Seaweed may not seem like the most obvious choice when you are trying to conceive, but given that the ocean is fertile ground, it is good place to start! Seaweed is a fertility health superfood for many different reasons.
Firstly, edible seaweeds are very high in nutritional value, containing 10-20 times the vitamins and minerals of land vegetables and fruits.
Secondly, the minerals in sea vegetables are highly bioavailable, meaning that the body can quickly get access to them after digestion and absorb more of them than from ordinary vegetables.
- Protein: seaweeds possess high levels of protein. Some varieties contain as much as 48%
- Fibre: like all plants, seaweeds are an excellent source of fibre
- Antioxidants: seaweed has the potential for being a valuable source of natural antioxidants containing both water and fat-soluble antioxidative substances for preventing oxidative damage
- Vitamins: seaweeds contain vitamins A, B, C and E
- Iodine: this is the nutrient that seaweeds are best known for and perhaps we should say a little more about it.
Iodine is extremely useful for clearing the body of poisonous heavy metals, such as lead, cadmium and radionuclides. Iodine-rich foods in the diet protect the thyroid gland, which plays a major part in metabolism. It regulates the hormone thyroxine. Thyroxine, of which iodine is an essential component, also regulates growth, development and the performance of the nervous system.
Thyroxine – showing the iodine atoms (I)
Some women who experience fertility issues have found that their thyroid is playing a key role. Stress alone from fertility problems can be extremely hard on the nervous system and, in turn, the thyroid. Seaweed, in adequate amounts can potentially be an answer here.
Types of seaweed
Species that are popular and available from most health food shops include many from the list below. They can be served in a variety of ways such as eaten fresh in salads or used as a dry ingredient to add to soups and vegetable dishes.
This seaweed is popular for making jelly-like desserts because of its jelly-like quality but can also be used in salads. It is high in iodine and can be a variety of colours from clear to white to green to brown.
A seaweed which is slightly salty tasting so is best in vegetable dishes. It is high in calcium, iodine, potassium, vitamins A and B.
Another seaweed which is high in iron (it contains four times more iron than spinach!). It is also high in vitamin B6, vitamin C, and potassium.
This one has a strong flavour so bear this in mind. It has ten times more calcium by weight than milk.
A sea vegetable which is high in minerals including calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron and iodine.
This sea plant is high in calcium, iron, potassium and vitamin C.
A strongly flavoured seaweed rich in iron, vitamin B2 and vitamin B1.
A seaweed that is abundant in calcium, iron, iodine, phosphorus, potassium, and the vitamins A & B.
A word of caution
Because seaweed is a powerful superfood it is important to treat it as a medicine as well as a food. This is because of its high iodine content. For instance, the weakest source of iodine from seaweed (nori; 12µg per gram) is enough to reach your daily requirements when consuming just 9 grams of the dried seaweed product.
The strongest source (kombu; up to 2,660µg per gram) consumed at the same 9-gram dose would result in you reaching the daily recommended intake by about 240 times!
While not acutely lethal, such high levels are known to acutely suppress thyroid function. Therefore, always check with your health professional before using supplements or radically changing your diet. And always remember never to exceed the supplier recommendations.