Kombu is a brown seaweed found off the coasts of Korea and Japan. It’s used interchangeably in recipes that require Wakame (a similar form of seaweed) and Laminaria japonica (actually a type of algae). Low in calories and fat-free, yet high in rich vitamins and nutrients, Kombu has long been a staple in East Asian cuisine. Kombu, also called Kashima or haidai, is commonly used to make cooking stock. Grown by seaweed farmers, it’s usually sold in a dried form or pickled in vinegar. Although it may be used in place of Nori for a sushi wrap, it’s most common in a salad or soup.
Kombu has a surprising amount of calcium – especially beneficial for those who follow a vegan diet or otherwise do not consume dairy products. This vital mineral is key to building strong bones and preserving the integrity of your skeleton as you age. The correct amount of calcium is essential for post-menopausal and senior women. One ounce of Kombu provides about 12 percent of the average daily allowance of calcium. Adding this tangy, earthy seaweed to a compound salad or mixing it into homemade soups is an excellent way to ensure that you meet your dietary requirements.
Dietary fiber is essential to a properly moving gut. The roughage from an adequate amount of fiber helps move the food you eat through your system and helps pass some of the matter that isn’t used. People who enjoy the right amount of fiber in their diet report more regular, healthier bowel movements and less gas and bloating. Kombu provides 7 grams of soluble fiber per one-ounce serving. Incorporating plenty of fiber into a healthy diet can help ease the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and other digestive complaints.
Natural source of iron
What causes anemia is low levels of iron in your body. Iron increases the number of red blood cells in your bloodstream, as well as the capability of the cells to carry oxygen to the rest of your system. Rich, oxygenated blood leads to faster cell regeneration and more energy for you. Those with anemia may feel fatigued and have difficulty with physical tasks. A diet that doesn’t include red meat may lead to difficulty getting the proper amount of iron through food. Kombu is rich in dietary iron, making it an excellent natural food source of minerals. A one-ounce serving of Kombu can aid with shortness of breath, fatigue, and dry nails associated with anemia.
Better oral health
Your bones aren’t the only part of your body that benefits from proper amounts of calcium. Your teeth, also, require this vital mineral for strength and protection. Kombu is an excellent plant source of calcium, ideal for people who do not consume dairy products. Your entire mouth benefits from eating Kombu. Rich in iron, this leafy plant improves your blood circulation and overall gum health. If you have bleeding gums, higher levels of iron can help. Blood rich in oxygen helps your cells heal, thereby reducing the effects of sensitive gums.
Boost your immune system
During cold and flu season especially, it’s easy for your body to become run down. A deficiency in vitamins and nutrients can make you more susceptible to illness, while a diet rich in Vitamin B, Vitamin C, and zinc can actually help you ward off viruses. Kombu contains high levels of Vitamins B, C, D, and E, as well as traces of germanium, magnesium, and zinc. All these nutrients enhance organ function, immunity, muscle agility, and general wellness.
Regulate your metabolism
Kombu has plenty of dietary fiber. Proper amounts of fiber aid with your digestion, slowing the pace at which the food moves through your body and keeping your blood sugar levels more consistent. The satiating effect of fiber also helps keep you feeling fuller, and longer, thereby avoiding intense cravings as your blood sugar spikes and crashes. For those with pre-diabetes or diabetes managed through physical activity and proper diet, adding Kombu to a balanced diet will help regulate your metabolism and avoid damaging blood sugar peaks. Furthermore, Kombu has plenty of iodine, critical to boosting thyroid function and improving metabolism.
Improve cardiovascular health
Kombu can boost your heart health in a couple of different ways. The iron-rich plant stimulates the production of red blood cells, as well as increases the functioning of those cells already in your body. Blood rich in oxygen increases brain function and provides more energy to your muscles. This helps with your mental and physical performance. Better blood flow also reduces the amount that your heart has to work to bring oxygen to your body, especially the extremities. With more efficient blood flow, your heat won’t have to pump as hard, helping ease stress and strain on that organ.
Sun, wind, and daily exposure all work to make your skin dull, lifeless and damaged. More oxygen-rich blood and high levels of vitamin B both contribute to your body’s ability to regenerate new, glowing skin. Although Kombu isn’t a fountain of youth, adding it to a healthy diet can improve the texture and tone of your skin. As we age, the cells in our body break down, causing fine lines and wrinkles. Healthy replenishment of damaged cells ensures that you’ll retain youth and vitality for a more extended period.
Incorporating Kombu into your diet
Typically kombu comes in dry sheets. These can be crumbled into powder and added to a tea or smoothie for those who desire the health benefits but don’t care for the taste. Soaking dried Kombu sheets results in a pliable seaweed, which can be substituted for Nori in sushi rolls, or tossed with vinegar to make a seaweed salad. It’s a sea vegetable, so you can slice it finely and add it to soups or cooking stocks. Finally, you can add it to a bean dish, for color and a slight umami flavor.
Side effects of Kombu
Although Kombu has many health benefits, there are some precautions you should be aware of. The most common is hyperthyroidism – a condition in which the thyroid becomes overactive as a result of consuming too much iodine. Those who are taking potassium supplements should also avoid Kombu until their dosing regimen is complete. Pregnant women should avoid consuming Kombu altogether. Although it was once used to induce labor, its safety is now questionable. This seaweed is associated with cervical rupture and infections. Please avoid Kombu if you are pregnant or likely to become pregnant.