5 Immunity-Boosting Health Benefits of Kelp

5 Immunity-Boosting Health Benefits of Kelp

Authored by DesiMD Doctor on 19 Feb 2016 - 15:47

kelp

Kelp is large brown seaweed, that grows in shallow oceans. It extracts components from the sea and concentrates the same in its beautiful frond-shaped leaves. It produces sodium alginate, a compound used as a thickener in most foods, including salad dressings and ice creams. It can be consumed naturally in various forms – cooked, raw, powdered, and in the form of supplements.

Kelp is loaded with good-health-promoting nutrients, along with disease-preventing properties. Touted as “a natural source of essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants”, it is a staple ingredient in most Asian cuisines.

5 Health Benefits of Kelp

1.      Fights Cancer

A lot of research studies emphasize on the vital role of seaweeds in prevention and healing of cancer. Seaweeds provide complete and concentrated nutrition. According to Japanese scientists, Kelp is touted to lower rates of various cancers including breast, colon and lung. This is because Kelp contains anti-carcinogenic, antioxidant and anti-toxic properties. A study conducted by Dr. Jane Teas & colleagues on investigating the effects of Kelp on mammary tumours in rats, establishes that Kelp contains fucoidan, a sulfated polysaccharide that slows down the progression of cancer by stimulating cancer-fighting cells present in the immune system. According to Canadian Medical Association Journal, “sodium alginate from Kelp reduced radioactive strontium absorption in the intestines by 50 to 80 percent.” Statistics show that Japanese women have lower rates of reported ovarian and endometrial cancers. A study examining the diets of Japanese women found that Kelp and soya are some of the natural foods that Japanese eat. It concludes that a Kelp-rich diet has phytoestrogen properties that lower serum estradiol levels in women.

2.      Prevents Underactive Thyroid

NHS reports that hypothyroidism affects 15 in every 1,000 women and one in every 1,000 men. According to a study by Glasgow University scientists, “Kelp extract supplementation can raise low iodine levels in young women and is the equivalent to eating one-and-a-half mackerels every day.” The Journal of Natural Health Solutions substantiates that, “Kelp Jelly could help ensure healthy functioning of the thyroid gland.” The study goes on to say that iodine deficiency leads to obesity, cognitive impairment, psychiatric disorders, heart diseases and various cancers. Kelp Jelly is made from Ascophyllum nodosum, a brown seaweed containing iodine and other trace elements that work together to help the thyroid gland produce hormones to control body metabolism, thus regulating everything from blood fat levels to body temperature.

3.      Boosts Immune System

Kelp helps in improving the effectiveness of immune system. A 2012 study by Fleurence et al. reveals that Kelp supplementation assists in boosting immune response to wide variety of diseases. The rich iodine content in Kelp powder has a significant impact on various disease conditions. For example, fibrocystic breast disease responds very well to iodine and it has been reported that fibrocystic lumps get shrunken, upon consuming large Kelp volumes.

4.      Promotes Weight Loss

According to recent studies, researchers found that Kelp has significant fat blocking properties. This is attributed to alginate, a natural fibre, which studies suggest that it might halt fat absorption in the gut. According to a study published in Food Chemistry, Science Direct, alginate helps block fat absorption in intestines by about 75%.

According to a study published in Journal of Pharmacology and Therapeutics on Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, fucoxanthin (a compound found in brown seaweed chloroplasts) + pomegranate oil promotes weight loss in obese patients. According to a study published in US National Library of Medicine on Nutrition Research and Practice, “addition of seaweed influences glycemic control and may be effective in lowering blood lipids and improving antioxidant enzyme activities. Accordingly, such effects may reduce risk factors for cardiovascular disease in patients with type 2 diabetes.”

5.      Supports Gut Bacteria

Kelp supports a healthy population of gut-friendly bacteria which treats inflammatory bowel disease. It also contains good amounts of soluble fibre including alginates possessing probiotic effects. Apart from normalizing peristaltic contractions, Kelp also prevents violent irregular spasms causing crippling abdominal pains. NIH Studies on the bioactivities of marine algae reveal multiple health-promoting effects, including anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties.

Quick Culinary Tips to Enjoy Kelp

  • Kelp powder – contains concentrated kelp extracts – an addition to oriental dishes, raw food soups, salads and sauces. You can also add this directly into smoothies, protein drinks, juices and shakes.
  • Kelp noodles – kelp noodles are low-cal, gluten-free, no-carb, unlike ordinary noodles. This is ideal for diabetics and weight-watchers. Kelp noodles have a neutral flavour, can be consumed cooked or raw.

Nutritional Profile

  • Kelp is rich in vitamins, minerals, enzymes and trace elements.
  • Kelp’s Iodine concentration makes it important for optimal metabolic function of thyroid gland. Iodine deficiency leads to goitre ( enlarged thyroid gland).
  • It contains significant amount of iron, calcium, manganese, magnesium, copper, zinc, niacin, riboflavin, thiamine and vitamins A, B-12, B-6 & C.
  • Kelp contains more calcium than most other vegetables including collard greens and kale.
  • It is packed with B & C vitamins which are crucial for cellular metabolism and muscle function & strong bones respectively.

Too much of Kelp?

Most health advisers warn about excessive iodine amounts in the body upon consuming concentrated Kelp. Too much Kelp can actually result in overstimulation of thyroid gland, causing adverse health risks. Therefore restricting it to moderate amounts is important and people suffering from hyperthyroidism must stay away from this.

Nutritionist Stasio Costa claims that Kelp amongst other sea vegetables absorbs dangerous heavy metals like cadmium, arsenic and lead minerals apart from minerals and this can cause undesirable effects. So, watch out on your Kelp intake, as too much of anything is too bad!

 

References:

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=135

http://www.medicalhealthguide.com/articles/kelp.htm

https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002421.htm

https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iodine-HealthProfessional/

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