Recently, I went to dinner at a popular restaurant in Los Angeles where they specialize in both raw and cooked vegan dishes. While I saw all kinds of amazing healthy options, like lentils and brown rice and of course, my personal favorite, kale, I wanted to try something different.
I noticed in the main entrée section of the menu there was a dish made with kelp noodles. KELP noodles? Like, as in, from the sea kelp? I had never tried such an item before. But the waiter promised me it would be delicious and was a best seller on their menu, so I decided to give it a shot. Below is a picture of the dish when it arrived before me. How glorious does that look? This particular kelp noodle dish is covered in hempseed pesto! I was skeptical, but it was amazing!
|This dish is called ” I Am Liberated” from Cafe Gratitude…I recommend it…especially if it is your first kelp noodle dish.|
So now you may ask, what exactly are kelp noodles? Kelp noodles are a food made from kelp (obviously!), an edible brown seaweed that contains high amounts of iodine. Marketed as a low-calorie alternative to pasta and other noodle varieties, kelp noodles contain kelp, sodium alginate (a form of seaweed-derived salt), and water.
There are two types of kelp noodles: green and clear. Green kelp noodles have the consistency of al dente pasta and taste like seaweed. Clear kelp noodles, the more popular type and the type that was in my “pasta” dish, have a relatively bland taste, but some brands have a slightly salty and bitter taste that can be reduced somewhat with thorough rinsing. They are just a tad crunchy, but if you enjoy eating pasta but are watching your carbohydrate intake, they do a pretty good job filling that need.
Kelp noodles are sold in some natural-foods stores and Asian grocery stores and are also available for purchase online.
Since no cooking is required in their preparation, kelp noodles are often marketed to people following a raw food diet, a gluten free diet or trying to avoid starchy carbohydrates. Not all kelp noodles are raw, so read the label or go to the manufacturer’s website if you are looking for raw kelp noodles.
Some advocates claim that kelp noodles offer a wide range of health benefits, partly due to their iodine content. For instance, kelp noodles are said to improve thyroid health, promote weight loss, protect against osteoporosis, and enhance heart health. However, despite these health claims, there is no evidence that consumption of kelp noodles can aid in the prevention or treatment of any health condition.
So, how nutritious are these noodles? Kelp noodles contain no fat, cholesterol, protein, or sugar. Per serving, they typically contain one gram of carbohydrates, one gram of fiber, and 35 milligrams of sodium. In addition, kelp noodles typically provide 15 percent of your daily calcium needs and four percent of your daily iron needs per serving. Most kelp noodles contain fewer than 10 calories per serving.
How much iodine does a person really need? Iodine is a trace mineral and essential nutrient and plays plays a key role in metabolism and thyroid function. Inadequate iodine intake can lead to thyroid problems, such as hypothyroidism.
While kelp is considered a top source of iodine, the exact amount of iodine in kelp noodles is unknown. To reach your daily iodine needs (150 mcg per day for most adults), the National Institute of Health (NIH) recommend following a balanced diet that includes seafood (especially cod, sea bass, haddock, and perch), kelp and other sea vegetables, and moderate amounts of iodized salt.
Since kelp noodles are low in fiber, using them as a substitute for whole-grain pasta or brown rice may significantly reduce your fiber intake. The NIH currently recommends that older children, adolescents, and adults consume 20 to 35 grams of fiber per day. Inadequate fiber intake can cause digestive problems and may contribute to a number of health conditions, including heart disease and diabetes.