Updated: Jan 30
With an impressive variety of health benefits, seaweed salt and seasoning mixes are an easy first step to introduce seaweed into your diet.
Seaweeds offer an impressive variety of micro and macronutrients that are hard to go past. Nutritionist Sarah Leung, the founder of Alg Seaweed, says these include vitamins B12, C, A and K, as well as iodine, iron, calcium, magnesium and antioxidants, although this does vary from species to species. Seaweeds also have dietary fibre, protein and omega-3 fatty acids.
Iodine is of particular importance, she says, as many Western-style diets are deficient in this crucial micronutrient. Iodine, found in higher concentrations in brown seaweeds, is an essential micronutrient crucial for thyroid health, brain development and children’s growth.
Sprinkling a little seaweed seasoning on your food is one way to effortlessly boost your iodine intake, particularly where brown species such as kelps and wakame are used.
Seaweed adds depth of flavour to your meals, providing umami – which is one of the five taste elements that build our perception of flavour, along with sweet, salty, bitter and sour. Many seaweeds are high in the chemical compound glutamate, although it varies from species to species.
Glutamate is the basis of umami. In fact, the Smithsonian Magazine in the US reports that monosodium glutamate (MSG) was created in Japan as a commercial additive to mimic the flavour-boosting power of seaweeds. Seaweeds are a traditional part of many Asian cuisines, but your favourite Australian dish will also benefit from the addition of a little natural flavour enhancement, from scrambled eggs to steak and chips, soups and a hearty winter casserole.
More flavour, less salt
Seaweed provides a boost to everything from traditional Asian cuisine to Australian favourites.
One of the key benefits of using a salt seaweed mix is that the extra umami allows you to use less salt – sodium chloride – for the same flavour hit, according to marine scientist and founder of PhycoHealth, Dr Pia Winberg.
Pia says Australians consume up to twice the recommended daily allowance of five grams of salt. Most of the excess comes from processed foods such as sausages, preserved meats, snacks and ready-to-eat meals, where it’s used as both a flavour enhancer and a preservative.
Health issues related to too much salt consumption include water retention and high blood pressure. It has also been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and stomach cancer.
If you’re trying to cut back on the sodium, seaweed can help without sacrificing flavour. Or maybe you’re just keen to see what even a sprinkle of seaweed can do for your health and the flavour of your food. (#seaweedeveryday)
We’ve tracked down some Australia-made offerings including seaweed salts, spice mixes and pure ground or granulated seaweed as an ingredient in your own spice mixes or meals. Most of these are small businesses, selling direct online, and through limited retail outlets.
• Gold Flakes Sea Salt – Moonrise Seaweed Co
South Australian golden kelp is combined with coarse flakes of South Australia Fleur de Sel sea salt, creating a golden-hued finishing salt. Based on Kaurna Yarta Country (the Adelaide region) this business has a strong focus on First Nations food sovereignty. RRP $10.00 for 30gms
• Rainbow Seaweed Salt – Alg Seaweed
Based in Melbourne, Alg has combined a fine-grained low sodium salt with a mix of imported and local wild-harvested seaweeds to optimise flavour and nutrition. The colourful rainbow seaweed mix includes sea lettuce, wakame (from Tasmania), Atlantic nori, dulse and winged kelp.
RRP $9.95 for 70gms
• PhycoSalt – Phycohealth
Made with a combination of flaky Murray River salt, wild harvested wakame from Tasmania and the company's PhycoGreen sea lettuce, grown in NSW, the result is a slightly green-hued finishing salt. Or add it to your grinder for a finer finish.
RRP $7.50 for 100gms
From left: Gold Flakes Sea Salt, Rainbow Seaweed Salt and PhycoSalt.
• Rainbow Seaweed Seasoning – Alg Seaweed
Ingredients include toasted white and black sesame seeds, rainbow seaweed mix (sea lettuce, Tasmanian wakame, Atlantic nori, dulse and winged kelp), Tasmanian chickpea miso sea salt and a touch of brown sugar. Also available: Rainbow Chilli Seasoning with sumac and cracked pepper to add a little heat.
RRP $10 for 40gms
• Phukka – Phycohealth
A gold medalist at the Australian Food Awards, this is an Australian seaweed seaweed take on the traditional dukkah spice mix. Along with PhycoGreen sea lettuce, it includes almonds, pistachio nuts, sesame seeds, cumin, salt and pepper.
RRP $7.70 for 100gms
• Furikake – Sea Health Products
This Japanese rice seasoning combines a traditional mix of ingredients. The Sea Health blend includes NSW golden kelp, with black and white sesame seeds, nigella seeds, chilli, salt and a dash of sugar.
• Shichimi Togarashi – Gewurzhaus Spice House
One of the hundreds of spices and spice mixes available from Gewurzhaus, this is another traditional Japanese blend. It includes chilli, black sesame, golden sesame, orange peel, blue poppy, white poppy, Sichuan pepper and aonori seaweed.
RRP $14.50 for 60gms
Australian native spice blends
While Asian spice blends are familiar and readily available, local businesses are developing native spice blends. These combine ingredients traditionally used by Australia’s indigenous people for their flavour and health benefits for millennia.
• Bush Tucker Seaweed Sprinkle – Alg Seaweed
This features a combination of Tasmanian wakame, Davidson plum, lemon myrtle and wattleseed.
RRP $15 for 20gms
• Finger Lime Golden Kelp – Sea Health Products
Ingredients are Australian finger lime and golden kelp harvested in NSW. RRP $17 for 50gms
Pure seaweed is also available as an ingredient that you can use in your own salt and spice blends, or simply for its own sake. You can make your own ground seaweed by blitzing dried seaweed to a powder in a blender. Dried seaweeds are readily available from Asian grocers, along with a range of seaweed spice mixes. But pre-prepared products offer greater convenience and quality control, so consider supporting Australian-grown ingredients and businesses with some of the following, or those listed above
• Golden Kelp Powder, Golden Kelp Granules and Smoked Golden Kelp Granules – Sea Health Products
These are all produced from golden kelp harvested from the NSW coastline.
• Tasmania Wakame Alg Seaweed
This product is made from wakame, a brown seaweed hand-harvested by divers in Tasmania.
• Raw Tasmanian Kelp Meal – Mindful Foods
The kelp species isn’t specified for this product, but the retailer notes it is high in iodine, as many kelps are. This one has 180 micrograms per teaspoon – which is more than the average recommended daily intake of 150 micrograms, so a little will go a long way.
A note on iodine
Brown seaweeds and kelps such as kombu found in Asian grocers can be exceptionally high in iodine. Red and green seaweeds have much lower iodine levels. While iodine is an essential micronutrient, too much can be toxic. It's an issue that the Australian seaweed industry is highly aware of and producers are careful to control.
Pia Winberg explains: "You only need about a teaspoon of iodine for your whole life, but it is essential for the whole journey." Sarah Leung likewise urges caution on the use of brown seaweeds and highlights the need to check the iodine content to ensure you don't exceed the upper limit for daily consumption, which is 1100 micrograms.
Alg Seaweed: Why is seaweed good for you
Phycohealth: The irony of iodine – an essential teaspoon for life
Smithsonian Magazine: It's the Umami, Stupid. Why the Truth About MSG is So Easy to Swallow
*seaweednewsnews.au has not been paid for the mention of any products or businesses in this article.