Waking up to the Benefits of Wakame

Wakame (Undaria pinnatifida) is a sea vegetable, or edible seaweed. It is a member of the Alariaceae family, along with kelp.

Wakame has been eaten in Korea for centuries and in what is now Japan for at least ten thousand years, along with kombu. In 702 AD, the Taiho Ritsuryo, the oldest law drafted in Japan, stated that wakame was to be used as a tax, along with nori and arame. In the 8th century, the oldest existing anthology of Japanese poetry, the Manyoshu, contained references to wakame as a special dish served in sacred services or used as an offering to nobility.

Only after the 17th century were ordinary people able to obtain and eat wakame, and cookbooks began including information on preparing wakame dishes. In 1867 the word “wakame” appeared in an English-language publication, A Japanese and English Dictionary, by James C. Hepburn. In the past, people ate only wild-harvested wakame, but today, commercially cultivated and harvested wakame is making it increasingly available.

Starting in the 1960s, the word “wakame” started to be used widely in the United States, and the product (imported in dried form from Japan) became widely available at natural food stores and Asian-American grocery stores, due to the influence of the macrobiotic movement, and the growing number of Japanese restaurants and sushi bars.

Wakame is an excellent source of iodine, chromiummanganese, folate, and magnesium. It’s a very good source of calcium, copperriboflavin and iron, and a good source of phosphorusniacinvitamin Kvitamin Apantothenic acidproteinvitamin C, and vitamin E.

Wakame can:

  1. Fight cancer. Wakame is rich in iodine, which seems to suppress, even kill, mammary tumors. The iodine in wakame and other sea vegetables that are so prevalent in Japanese cuisine are responsible for the relatively low breast cancer rate in Japan. This hypothesis is based on the observed increase in breast cancer rates among Japanese women who turned to a Western-style diet with lower seaweed intake.
  2. Help you control your weight. Wakame contains fucoxanthin, a pigment that seems to reduce the accumulation of fat. Fucoxanthin appears to stimulate fat oxidation and to stimulate your liver to produce more DHA, a type of omega-3 fatty acid that helps reduce the bad cholesterol associated with heart disease and obesity. It also improves insulin resistance. Wakame is also an excellent source of chromium, which enhances the actions of insulin and is necessary for maintaining normal metabolism and storage of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates.
  3. Fight free radicals. Wakame contains fucoidan, a type of complex carbohydrate that is anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor and anti-oxidativeIodine in wakame also acts as an antioxidantManganese in wakame is a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Wakame is also high in the antioxidants vitamin Avitamin C, and vitamin E.
  4. Build strong bonesManganese in wakame facilitates the formation of bone. Folate in wakame helps prevent osteoporosis-related bone fractures. Magnesium in wakame keeps bones strong. Calcium in wakame supports bone structure.

Nutrients in 100 Grams of Wakame

Nutrient

Amount

Daily Value

iodine

8500 µg

5667%

chromium

20 µg

100%

manganese

1.4 mg

70%

folate

196 µg

49%

sodium

872 mg

36%

magnesium

107 mg

27%

calcium

150 mg

15%

copper

0.3 mg

14%

riboflavin

0.2 mg

14%

iron

2.2 mg

12%

phosphorus

80 mg

8%

niacin

1.6 mg

8%

vitamin K

5.3 µg

7%

vitamin A

360 IU

7%

pantothenic acid

0.7 mg

7%

protein

3 g

6%

vitamin C

3 mg

5%

vitamin E

1 IU

5%

thiamine

0.1 mg

4%

carbohydrates

9.1 g

3%

zinc

0.4 mg

3%

Calories

45

2%

fiber

0.5 g

2%

potassium

50 mg

1%

selenium

0.7 µg

1%

fat

0.6 g

1%

vitamin B6

0.002 mg

0.001%

Wakame is thin, stringy, and deep green in color. It can be found at any health food store, and some grocery sotres that have health food sections. Wakame can be found either dried or fresh, in a refrigerated and sealed package. When refrigerated, the wakame is preserved with sea salt and is partially dry so that it’s moist to the touch, but not dehydrated and brittle like nori sheets.

Use kitchen shears to cut wakame into desired size, as it can be tough to cut with a knife. Remember, seaweed will expand significantly when rehydrated, so cut it into pieces much smaller than the desired finished size. If your wakame has a thick stem, remove this part, as it’s not edible. You can soak fresh wakame in cold water for around a half an hour before using, to reduce the saltiness. Or you can soak it in warm water for around 15 minutes. You can also add it directly to a cooking pot. Browner varieties have a stronger flavor, while the greener varieties are more mild.

Enjoy wakame in a cucumber salad, dressed with rice vinegar and soy sauce. To make miso soup, add wakame, cubed tofu, and a few tablespoons of miso paste to a kombu or vegetable stock.


This blog uses the latest nutritional data available from the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), and the FDA (United States Food and Drug Administration), as well as nutritional data provided by food growers and manufacturers about their products. We believe the information on this website to be accurate. However, we are not responsible for typographical or other errors. Nutrition information for recipes is calculated by Living Cookbook based on the ingredients in each recipe based on statistical averages. Nutrition may vary based on methods of preparation, origin and freshness of ingredients, and other factors.

This blog is not a substitute for the services of a trained health professional. Although we provide nutritional information, the information on this blog is for informational purposes only. No information offered by or through this blog shall be construed as or understood to be medical advice or care. None of the information on this blog should be used to diagnose or treat any health problem or disease. Consult with a health care provider before taking any product or using any information on this blog. Please discuss any concerns with your health care provider.

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