Last update: June 25, 2024

6 minute read

What is Kelp?

Dive into the benefits of kelp, the underwater wonder. Learn its nutritional secrets, health effects, and how to include it in your diet for a healthier life.

Stephanie Wright

By Stephanie Wright, RN, BSN

Edited by Dr. Jacquie Leone, NMD, HN

Learn more about our editorial standards

Kelp supplements are gaining attention for their nutritional benefits, but what exactly is kelp? This article explores the world of kelp, its essential nutrients, and potential health advantages.

Key takeaways

  • Kelp is rich in essential nutrients like iodine, iron, and magnesium
  • You can add kelp to your diet by adding it to soups, salads, and smoothies
  • Overconsumption of kelp can lead to an excess of iodine, potentially causing thyroid issues

    What is kelp?

    Kelp is a type of large, brown seaweed that flourishes in shallow, nutrient-rich saltwater near coastal waters. This marine plant has adapted perfectly to these underwater environments, absorbing the nutrients around it like a sponge.

    Kelp is a key ingredient in many Asian cuisines and comes packed with essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Notably, kelp produces a compound called sodium alginate.

    This compound is a game-changer in the food industry, where it's commonly used as a thickener in many foods, including ice cream and salad dressing. But remember, the real treasure lies in consuming natural kelp, which can be eaten in many forms, like raw, cooked, powdered, or even as a supplement.

    Why should you include kelp in your diet?

    The nutritional benefits of kelp are impressive. Packed with vitamins, minerals, and trace elements, this sea vegetable is a powerhouse of nutrients.

    According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), seaweed like kelp is a natural food source of iodine, an essential component in thyroid hormone production. So, why is iodine important?

    Well, iodine plays a crucial role in your metabolism. Lack of it can disrupt your metabolism, leading to the enlargement of the thyroid gland, and causing various complications.

    Here are some noteworthy nutrients found in kelp:

    • Vitamin K1
    • Folate
    • Magnesium
    • Iodine
    • Iron
    • Vitamin A
    • Vitamin B6
    • Calcium
    VitaRx Tip

    These nutrients play a significant role in our health. For instance, both vitamin K and calcium are key players in maintaining bone health, while folate is essential for cell division.

    Dos and don'ts of consuming kelp

    Whether you're a newcomer or a seasoned health enthusiast, knowing all about kelp ensures you harness the nutritional benefits of this versatile seaweed while sidestepping common pitfalls. Here are some "dos and don'ts" to consider when it comes to kelp.


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      Do consider adding kelp to your diet for its nutritional benefits.

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      Do try kelp in many forms—raw, cooked, powdered, or as a supplement.

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      Do consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new supplement regimen.


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      Don't consume kelp excessively as it may lead to iodine overload.

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      Don't forget to check the sourcing of your kelp to ensure it's free from pollutants.

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      Don't rely solely on kelp for your nutritional needs—balance is key.

    Can kelp help fight diseases?

    Now that we've discussed the nutritional benefits of kelp, let's talk about its potential to help fight diseases. The high antioxidant content of kelp, including carotenoids and flavonoids, allows it to help fight against disease-causing free radicals. Also, antioxidant minerals like manganese and zinc combat oxidative stress, which may help protect cardiovascular health.

    Can kelp aid in weight loss?

    If you're looking for a low-fat, low-calorie food to add to your diet, kelp might just be the solution. It contains a natural fiber called alginate that may help stop the gut from absorbing fat.

    One study published in the journal Marine Drugs found that boiled kelp powder enhanced weight loss and improved body fat percentage. These findings indicate that kelp may have the potential for diabetes and obesity, although further research is still needed.

    Additionally, studies suggest that brown seaweed, like kelp, may influence glycemic management and reduce blood glucose levels. This could be particularly beneficial for people with type 2 diabetes.

    Furthermore, a study published in the journal Diabetes, Obesity, and Metabolism found that a carotenoid compound in brown seaweed, known as fucoxanthin, may promote weight loss in people with obesity when combined with pomegranate oil.

    How can you add kelp to your diet?

    You don't need to book a flight to Asia or be a contestant on a reality TV show like 'Survivor' to experience the benefits of kelp. This fantastic sea vegetable is available in many forms, and you can consume it as a food or supplement. Here's how you can add kelp to your diet:

    What are some simple ways to eat kelp?

    1. Add organic, dried kelp into soups and stews: This gives an umami boost to your favorite comfort foods.
    2. Use raw kelp noodles in salads and main dishes: They're a fantastic, gluten-free alternative to traditional pasta.
    3. Sprinkle dried kelp flakes onto foods as a seasoning: It's a great way to add extra flavor and nutrition.
    4. Serve it cold with oil and sesame seeds: This simple preparation lets the unique taste of kelp shine.
    5. Blend it into vegetable juice: If you're a fan of green smoothies, you'll love this twist.

    VitaRx Tip

    While it's best to obtain nutrients from dietary sources, including kelp supplements in your routine could be a beneficial addition.

    Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

    Before we wrap up, let's address some of the most common queries that may have popped up in your mind while reading this post. Here are a few FAQs to deepen your understanding of the topic.

    Final thoughts

    Well, we're at the end of our deep-sea dive into the world of kelp and supplements. Now you're seaweed-savvy!

    Remember, like any good salad, a balanced diet is all about the mix. Kelp alone won't cut it – you need a variety of nutrients to keep your body at its best.

    Sources and references


    Stephanie Wright avatar

    Stephanie brings over 13 years of diverse nursing experience to the table, having honed her expertise in critical care, mental health, and utilization management. Her journey as a registered nurse across these various healthcare sectors underscores her adaptability and deep commitment to patient care.

    Fact checker

     Dr. Jacquie Leone avatar

    Dr. Leone holds a BA in Psychology, a Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine, and board certification in holistic nutrition. In addition to practicing medicine, Dr. Leone has developed and currently teaches science and nutrition courses for a nationally accredited institution. She specializes in chronic illness, gastrointestinal dysregulation, inflammatory conditions, and mental health. Her unique approach combines the wisdom of Eastern medicine with the technology and science of Western medicine, offering an integrative approach heavily focused on functional medicine.

    At VitaRx, we're not just passionate about our work — we take immense pride in it. Our dedicated team of writers diligently follows strict editorial standards, ensuring that every piece of content we publish is accurate, current, and highly valuable. We don't just strive for quality; we aim for excellence.

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