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[whitespace] If It's Green, It Must Be Good for You

By Traci Vogel

FOR SUCH a modest little sushi-wrapper, you'd never guess that seaweed is one of the most popular foods on earth. In 1998, for instance, Japan produced 10,326,000,000 sheets of Porphyra seaweed (known as nori)--enough to string around the earth's equator 78.5 times.

Seaweed's popularity belies its health benefits. Just how good for you is seaweed? For one, it has a high soluble-fiber content, which means it can lower cholesterol. Seaweed parades a long list of minerals, including sodium, magnesium, potassium and phosphorus, as well as essential trace elements such as iodine, iron, zinc, copper and selenium. It's also one of the richest plant sources of both vitamin C and calcium on earth.

Seaweed is what macrobiotic nutritionists like to call a "ying" food--it's a plant that produces vitamins efficiently, offers them in an easy-for-humans-to-absorb form and burns slowly. Seaweed also beats out land plants because, unlike most of them, it contains vitamin B12.

Even if you think you don't like seaweed, you're probably eating it every day. Compounds of seaweed turn up as thickeners and stabilizers in toothpaste and ice cream (listed as carrageenan), in jams and jellies (agar), and even in beer (alginate). Your mother would be so proud.

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From the May 2-8, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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