The newest hidden weapon in your health arsenal may just be the seaweed you stepped over to get into the ocean the last time you were at the beach. Sea moss has been around since the waves first lapped the shore, but it's enjoying a surge in popularity because of its powerful immune-boosting nutrients.
Sea moss is rich in natural minerals, high in iron and antioxidants that make it an all-around immunity booster and weight-loss aid, which is why companies are harvesting it from beaches as far off as Ireland and the Caribbean, and consumers are adding it to everything from smoothies to acai bowls and rice and beans.
It would be hard to identify one particular plant that has all the vitamins and minerals your body needs, but sea moss comes close: It contains vitamin B2, vitamin B12, calcium, chromium, magnesium, zinc and other nutrients, and has been used as a natural medicine to treat or reduce flu-like symptoms.
What is Sea Moss and where does it come from?
Sea moss, also known as Irish Moss, is a seaweed, a macro-algae. It is sold in bunches that look just like the translucent yellow seaweed you'd find washing up on beaches along the Atlantic seaboard and the Caribbean. Sea moss comes from both organic harvesting and man-made pools, and where it's grown affects the composition of the plant and its health benefits. Vital Vegan believes that "wildcrafted" sea moss from the ocean is better, so they only harvest their sea moss from the Caribbean, specifically Jamaica.
Less than two centuries ago, sea moss was used as a health treatment for tuberculosis and pneumonia. It's also been used as a food to nourish people who worked in potato fields because it was an inexpensive source of nutrients. Because it was used by poor farmers, the seaweed was thought of as a "poverty food," and forgotten by health seekers, due to the negative association. Dr. Sebi, the well-known herbalist with a cult-like following, brought sea moss back to the attention of his followers and recommended it to his patients to treat chronic illnesses. Now mainstream, sea moss is available at health markets and online through companies that grow it in ocean pools and harvest it to sell.
Sea Moss Nutrients
Twenty grams or 4-tablespoons of raw sea moss provides the following:
- Calories: 10
- Protein: 0.5 grams
- Total fat: 0 grams
- Total carbs: 3 grams
- Fiber: 0.5 grams
- Total sugar: 0 grams
6 potential health benefits of Sea Moss
The health benefits of sea moss are explained in the video below by author and vegan herbalist Paul Otote. Sea moss for weight loss and immunity are the most common usages, among many others such as muscle building, reduced inflammation, and more.
1. High in iron and boosts energy
Sea moss is full of iron, which many plant-based eaters lack because it's commonly found in animal foods like meat, poultry, and seafood. Sea moss contains about 9 milligrams of iron per 100 grams, which means sea moss has 9 times more iron than chicken. When you're feeling fatigued or low energy, it may be because your iron levels are low, since iron helps your body create red blood cells to move oxygen from your lungs to your cells. On top of taking a healthy iron supplement, try adding sea moss in a gel form to your smoothies and see if you begin to notice the difference in your energy. If you have ever been diagnosed with mild anemia, sea moss could work to help your body get the iron you need.
2. Contains more than 90% of the nutrients our bodies need
The tiny spiral yellow seaweed is extremely nutrient-dense, it's almost like nature's multi-vitamin. Otote explains "sea moss has 92 of the 110 minerals the body is made from," and he calls it the "powerhouse." Sea moss contains beta-carotene, vitamin B, vitamin C, and sulfur as well as minerals like magnesium, manganese, calcium, phosphorus, and zinc. All these contribute to healthy cell functioning in the body.
3. Promotes healthy weight loss
Sea moss contains high levels of iodine, a mineral found in a limited amount of foods. Our bodies need this mineral in moderation to produce thyroid hormones. "The body also needs thyroid hormones for proper bone and brain development during pregnancy and infancy," according to a study by the National Institute of Health. The key is to get the right amount, however, and not too much.
Sea moss contains the vital thyroid hormone precursors that are important for healthy thyroid function and your body's metabolism. So if your thyroid is not functioning properly it can be beneficial and aid in weight loss. But before you use sea moss to boost thyroid hormones or as a weight-loss supplement, check with your doctor because you don't want to overdo these hormone precursors either. Moderation is the most important thing with thyroid function.
The seaweed is rich in protein with 6 grams of protein per 100 grams of sea moss. Specifically, it contains an amino acid called taurine, which helps the body burn fat and build muscle. Taurine has the ability to make the body burn fat instead of carbs during cardio, according to Otote.
5. Strengthens the immune system
Sea moss also helps the body fight back against everyday aging and inflammation, in what could be called "the anti's:" Anti-inflammatory, anti-aging, anti-bacterial, and anti-viral. It's used as a treatment to help prevent and relieve cold and flu-like symptoms, in powdered form. "It can be used to prevent colds but also help you heal and recover from sickness," Otote says. Sea moss contains potassium chloride, which helps the body reduce inflammation and people take it to lower their risk of infections because of its positive impact on the immune system. Otote sums it up as a no-lose additive: "Sea moss when you're ill is a win, and sea moss when you're healthy is a win, it's a win-win."
6. Improve skin and hair health
Sea Moss contains high levels of sulfur which helps balance the skin's bioflora, helps build collagen, strengthens the skin, and boosts elasticity, according to studies. Sea moss also contains vitamins A and K which helps fight against environmental stressors linked to aging, acne, and hair loss.
Side effects of sea moss
In rare cases, sea moss can cause the following:
- Burning sensation in the mouth, throat, and stomach
How often to take or eat sea moss and how to use it
Sea moss can be consumed every day. Add it to your smoothies, acai bowl, or even applied directly to your skin or hair as a brightening treatment. The seaweed can also be used as a baking substitute for eggs, which makes it an easy way to get minerals into your diet through baking so use sea moss when you bake cookies, cakes, and muffins. You can also use it as a roux or a thickening gel in grains like rice or quinoa, farro, or when making beans. The recommended amount and dosage for sea moss is about 1 to 2 tablespoons per day, preferably consumed with food. Watch our video tutorial on how to make sea moss at home.
- Acai bowls
- Hair and skin treatment
- Egg substitute for baked goods
- Salad dressings