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Algae are foods full of properties that, in addition to cooking, stimulate the imagination with their varied flavors and textures
Seaweed, which today proliferates on gastronomic menus and enriches the most innovative recipes, already had a first ‘boom’ several centuries ago. Chronologically, we could summarize it like this (Sánchez-Muñiz, 2012):
- First, when it was discovered that, after incineration, their ashes, rich in soda and potash, could be used in the soap and glass industries.
- Second, in the Napoleonic campaigns, when gunpowder was necessary for war, it was made from the potassium nitrate thus obtained.
- And finally, in 1811, when the chemist and pharmacist Bernard Courtois, while cleaning an algae incineration hearth with sulfuric acid, identified a delicate violet smoke that crystallized in needles, and which turned out to be iodine, used since then as an antiseptic.
Algae have such a nutritional concentration that, in very small amounts, they provide great benefits, as we will see later in this article.
Let’s see, next, what nutrients this food has and what are its benefits.
NUTRIENTS IN ALGAE
If we talk about MACRONUTRIENTS
It can be considered that, according to their pigmentation, algae are classified into brown (Phaeophyta), red (Rhodophyta) and green (Chlorophyta).
Let’s analyze which are these macronutrients: proteins, carbohydrates and lipids (Rupérez, Gómez-Ordónez and Jiménez-Escrig 2019).
- The protein concentration of brown algae is low (5-11%) compared to the concentration of green algae (10-26%) or red algae (35-47%), similar to soybeans, cereals or fish (El-din and El-ahwany, 2015).
- Its composition is also rich in complex carbohydrates and polysaccharides, which prevent diseases such as diabetes or obesity, which is the leading cause of death in the world, according to the WHO, with a proportion of between 4 and 76% (Barbosa , Coutinho, Costa Lima and Reis, 2019).
- And with regard to its fat and fatty acid content, this proportion is subject to seasonal variations, although it has been shown that brown algae have a higher lipid content than green and red algae, and a high concentration of polyunsaturated fatty acids , essential for the proper functioning of our body (El-din and El-ahwany, 2015).
Algae also have MICRONUTRIENTS
In this case, they are effective compounds against oxidative stress and cell aging, both water-soluble, such as vitamins B3, B6, B12 or C, as fat-soluble, E or a pigment such as β-carotene (provitamin A).
They also have nutraceuticals such as fucoxanthin that, through the thyroid, acts on the appetite center and activates leptin, a hormone that encourages energy expenditure (Barbosa, Coutinho, Costa Lima and Reis, 2019; Atsushi, Kazi, Idam, Nobuyoshi, Junichi et al., 2018).
Let’s see its composition in iodine, phosphorus and calcium, iron, other minerals, vitamins and mucilages. And after that, we will analyze its benefits.
- Iodine is one of the star minerals in algae. It is an essential trace element for the energy metabolism of cells.
- The main source of iodine in the omnivorous diet are foods of marine origin, such as fish and shellfish. Seaweed is the vegetarian and vegan alternative.
- Adding only small doses of seaweed to the usual diet will cover the daily needs of iodine, which is important to promote an adequate synthesis of hormones in the thyroid gland.
- However, in cases of hyperthyroidism it is advisable to maintain strict control of the intake of this mineral.
Phosphorus and Calcium
- Seaweed is also considered a good source of phosphorus and calcium.
- Phosphorus is found in a wide variety of algae, for example, sea spaghetti.
- Regarding calcium, several studies have been carried out that show that the contribution of calcium from algae such as Hiziki (1,400 mg / 100 g) or Arame (1,170 mg).
- Although the iron in algae is not assimilated in the same way as that of animal origin, it is still very interesting due to its quantity and the presence of vitamin C, which plays an important role in its absorption.
- The list of minerals that these sea vegetables provide does not end here. In them you can find potassium (sea spaghetti has a high concentration), as well as small doses of selenium and zinc.
- Seaweed is a source of vitamins. For example, nori seaweed is high in beta-carotene or provitamin A, known for its protective role in eye health.
- The family of vitamin B is also abundant in algae such as Hiziki or Spirulina, while vitamins E and C, powerful antioxidants as well as great allies for a good tone and health of the skin, are present in Sea lettuce or the Wakame seaweed.
- In algae, the fibers form mucilages, which are polysaccharides that retain several times their volume in water.
THE BENEFITS OF ALGAE
We are going to highlight the following, considering that they are the ones that may most interest the general population, and that they are essentially due to their abundance in minerals.
Thus, this food stands out for having beneficial results in the following areas (Atsushi, Kazi, Idam, Nobuyoshi, Junichi et al., 2018):
- Healthy bones and teeth
Adequate levels of calcium, magnesium and phosphorus provided by algae help maintain healthy teeth and bones. Therefore, they help prevent osteoporosis (Collins, Fitzgerald, Stanton & Ross, 2016). In addition, the calcium present in algae is accompanied by other minerals such as magnesium, which are also necessary for its proper assimilation and bone formation.
- Against anemia
The iron and vitamin C content makes seaweed great allies in cases of anemia (Dulse seaweed and sea spaghetti contain around 60 mg of iron per 100 g).
- Good digestions
The mucilages of algae such as Cochayuyo and Wakame exert a protective role on the mucous membranes of the stomach and intestine, making digestions smoother and giving a greater sensation of satiety, an especially interesting aspect in weight loss diets (Collins, Fitzgerald, Stanton and Ross, 2016).
- Cardiovascular health
For those who are concerned about their cardiovascular health, in general it is a food with very low fat content and some varieties, such as Cochayuyo or Fucus, are known for their ability to keep LDL (the “bad” cholesterol) at bay. ), which makes them especially interesting in cases of hypercholesterolemia (Mwangi and Ngila, 2015).
In short, it seemed difficult to imagine so much profit in these “pesky plants” that invade beaches and stubbornly entangle themselves in nets and anchors.
But the most recent research is infinitely increasing its possibilities and its benefits for human beings, not only at the culinary level, but in many areas of application, given the macro and micronutrients they have, which make them suitable for a myriad of uses. .
Its benefits are fully proven in many scientific investigations, to the point of considering algae as the resource of the future (Barbosa, Coutinho, Costa Lima and Reis, 2019).
Atsushi, F., Kazi, AS., Idam, H., Nobuyoshi, A., Junichi, T., Hidenori, T., Atsuya, Y., Kohji, M., Masamichi, N., Masayoshi, T., Poh, WP., Youichi, S., Naoki, Y. et al. (2018). Identification and Biochemical Characterization of Halisulfate 3 and Suvanine as Novel Inhibitors of Hepatitis C Virus NS3Helicase from a Marine Sponge. Marine Drugs, 12 (1), 462-476.
Barbosa, A.I., Coutinho, A.J., Costa Lima, S.A. and Reis, S. (2019). Marine Polysaccharides in Pharmaceutical Applications: Fucoidan and Chitosan as Key Players in the Drug Delivery Match Field. Marine Drugs, 17 (12), pii: E654.
Collins, K., Fitzgerald, G., Stanton, C. and Ross, R. (2016). Looking Beyond the Terrestrial: The Potential of Seaweed Derived Bioactives to Treat Non-Communicable Diseases. Marine Drugs, 14 (1), 60-68.
El-din, SM. and El-ahwany, AM. (2015). Bioactivity and phytochemical constituents of marine red seaweeds (Jania rubens, Corallina mediterranea and Pterocladia capillacea). Integrative Medicine Research, 10 (1), 471-484.
Mwangi, I.W. and Ngila, J.C. (2015). Removal of heavy metals from contaminated water using ethylenediamine-modified green seaweed (Caulerpa serrulata). Physics and Chemistry of the Earth, 1 (1), 50-65.
Rupérez, P., Gómez-Ordónez, E. and Jiménez-Escrig, A. (2019). Nutritional quality and biological properties of brown and red edible seaweeds. In V.H. Pomin (Ed.), Seaweed: Ecology, Nutrient Composition and Medicinal Uses, pp 51-66. Chapter 3. Series: Marine Biology. Earth Sciences in the 21st Century. Hauppauge (New York): Nova Science Pub. Inc.
Sánchez-Muñiz, F.J. (2012). Dietary fiber and cardovascular healt. Hospital Nutrition, 27 (1), 31-45.