Wakame is a type of edible seaweed that has been cultivated in Japan and Korea for centuries.
In addition to bringing a unique taste and texture to soups and salads, wakame is low in calories but high in several nutrients that are essential to health.
Plus, it offers a long list of potential benefits, including improved heart health and enhanced weight loss.
Here are 8 surprising health benefits of wakame seaweed.
Wakame is low in calories but supplies a good amount of important nutrients.
- Calories: 5
- Protein: 0.5 grams
- Carbs: 1 gram
- Iodine: 280% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
- Manganese: 7% of the RDI
- Folate: 5% of the RDI
- Sodium: 4% of the RDI
- Magnesium: 3% of the RDI
- Calcium: 2% of the RDI
Each serving of wakame also contains vitamins A, C, E and K, as well as iron, copper and phosphorus.
Summary Wakame is very low in calories but contains a good amount of iodine, manganese, folate, magnesium and calcium.
Rounding out its stellar nutrient profile, wakame is a good source of iodine.
In fact, wakame contains approximately 42 mcg of iodine per gram, which is about 28% of the RDI (2).
Iodine is an essential mineral that your body uses to produce thyroid hormones, which help support growth, metabolism, protein synthesis and cell repair (3).
A deficiency in this key micronutrient can contribute to hypothyroidism, a condition in which your thyroid is unable to make enough thyroid hormone to support normal function.
Summary Wakame is a good source of iodine, which is essential to thyroid function and the production of thyroid hormones.
High blood pressure is a condition that places extra strain on your heart and blood vessels, weakening your heart muscle and increasing your risk of heart disease (6).
Some research suggests that adding wakame to your diet can help keep blood pressure under control and optimize heart health.
For instance, one ten-week study showed that administering substances extracted from wakame to rats significantly decreased systolic blood pressure (the top number of a blood pressure reading) (7).
Another study in 417 children showed that a higher intake of seaweed lowered blood pressure (8).
However, more human studies are needed to evaluate how wakame may affect blood pressure among the general population.
Summary Animal and human studies show that wakame may help reduce blood pressure levels, but more research is needed to better understand cause and effect.
Cholesterol plays a role in many aspects of health, ranging from hormone production to fat digestion.
However, excess blood cholesterol can build up in your arteries and block blood flow, increasing your risk of heart attack and stroke (9).
While current research is limited to animal studies, some studies have found that wakame may lower cholesterol levels and help improve heart health.
In fact, one study found that supplementing with wakame seaweed was effective at lowering levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol in rats (10).
Similarly, another animal study showed that dried wakame powder altered the expression of specific genes to help significantly decrease cholesterol levels after just 28 days (11).
Despite these promising results, understanding how wakame may affect cholesterol levels in humans requires further research.
Summary Animal studies have found that wakame may lower cholesterol levels to help promote heart health. However, human research is lacking.
One of the most impressive health benefits of wakame is its ability to block cancer cell growth in some animal and test-tube studies.
For example, one animal study showed that giving wakame seaweed to rats helped suppress the growth and spread of breast cancer cells (12).
Another test-tube study found that specific compounds extracted from wakame seaweed were effective at inhibiting the growth of colon and kidney cancer cells (13).
However, some studies have had mixed results. One study in 52,679 women reported that increased seaweed consumption was linked to a higher risk of thyroid cancer, which could be a result of excess iodine intake (14, 15, 16).
Therefore, more research is necessary to determine how wakame may impact cancer cell formation in humans.
Summary Test-tube and animal studies show that wakame may help block the growth and spread of cancer cells, but the research remains inconclusive.
Some studies have found that wakame can help reduce blood sugar levels and improve insulin resistance to enhance overall health.
One four-week study showed that supplementing with 48 grams of seaweed daily significantly decreased blood sugar levels in 20 people with diabetes (17).
Another study in animals showed that wakame was able to prevent insulin resistance — a condition that impairs your body’s ability to use insulin efficiently for transporting sugar to your cells, causing high blood sugar (18).
Still, current research on the effects of wakame on blood sugar is limited. Additional studies are needed to discover how wakame may impact blood sugar levels in humans.
Summary Animal studies show that wakame can reduce glucose production in the body and prevent insulin resistance to keep blood sugar under control. Yet, human research is lacking.
If you’re looking to drop a few extra pounds, you may want to consider incorporating wakame into your diet.
Not only is it high in several key nutrients, but it has also been shown to promote weight control in animal studies.
One study found that supplementing with wakame seaweed extract suppressed weight gain in mice on a high-fat diet (19).
What’s more, another study found that wakame exhibited anti-obesity effects in rats and was able to reduce fat tissue (20).
Because most research has been conducted in animals, additional high-quality studies are needed to look at how wakame may affect weight in humans.
Summary Several animal studies have found that wakame can prevent weight gain and reduce the amount of fat tissue in the body.
Wakame is enjoyed around the world for its soft texture and mild flavor.
It’s also highly versatile and can serve as an ingredient in a variety of dishes and recipes.
Frequently found in dried form, wakame is typically soaked in water for about ten minutes before consumption to help it soften and remove excess salt.
After soaking, wakame can easily replace leafy greens like lettuce, spinach or arugula in your favorite salads.
You can also add the strips into soups for a burst of flavor and nutrients.
Alternatively, serve wakame as a side dish topped with a bit of soy sauce or rice vinegar to complete your meal.
Summary Wakame can be soaked and added to soups, salads and side dishes to enhance the nutrient profile of your favorite foods.
Though wakame is generally healthy, consuming excess amounts may cause adverse side effects in some people.
It’s also high in iodine, packing in roughly 28% of the RDI per gram (2).
Although iodine is necessary for the production of thyroid hormones, consuming excess amounts can harm the health of your thyroid and cause symptoms like fever, stomach pain, nausea and diarrhea (15, 24).
Summary Wakame is high in iodine, and certain brands may also be high in sodium. Both can cause negative side effects if consumed in excess. Seaweed may also contain small amounts of certain heavy metals.
Wakame is a highly nutritious, edible seaweed that can add a range of vitamins and minerals to your diet for a low number of calories.
It’s also been associated with various health benefits, including lower cholesterol levels, decreased blood pressure, enhanced weight loss and reduced blood sugar.
Best of all, there are many different ways to enjoy this tasty seaweed as part of a balanced diet, making it easy to take advantage of its unique health-promoting properties.