams, soft drinks and lollies.
Red algae has around twice the fibre content of most fruit, vegetables and cereals. Therefore species of them can be (and are) used in baking and other industries.
Although algae is already commonly used in many of the foods we eat every day, most of us are simply unaware that they are there. Once the community realises that we have been eating seaweed and algae for some time and therefore don’t fear it, it is certain that the ocean will be a major source of food in the future.
Written by Rachelle Williams – the Green Food Safety Coach