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Deep Sea Deliciousness: A Guide to Edible Seaweed

By Jeanine Natale

As another sultry summer shimmies into full swing, why don't we take a look at a refreshing, versatile, and wonderfully low-calorie/fat-free food that's sure to add an interesting new dimension to light and healthy eating? Yes, seaweed! You've probably seen drifts of this common sea algae floating in the ocean waves, or in tangled clumps along the beach, but did you know it's actually a delicious, nutritious, and surprisingly popular food? If you've had sushi or miso soup—even salad dressing, pudding, or ice cream—odds are, you've eaten seaweed. Heck, you've probably even brushed your teeth with it.

Sushi Rolls

Naturally high in essential nutrients like iodine, potassium, and magnesium, seaweed is becoming more and more available not only in health food or international stores, but also at your local market, and there are different kinds of seaweed used in all kinds of yummy dishes. It's been a staple in the diets of many coastal cultures from Japan to Scotland for centuries, and now the rest of the world is learning how good it really is for you. Five of the varieties you're most likely to encounter are nori, wakame, kombu, hijiki, and carrageenan, also known as Irish moss.

Contrary to many beliefs, seaweed is not fishy or even overly salty in taste or odor. Some varieties, like carrageenan, are nearly flavorless, and can be a versatile ingredient in many kinds of sweet and savory recipes. Each type of seaweed, whether crunchy, salty, chewy, sweet, crispy, or slippery, has its own nutritional fingerprint, but all varieties of this remarkable sea algae offer the health-conscious eater a fat-free, low-to-no-calorie superbundle of essential vitamins and minerals—most notably iodine.

IodineIodine is perhaps best known as an ingredient added to table salt (ironically, sea salt does not contain iodine naturally). But because many of us would do well to lower our salt intake, seaweed offers an excellent low-sodium delivery system for iodine. Numerous international studies have shown that iodine plays an important role in regulating the thyroid, which helps keep your metabolism on an even keel. More importantly, according to a 2007 study by the World Health Organization, iodine deficiency is one of the world's most preventable causes of mental retardation, with seaweed being one of the most accessible and easily digested sources of this essential mineral. Indeed, seaweed is vegan and gluten-free, and it poses much less danger of causing an allergic reaction than fish or shellfish—two other good sources of iodine—(although you should keep in mind that seaweed is often processed in the same facility as both fish and shellfish). Also gaining much worldwide attention is evidence that a diet supplemented with iodine, as well as vitamins B and E, may help in preventing or lessening the effects of fibrocystic breast disease.

Generally, you'll find your different types of seaweeds available as dried sheets, flakes, or leaves, in prepared packages that usually weigh a couple of ounces each. (Single-serving sizes are typically between 1 and 3 grams, depending on the recipe.) After you moisten, steep, or soak your seaweed in water according to package or recipe directions, it's easy to use, and it retains its nutritional value even when cooked. Here's a quick look at how the various seaweeds add up.

  • NoriNori. The most recognizable of the seaweeds, nori comes in crunchy, paper-thin black sheets most familiarly used to wrap sushi. Nori can also be sprinkled in flake form as a yummy topping for soups and salads. A 2.5-gram serving of nori supplies 70 percent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA)* of iodine, 10 percent of the RDA of vitamin C, 8 percent of the RDA of vitamin A, and 1 gram each of protein and dietary fiber, along with trace amounts (6 percent of the RDA or less) of potassium, magnesium, riboflavin, and omegas 3, 6, and 9. Plus, each serving has just 10 calories and only 5 milligrams of sodium.
  • Wakame. Generally eaten in larger amounts, wakame is a versatile seaweed most often featured as bite-sized bits in miso soup or thin slices in salad. Usually sold as dried black flakes, wakame quickly turns a beautiful jade green color when soaked in warm or hot water, with a soft, slippery, easy-to-chew texture. Wakame will add a bit more sodium to your dish than nori does (28 percent of the RDA or 660 milligrams in a 10-gram serving), but you'll benefit from more than 100 percent of the RDA of iodine, 30 percent of the RDA of magnesium, 17 percent of the RDA of dietary fiber, 14 percent of the RDA of potassium, 8 percent of the RDA each of vitamin A, iron, and calcium, and trace amounts of riboflavin, thiamin, niacin, phosphorus, and omegas 3, 6, and 9—and it has just 25 calories.
  • KombuKombu. Not quite as visible but essential to many delicious soups or noodle broths, kombu is a seaweed that usually comes in large dried leaves up to a foot long and a few inches wide. Typically, a cook will boil it in soups or stews, then remove it as you would a bay leaf—it imparts a hearty flavor and a decent dose of nutrients. A 3.3-gram serving of kombu has just 5 calories and 4 percent of the RDA of sodium, while also providing more than 100 percent of the RDA for iodine and trace amounts of magnesium, calcium, potassium, dietary fiber, and omegas 3, 6, and 9.
  • Hijiki. If you're an avid fan of seaweed salads, the squeaky crunch of twig-like hijiki is already a favorite. Hijiki segments look like little dried black twigs about 1 or 2 inches in length, and soaking them in water will make them expand to about twice their size. Eaten hot or cold, hijiki has a springy, snappy crunch that is quite distinctive. A 2-gram serving of hijiki is calorie-free and supplies you with 20 percent of the RDA of calcium, trace amounts of vitamin B, magnesium, and dietary fiber, along with approximately 50 percent of the RDA of iodine.
  • CarrageenanCarrageenan. The seaweed you hardly ever see but have probably consumed most often is known as Irish moss, listed as carrageenan on that tub of mocha marshmallow ice cream you've been eyeballing. (Alas, it's not there in sufficient amounts to justify your getting to eat ice cream every day. Harrumph.) Carrageenan is mainly added to prepared foods and other products, including pudding, salad dressing, and toothpaste, to make them thick and smooth. Carrageenan can also be found at any health food store in the form of dried flakes or powder that dissolve completely in liquid, for use as a thickening agent for soups and stews or to make nutritious teas and broths. A 6-gram serving only has 25 calories and contains approximately 15 percent of the RDA of both protein and iodine, trace amounts of vitamins A, C, and B12, as well as calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and sodium.

If you're new to the wide world of edible seaweed, it's fun—and not too expensive—to experiment with this versatile and nutritious food. Most small packages of seaweed cost anywhere from $5 to $9 for a few ounces, with larger (1-pound) bulk quantities costing anywhere from $25 or $30, up to $60 for rare or extra-fine-quality varieties. (The smaller-sized packages will provide more than enough product for your culinary needs and/or adventures.)

There are more than a few different brands out there, so read the labels carefully and go for any brand that clearly states the organic origins and farming methods of the product. Most companies that sell seaweed products offer pristine, high-quality growing conditions and ecologically friendly harvests. Again, seaweeds, by nature, are vegan and gluten-free, and are widely used in raw-food and macrobiotic diets.

Here's one of my favorite salad recipes—perfect for summertime when chilled, and bursting with a crunchy refreshing zing when you add slivers of fresh ginger and a touch of rice wine vinegar!

Wakame and Cucumber Salad

For salad:

  • 2 Tbsp. dry wakame seaweed (soak and drain according to package after measuring)
  • 1/2 cucumber, sliced (scrub peel free of wax and leave on)
  • 1 tsp. grated or slivered fresh ginger

For dressing:

  • 1 Tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
  • A few drops of agave nectar (or 1/2 tsp. sugar)

Stir dressing ingredients together until well mixed, especially if using granulated sugar. Place all ingredients in bowl and toss with dressing. Chill in tightly covered bowl. Yum! (Makes 1 serving.)

Preparation Time: 20 minutes

Nutritional Information (per serving)
Calories Protein Carbs Fiber Total Fat Saturated Fat Sodium
47 2 grams 15.5 grams 1 gram < 1 gram < 1 gram 631 milligrams

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5 Economical Ways to Get Your Workout Space in Shape

By Amy Ludwig

You've turned your living room, garage, bedroom, or office into your personal gym. But how can you help yourself think of it in that new way? With just a bit of arranging, you can create an organized, functional space that'll encourage you and motivate you to keep moving.

Woman Drinking Water

Here are five simple ideas to make your workout area a place you'll love to go to get sweaty and fit.

  1. Couple Working OutMake your space you-friendly. Take a moment to think about the equipment you need during a workout. Do you use weights? Resistance bands? Yoga blocks? What about your towel? Standing in your space, get a sense of where it's most convenient for you to grab them before, during, or after a workout. Then try to create storage as close to those spots as possible. Makes sense, right?

    You don't need to get fancy. Stack your weights neatly, or pick up a weight rack at a discount store or yard sale. Or there's nothing wrong with a good old milk crate. You can hang bands from a clothing hook, or repurpose a coat rack. Even pegboard, that home workshop classic, can do the job. If your workout space spends the rest of the day as a living room or bedroom, check out storage boxes that will slide neatly under your bed or sofa.

    The point is to keep your area tidy and your tools ready at hand. That way you won't have to hunt for your equipment, or get distracted by stray objects. Organization creates calm, and an orderly workout space will make it easier for you to focus and get going. Having the right storage also makes it easier to straighten up afterward, and frees the area for its other uses.
  2. Decorate with positive images. What's your workout goal? Are you trying to lose weight, get more muscle definition, or regulate your cholesterol or blood sugar? Maybe you're getting in shape for an event, like a wedding, a marathon, or a fabulous beach vacation. Or perhaps you're making healthy changes in your overall lifestyle, and you're looking forward to hiking, cross-country skiing, or learning to surf.

    Help envision your transformation by putting up pictures in your workout space that express your target. Clip or print photos showing flattering clothes you're going to wear, exciting activities you plan to do, exotic places you intend to travel. This is called creative visualization. If you don't think it helps, just ask a Russian Olympics coach.

    Before the 1980 Olympics, Soviet coaches did tests with their athletes to compare the effects of mental and physical training. They found that the greatest performance improvements occurred in the group whose training regimen consisted of the highest ratio of mental training to physical training among the participants: 75 percent to 25 percent. Like karate masters and Indian yogis, "The Soviets had discovered that mental images can act as a prelude to muscular impulses."1

    So the photos on your wall are more than pretty pictures. They're practical motivation. On a day when you're not fired up to work out, or if you feel yourself losing steam midway through, just look up. You'll see a clear image of the reason you're working so hard. It'll help you dig down and find renewed energy to keep going.
  3. Couple Carrying a CarpetDo some soundproofing. Want your family or roommates to support your workout routine wholeheartedly? Allow them to see the changes in your body without subjecting them to every single thump and grunt that's helping it happen.

    Making your workout area quieter will also keep down your outside distractions, which will help you focus. Don't worry—those other tasks will still be waiting for you after your workout.

    If you work out in a detached building, like a garage, lucky you! Much of your soundproofing is already done. If you pump iron inside a house or apartment, however, there are several fairly easy ways to muffle unwanted noise:
    • Lay down carpet. Most carpet stores sell remnants or carpet squares you can install yourself. Even if you want an uncarpeted floor for your workout area, adding floor covering to other parts of the room will help minimize the volume of your workout noise.
    • Hang fabric or drapes. Lining the windows and walls will help muffle higher-frequency sounds. For more urgent noise-reduction needs, look for special soundproof curtains.
    • If there's a gap above or below your door, attach weatherstripping, readily available at the hardware store, to close it. Installing weatherstripping just takes a little DIY skill. If you own your abode and there's a hollow-core door on your workout room (and if you don't mind shelling out a little more dough), you might want to consider changing it out for a solid wood or composite door.
  4. Make sure the area is well ventilated. When you commit to your workouts, you're bound to work up a good, healthy sweat. That's the whole point, in fact, and it's great—as long as you don't let weeks' worth of stink build up in a small space. That musty smell gives many of us traumatic flashbacks of the high school locker room. (Or is that just me?)

    Anyway, when in doubt, air it out. After you finish your session, crank open the window. If your area doesn't have a window, throw open the doors and switch on a portable fan. Flush out the humidity and get some fresh air in there, so everything can dry out. You're trying to build muscles, not a mold farm.

    Speaking of which, be sure to wash your towels and workout wear regularly too. Wash your exercise mat as well—but not with a detergent or harsh cleanser. For a great, mild mat cleaner, add a few drops of dishwashing liquid to 2 cups of warm water, along with a teaspoon of baking soda. Wet a cloth and wipe down your mat, then blot any excess moisture with a paper towel. Hang the mat on a line and allow it to dry thoroughly before rolling it up again.
  5. Color SamplesEnergize the room with color. Ever notice how color affects your mood? It's been posited that yellow promotes cheerfulness. Blue and green encourage relaxation, while red and orange stimulate energy. Color also influences our perception of space: walls painted in lighter, pale colors seem to recede, making a room seem bigger, while darker, saturated wall colors make a room feel smaller.

    Researchers Ravi Mehta and Rui Zhu discovered that different-colored environments improve peoples' performance at different types of tasks.2 Specifically, they found that subjects in a bright red room did better on a detail-oriented task, while those in a blue room excelled at a creative task. They theorized that red, traditionally associated with danger, may put people at a higher level of alertness. Blue, on the other hand, with its connotations of sea, sky, and relaxing wide-open spaces, opens up the mind and allows ideas to flow—doubling the creative output of the people in the blue room.

    Choose colors to prime yourself for your best workouts. Do you need to feel stimulated? Soothed? Uplifted? Add red, green, or yellow to your space accordingly. If painting is an option, even one wall of color can brighten your mood. Many paint stores sell returned gallons at discounted prices, and someone else's "mistake" might be your favorite shade. You can also incorporate color through the steps discussed previously, including drapery, workout equipment, storage units, or the pictures you hang on your wall.

As you head for the home improvement store, here's the overall point to remember: you want to make your workout space a place where you feel empowered and uplifted, ready to face your physical and mental challenges. By engaging your mind and all your senses in positive ways, you'll create a space you'll feel excited to come back to day after day.

1Robert Scaglione, William Cummins, Karate of Okinawa: Building Warrior Spirit, Tuttle Publishing, 1993, ISBN 0-9626484-0-X.
2Mehta, Ravi and Zhu, Rui. "Blue or Red? Exploring the Effect of Color on Cognitive Task Performances," Science, 27 February 2009: Vol. 323 no. 5918 pp. 1226-1229.

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Questions about your workout program, diet, the latest newsletter, or anything wellness related? Chat with Steve Edwards, Beachbody Fitness Advisor, in the Beachbody Chat Room on Monday, July 25th, at 3:00 PM ET, 12:00 PM PT.

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Check out our Fitness Advisor's responses to your comments in Steve Edwards' Mailbag on the Message Boards. If you'd like to receive Steve Edwards' Mailbag by email, click here to subscribe to Steve's Health and Fitness Newsletter. And if you'd like to know more about Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope.

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Tarah Carr Lost 49 Pounds with TurboFire®

Tarah Carr ate out of boredom and ended up weighing 162 pounds. Her husband, who was doing P90X®, introduced her to Beachbody®. Looking through what Beachbody programs had to offer, Tarah found TurboFire and lost 49 pounds and 31.5 inches. See her amazing transformation! Click below to watch the video.

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Recipe: Fresh Pea Soup

Fresh Pea Soup

Ever wonder why you rarely see fresh peas in the produce section of your supermarket? That's because the harvest season for fresh peas is exceptionally short, which is why they're usually found either frozen or canned. But if you hurry now, you can get fresh shelling peas from your local farmers' market before the season ends. Here's a delicious summer recipe for fresh pea soup.

  • 2 lbs. fresh shelling peas (in pods)
  • 4-1/2 cups water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, peeled and minced
  • 1 small carrot, minced
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • Salt (to taste)
  • 1 Tbsp. minced chives

Remove peas from pods (you should have about 2-1/4 cups). Place empty pea pods, water, bay leaves, and thyme in large saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer briskly for 15 minutes. Strain through sieve, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Reserve broth and discard solids. (You should have at least 3 cups of broth.)

Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, celery, and parsley, and sauté until vegetables soften, about 6 minutes. Add 3 cups broth (reserve any extra to add later if needed) and simmer for 5 minutes to blend flavors. Add peas and cook just until tender, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Puree soup in batches in blender until perfectly smooth, adding extra hot pea broth or hot water to thin if desired. Return to saucepan and add salt to taste. Ladle soup into individual bowls. Garnish with chives and serve immediately. (Makes 4 servings.)

Preparation Time: 1 hour

Nutritional Information (per serving)
Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total Saturated Fat
99 5 grams 5 grams 15 grams 3 grams < 1 gram

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