Is Seaweed Good for the Brain?

Seaweed brain benefits

TL;DR Article Summary

Seaweed—the first thing you may think of is slimy green stuff on a beach. Or, if you love seafood, you may think of a sushi wrap. However, did you know that seaweed is actually a brain booster? Rich in iodine, antioxidants, and other nutrients, seaweed contains all the right nutrients that can support your brain-friendly diet. Some of seaweed’s benefits include neuroprotection, cognitive support, and mood enhancement. The only caveat is to avoid seaweed if you have thyroid problems. [5]

Diet and Brain Health

What we eat doesn’t just determine how we look, but it also influences your brain health to a massive degree. Today, we’re going to look at how seaweed, with its nutrients, may affect your brain health and function.

What is Seaweed?

Seaweed is actually an umbrella term used for many species of marine plants and algae which grow in salty waters around the globe. This food has been a staple in East Asian diets for centuries.

While tiny at first glance, seaweed packs a quite a punch with its nutrients. It’s rich in many essential nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and beneficial plant compounds.

Nutrients in Seaweed for Brain Health

One example of an amazing nutrient in seaweed is omega-3 fatty acids. Along with that we have antioxidants and iodine in abundant quantities in most types of seaweed. All three of these nutrients are important for keeping your brain sharp.

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for brain health because your brain is made up of 60% fat, and a significant portion of that is DHA, a type of omega-3 fatty acid. Omega-3s play a role in maintaining the structure of your brain cells, supporting memory, and relieving depressive symptoms.

Antioxidants in seaweed protect the brain from inflammation. Meanwhile, iodine is vital for thyroid function, and as you may know, thyroid massively influences brain development and cognition.

Seaweed and Neuroprotection

  • Beyond the basic nutrients we mentioned, seaweed has compounds that may be neuroprotective in nature. Research shows that seaweed’s compounds may help reduce brain inflammation and reduce or even prevent the buildup of harmful proteins that contribute to diseases like Alzheimer’s. [1, 2, 3]

Thanks to these neuroprotective effects, seaweed might play a role in preventing or slowing down early cognitive decline, supporting your brain health in the background so to speak, even though you may not feel it. [4] With that said, we’ll need to see more research to fully understand seaweed’s effects on long-term brain health.

Any Risks to Consider?

Seaweed is generally safe and healthy for most people. However, you should consume it in moderation because it’s high in iodine.

Too much of a good thing – iodine in this case – can lead to thyroid problems. Another important caveat: seaweed can absorb toxins from polluted waters, so make sure to source it from reputable suppliers.

Conclusion

Seaweed’s nutritive benefits and high amounts of iodine, antioxidants, and potential brain-boosting compounds, make it a decent addition to a brain-healthy diet. But just like with any food, it’s important to consume it in moderation. Ideally, you’ll want to combine it with proven brain foods and supplements for significant results.

Further Reading:

References

  1. Morris MC, Schneider JA, Tangney CC. Thoughts on B-vitamins and dementia. J Alzheimers Dis. 2006 Aug;9(4):429-33. doi: 10.3233/jad-2006-9409. PMID: 16917152; PMCID: PMC3428233.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3428233/
  2. Popescu A, German M. Vitamin K2 Holds Promise for Alzheimer’s Prevention and Treatment. Nutrients. 2021 Jun 27;13(7):2206. doi: 10.3390/nu13072206. PMID: 34199021; PMCID: PMC8308377.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8308377/
  3. Lomartire S, Marques JC, Gonçalves AMM. An Overview to the Health Benefits of Seaweeds Consumption. Mar Drugs. 2021 Jun 15;19(6):341. doi: 10.3390/md19060341. PMID: 34203804; PMCID: PMC8232781.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8232781/
  4. Pereira L, Valado A. The Seaweed Diet in Prevention and Treatment of the Neurodegenerative Diseases. Mar Drugs. 2021 Feb 26;19(3):128. doi: 10.3390/md19030128. PMID: 33652930; PMCID: PMC7996752.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7996752/
  5. Smyth PPA. Iodine, Seaweed, and the Thyroid. Eur Thyroid J. 2021 Apr;10(2):101-108. doi: 10.1159/000512971. Epub 2021 Jan 27. PMID: 33981614; PMCID: PMC8077470.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8077470/

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