Sea moss has been around on the seashores of this planet for as long as we know. It has also been used as a part of traditional food and folk medicine in many parts of the world. However, lately, it has emerged as a modern superfood and is creating a lot of hype among nutritionists, dieticians, modern health enthusiasts, and even the general public, what with Kim Kardashian posting a picture of her sea moss smoothie on Instagram.
It is important to know, however, what the experts say. Are the health benefits of sea moss as an energy-boosting food overhyped, or do they really have scientific research backing?
What is sea moss, and where is it found?
Sea moss, also known as Irish sea moss or Irish moss, is a type of red algae, with the scientific name Chondrus crispus. It is found abundantly on the Atlantic shores of Europe and America and varies in color from yellow through red to purple or brown.
Its composition is 55% carrageenan (a polysaccharide), 10% protein, 15% mineral water, and a high quantity of iodine and sulfur. It is considered to be extremely nutrient-rich; in fact, it contains more than 90% of all the essential nutrients our body needs. This is why the seaweed is considered such a powerhouse and is gaining in popularity.
Although its bare composition is known, the biological usability and effects of the seaweed are not well-researched at all. How much of those nutrients can be digested properly by our digestive system and how readily available and usable they are for the body is not scientifically understood, neither is the fact of any possible side-effects or contamination by toxins.
However, due to its ages-old use in traditional medicine (especially Jamaican and Irish tradition) and the empirical benefits that nutritionists and doctors have been observing, it is being recommended even by some experts and is readily available in food and health markets. Some are harvested organically from the ocean, while some are even being grown in inland man-made ocean pools. Normally, the yellow ochre-colored variation is sold in bunches sealed in packets. Vital Vegan is one of the most significant brands selling it.
Health benefits of sea moss
Sea moss is considered a “powerhouse” food, and here is why:
Iron-rich for more energy
You can take seamoss for energy boosts if you are feeling low on energy or tend to run out of steam fast when working. This can often indicate that your iron levels are low. This is especially a concern for vegans who do not take iron-rich animal foods such as fish, meat, and poultry.
Sea moss has a very high iron content, i.e., 9 mg per 100 g, which is almost half the amount we are recommended to take in on a daily basis, and nine times more than the iron content in poultry. When you feel tired easily, it can be due to low iron levels. Iron is the central component of red blood cells that helps bind to oxygen and transport it around the body. The oxygen is then used in respiration to speed up your metabolism and increase your energy level. Thus sea moss is considered to be a great source of energy, and people have reported that they feel more active and energetic since they have included sea moss as regular food in their diet. This can also help people who are slightly anemic, alongside their iron supplements.
Expert nutritionist Amy Gorin says, “the amount of iron is significant,” and that makes it an amazing source of iron for the body.
There are many strong testimonials of people claiming that sea moss has given their life a total energy upgrade!
Mineral and vitamin-dense food
Herbalist Paul Otote also promotes sea moss as a nutrient-packed food with 92 of the 110 essential nutrients our body needs. It contains vitamins A, B, and C, sulfur, magnesium, calcium, phosphorous, and zinc, which are all minerals essential to body function and promote healthy bones, hair, skin, etc. It is also rich in folate, which is very beneficial for healthy prenatal growth.
Iodine promotes thyroid function
As mentioned earlier, sea moss has high levels of iodine, which is a mineral found in few food sources. Iodine is needed for the body to produce thyroid hormones, although in a moderate amount. Thyroid hormones control a lot of important bodily functions such as metabolism, growth of breast tissue and are also needed for fetal development during pregnancy. Also, by helping the thyroid gland regulate body metabolism, it can assist in weight loss.
Protein-rich to build muscles
Sea moss has a very high protein composition too (6 g per 100 g), and protein is used for muscle repair and development in the body. It also contains taurine, which is an amino acid that promotes weight loss by helping burn fat instead of sugar.
Sworn immunity booster
One of the most amazing benefits of sea moss is that it is anti-bacterial and anti-viral, so it really boosts your immunity and lowers the risk of catching an infection or a disease. It is not just great for prevention, but also a great medicine to treat multiple illnesses. For example, it is popularly used as a cure for the common cold and flu.
It has also been shown to remove inflammation and pain and even slow down aging effects!
Because of its thick, gelatinous consistency, it can help soothe your body and also reduce irritation, just like aloe Vera and other gel-like substances.
Topical benefits for skin
Other than being ingested through the mouth, sea moss is also applied topically when it is in its gel-like form. Because it reduces inflammation and is also anti-bacterial, it helps fight acne. Sea moss is rich in sulfur, which is known to have anti-microbial properties too.
It has omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins like vitamin A which help keep the skin hydrated and glowing.
How to use sea moss- supplement or food?
Sea moss shouldn’t be taken as a complete meal in itself but as an additive or supplement. Taking too much can overdo it and cause harm, especially considering that its full effects aren’t well-researched and completely known yet.
Sea moss is sold by the Vital Vegan brand in raw plant form, gel form, and powdered form. The gel or powdered form is great to add to your foods, such as smoothies, soups, and desserts. It is nearly tasteless, so you do not have to worry about spoiling the taste. You can even use it as a baking substitute for eggs in its gel-like form or add it as a thickening agent to other foods.
Since there is no concrete evidence of the health benefits of sea moss, and it lacks significant research, the following must also be kept in mind so as not to overdo it or expect it to act as an instant miracle cure for everything.
Too much iodine is harmful
Iodine is a mineral that must be taken in just the right amount, not less and not more, as both adversely affect thyroid function. This can even get quite serious as high iodine intakes can cause poisoning (seafood is the most common cause of iodine poisoning), conditions like hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, and thyroid cancer. Due to these risks of extra iodine intake, the American Thyroid Association advises all individuals against taking any daily iodine supplements or seafood, which contains more than 500 micrograms of iodine.
This is one of the major downsides of sea moss being rich in iodine, and hence it must be taken in small amounts to avoid overdosing.
Not tested for safety
Since it is not sold like a proper prescription drug, there is no way of knowing if it is effective, obtained from the right sources, and completely safe to ingest. So it is best to consult your doctor or dietician to know if and how much to take and in what form.
Bottom line, although it is undeniable that sea moss does have nutritional benefits when taken in small, supplemental amounts, and was found to be a centuries-old growth and energy booster as well as a cure for some sicknesses, we must stress on taking it in moderation.
It is important not to blindly trust claims about sea moss being a superfood that can miraculously cure all your problems just because it has gained sudden popularity with a couple of celebrity endorsements. The truth of the matter is that there is no concrete research-based evidence of its benefits, and, like with many seafood items, it does have high amounts of iodine, which are dangerous if taken in excess.
So many people do swear by it as an amazing remedy and energy booster, and there is no denying its obvious nutritional benefits, but we recommend testing it out first after consulting with your nutritionist and taking small amounts in a low frequency to observe if it does provide the claimed benefits overtime.