Despite having been consumed consistently for millions of years,  the popularity of seaweed as a ‘superfood’ has skyrocketed in recent times.  From sushi to salad to smoothies, seaweed-infused meals and snacks are quickly becoming the norm, offering a range of benefits for your health and wellbeing.
But with so many ways to consume seaweed, how do you know where to begin? We’re going to take a closer look at what exactly makes seaweed so good for your health, as well as exploring some of the key ways to include seaweed in your daily diet.
Why seaweed is so important for your health . . . especially if you’re vegan
If you’re a regular reader of our blog, then you’ll already be familiar with the importance of seaweed for addressing iodine deficiency. Iodine is an essential nutrient that supports our thyroid health, our metabolism, our cognitive development and more. Yet the UK is one of two high-income countries with iodine deficiency issues, with the issue particularly common in teenage girls, young women and pregnant people. 
And iodine deficiency is also a growing issue among vegans. More and more people are choosing to follow a plant-based diet for either health or moral reasons,  but foregoing dairy and seafood can increase your risk of suffering from dangerously low iodine levels.  As the only viable vegan source of iodine, seaweed is key for addressing this.
As well as iodine, seaweed also contains key nutrients like iron, calcium and potassium. Each of these nutrients has its own role to play in our health: iron supports red blood cell production;  calcium strengthens bones and teeth,  and potassium can improve your blood pressure and heart health. 
5 ways to add seaweed into your diet
Nori as a snack
As a lightweight and highly accessible form of seaweed, nori snacks are becoming increasingly popular. They’re an easy and healthy alternative to crisps when you’re craving something with a salty tang during the day. However, nori can still be high in sodium, so it’s best not to consume large amounts of it.
Seaweed as a salt replacement
Speaking of sodium, some people get their seaweed fix by using it as a salt replacement. The NHS warns that consuming high amounts of salt can lead to raised blood pressure, increasing your risk of heart disease and stroke.  Replacing salt with seaweed for some of your meals is a good way to lower your salt intake and increase your seaweed intake in one simple action.
Seaweed powders like that present in Doctor Seaweed’s Weed & Wonderful® organic seaweed capsules can be added to smoothies for an extra health kick. Certain kinds of seaweed, like spirulina, are particularly common in seaweed smoothies, though some spirulina can contain traces of heavy metals and bacteria, so it’s always best to check the traceability before consuming.
Kelp in stocks, soups and stews
Vegetable stocks, stews and soups are already packed full of veggie goodness, so seaweed is more than welcome to join. Whether in strip or powder form, adding seaweed into your stew can give it a healthy boost.
Supplements are arguably the easiest and most effective way to introduce the benefits of seaweed into your diet. The organic Hebridean seaweed present in Doctor Seaweed’s Weed & Wonderful® organic seaweed capsules is wild-harvested using key quality control measures, meaning just one 500mg capsule of contains as much iodine as a portion of haddock. This allows our seaweed to contribute to normal metabolism, thyroid health, cognitive function, skin maintenance, nervous system function, and growth in children, providing an easy way to get your seaweed fix with minimal effort.
Please note that I may earn a small commission from purchases made through product links in this article at no extra cost to you. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Last updated: July 31, 2021
One of the most underrated vegetables is seaweed. Okay, that’s a little cheeky of course, but seaweed is actually considered a sea vegetable.
Edible types of seaweed offer incredible and also unique health benefits that most of us are missing out on, or are otherwise not getting enough from.
The easiest way to consume more seaweed is with seaweed cookies and bars that you can easily find in the supermarket. But there are better ways to add more natural and unprocessed seaweed to your diet.
The Benefits of Eating Seaweed
Eating seaweed is not something we typically learn to do at a young age in many western countries, and more than often we’re simply not aware of the benefits of eating seaweed.
Here are a few reasons for you to start including seaweed in your diet:
- A lot of the food grown on the land is lacking in minerals because of aggressive farming practices and lack of remineralization. Seaweed is packed with minerals from the ocean.
- If you’re worried about the toxic chemical accumulation the higher up you go in the food chain, especially in fish, don’t be. Seaweed is as low in the oceanic food chain as it gets.
- Seaweed is great for balancing out the thyroid gland, which is responsible for producing hormones that keep us healthy and balanced.
- Seaweed gives us pure energy, so if you need a boost it is really easy to add to your daily routine.
- Overall, seaweed is one of the healthiest foods that we often neglect to eat. It is a regular ingredient in Asian cuisine, and can add great additional flavors to many raw dishes.
How to Eat More Seaweed
So how can we best eat seaweed and how can we make this a regular thing?
Here are eight practical tips:
1. Roasted Seaweed
Slice up a couple of sheets of roasted seaweed to top your salads or add to wraps for extra crunch.
It’s also nice to bring nori sheets on camping or cross country trips. They make for an excellent dry snack, or can be combined with fresh veggies for a super simple wrap.
Add spirulina powder or blue/green algae to your green smoothies or fruit smoothies. I’ve also added it to my green juices, it makes for a fun mix.
3. Irish Moss
Use Irish Moss in raw pies and desserts to solidify the fillings, and get some extra seaweed into your diet through your sweet tooth.
Make raw maki or sushi veggie rolls, using nori seaweed sheets as the wrapper that holds everything together.
I don’t know about you, but I love Japanese cuisine and I could quite literally eat sushi every day!
5. Kelp Buds
Soak kelp buds and add these to your salads and wraps. I do this one several times per week, and it adds a different flair to my salads.
Otherwise, use soaked kelp buds or your favorite type of seaweed to your salad dressings by blending with quality oils and vinegars. You get a great Asian tasting dressing, and you sneak more seaweed in.
6. Kelp Noodles
Add (raw) kelp noodles to your raw soups, raw salads, or make a raw noodle dish with them.
Clear, thin noodles made from kelp are delicious! Kelp is a brown seaweed that is notable for its high iodine content.
7. Seaweed Salad
Make a seaweed salad with any type of soaked seaweed, sliced cucumbers, and a sprinkle of sesame seeds for an Asian feel. Yum!
8. Nori Crackers
Dehydrate nori crackers by blending regular cracker batter and spreading it on a nori sheet.
Then dehydrate and watch the salty nori turn into a delicious cracker you just can’t put down.
The beauty is that none of the above suggestions involve eating seaweed cookies. But each one will help you remineralize your body and feel great.
So, please go ahead and give seaweed a try. Once you’re used to it all, it will get easier to include in your day to day diet.
Seaweed has been consumed by people for thousands of years. It is a staple in many Asian cultures and enjoyed by the people around the world from Ireland to Malaysia. The United States has been slower to adopt the sea vegetable as part of their diets, but it has slowly been gaining popularity as an accompaniment to sushi and as crispy snacks found in natural foods stores. The popularity of seaweed is due in part to the fact that it is so nutritious, providing many vitamins and minerals. But what exactly are these health benefits and how do you add seaweed to your diet? Eat Smarter explores the increasing popularity of these sea vegetables that are showing up on menus and plates across the country.
In many Asian cultures, seaweed is a part of every meal. Enjoyed in soups, salads, and even desserts, seaweed is a versatile ingredient that every kitchen should have. A long-time staple in the vegan community, agar agar (a powdered or flaked seaweed extract used for thickening or gelatinizing) has increased in popularity so much that the prices have seen a huge spike.
There are thousands of types of seaweed found in our oceans around the world, but only a handful of those are actually harvested and consumed by humans. All of these types fit into three varieties: red, brown, and green. Red seaweed includes, to name a few, dulse (which, when cooked, has a taste reminiscent of bacon), Irish moss and nori (the seaweed that surrounds your sushi rolls). These seaweeds are typically small and delicate, compared to their green and brown relatives. Brown seaweed is the most common seaweed eaten and includes types such as kelp and wakame. Green seaweed is the least common and includes sea lettuce.
Edible seaweeds boast a variety of health benefits that make it a great addition to meals. Seaweed is full of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, including vitamins A, C, B6, as well as calcium, iodine, and fiber. A review of over 100 studies found that seaweed may provide us with more bioactive peptides than milk. Bioactive peptides are typically derived from milk protein and are known to be important for heart, digestive and immune health.
The recent trends in seaweed popularity have drove people to begin cultivating seaweed on the shores, instead of harvesting it from the oceans. This does not work for every type of seaweed, but it is becoming an increasingly popular way to grow seaweed. In the coastal United States, such as Maine and Oregon, as well as parts of Canada
While there are many varieties of seaweed that are edible, only a handful of them are popular here in the U.S. and readily available at grocery stores.
Nori is one of the most common seaweed varieties. It is used to make sushi, can be found in flavored sheets for snacking on, and is found in various Japanese seasonings used on dishes such as ramen. Nori is a type of brown seaweed, upon drying it becomes green and is typically sold in flat, thin sheets.
Kombu, a variety from the kelp family, is used to make the well-known Japanese broth called dashi. Kelp is often referred to having a savory umami flavor, which is the sixth flavor profile used to describe and classify foods.
Wakame is a soft seaweed that is typically served fresh in salads. It has a slightly sweet taste and a bright green color.
Dulse is typically eaten dry, as a slightly salty snack. It can also be sauteed slightly for a bacon-like flavor that can be used in salads, sandwiches and soups. This red seaweed has been popular in parts of northern Europe for centuries, where it has become a part of many traditional dishes.
Seaweed is not just eaten, it also plays an important part in science. Agar agar is used for microbiology and play an important part in DNA experiments. Seaweed is also found in a variety of cosmetics, where its vitamins, antioxidant properties, and minerals are touted as skincare gold. Seaweed is also used for its iodine, which is extracted from the seaweed then added to things like table salt.
Seaweed has been a crucial part of the nutrition and cuisines of many cultures, but its increasing popularity is turning it into a superfood superstar. Top restaurants all over the world are now using seaweed in their dishes to add flavor and depth.
Try one of our favorite seaweed recipes:
Easy Maki Rolls: These sushi rolls use nori seaweed sheets, which give the rolls structure and a delicious flavor. Plus, the fillings are completely customizable so everyone in your family can make and enjoy their own roll.
Salmon with Daikon Radish Slaw: In this dish, the nori takes more of a background role. The toasted nori is sprinkled on top of the finished dish for a delicious umami flavor.
Japanese Seaweed Broth: This light soup is made using kombu seaweed, which flavors the broth base of the soup and gives it a mild taste.
Strawberries on Coconut Gelatin: This delicious dessert is perfect for summer, and vegans will love it because it uses agar (extracted from seaweed) instead of gelatin.
Is eating healthy a part of your lifestyle? Or perhaps you’re just trying to maintain your health?
During weekdays, I try to cook something healthy, but every once in a while I sometimes eat oily food or junk food on the weekends.
What would you answer be if someone asks you what kind of foods are healthy for you?
Well for me, I would definitely say it’s seaweed.
I often make salad with cabbage, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and seaweed.
There are various kinds of seaweed in Japan and you might get confused what kind of seaweed is good.
I prefer to put kelp, nori, or wakame for salad.
Ok, so you might think why I would choose seaweed as a healthy food so allow me to explain.
As you probably know, Japan has one of the highest life expectancies in the world but why is that?
Well, many people think that it is because of Japanese traditional cuisines.
It is reported that seaweed cleans up the digestive tract thanks to containing plenty of dietary fiber, improves immunity, and maintains your health.
I know other countries except for Japan and Korea don’t have a dietary habit to eat seaweed, and you might not have any idea how you can eat or cook seaweed.
You might also think that it takes long or is difficult to cook.
Don’t worry. Actually it’s pretty easy to cook seaweed and it usually doesn’t take too long.
While working from Monday to Friday, I try to cook for my health, so I don’t wanna cook anything that takes long after a busy day especially when I am super tired from work.
The recipes I show you below can be made by everyone pretty quickly, so please enjoy checking them and why don’t you cook some seaweed meals for yourself soon?
(*I will keep updating more seaweed recipes, so do not forget to subscribe to my seaweed blog! As long as you follow it, you can get the notification about the recipes! Thank you in advance!)
Most of us have heard about adding more vegetables to our diet. When we eat salads, drink vegetable juices, and consume cooked vegetables we are adding fiber, vitamins and minerals to our diet. However, depending on where and how your vegetables were grown and how the soil has been cared for, we may still not be getting all of the minerals that we expect from land grown vegetables. Knowing this fact, we have always tried to incorporate sea vegetables like kombu and wakame in our homemade soups and broths. We have loved having sheets of Nori in the pantry to experiment with making homemade sushi rolls. However, we really weren’t eating seaweed as often as we wanted to. That is, until we saw a woman named Maangchi on Youtube making amazing recipes and prepping cold seaweed salads and homemade nori chips. After watching her videos we were inspired to visit our local international grocery store in search of seaweed. Fortunately for us we didn’t have to travel far, we found one in Merritt Island named Thrifty Produce and Meat and we bought several huge bags of dried seaweed to take home.
Following Maangchi’s directions, we converted dried stringy masses of seaweed into luscious, soft, and vibrant green seaweed strands that looked like they had just been floating off our shores! We’ve managed to prep a weekly batch of seaweed and eat it pretty much every day now. We eat it as a stand alone salad or mix it into our traditional land grown salad! The sea veggies meet the land veggies and it’s a wonderful blend for our lunch hour. We also add it to our broths and even mix it with sardines and sauerkraut for a savory treat. For a tasty crispy snack, we’ve also learned to make our own toasted nori chips with sesame oil, ghee and sea salt, which fulfills that craving for crunch and a little salt that we sometimes have in the mid afternoons.
As for the benefits, we have definitely noticed a change in how we feel! It has helped with regulating our energy throughout the day and we feel less hungry and more satisfied after a meal. In addition to its tasty factor, we’ve also noticed that it acts as a nice gentle fiber supplement! We’re always trying to up our fiber consumption and this has been a nice way to do so. And finally to our surprise, it’s been very easy to make and adopt seaweed into our daily life. We bought a few seaweed cookbooks but noticed that we are pretty content with these three simple ways of using seaweed. In soups, in a cold salad, and crispy chips. We hope to try out more ways soon, maybe even adding to some fermented veggie mixes.
Consuming sufficient minerals is a challenge in today’s world, with more and more depleted soils, and people’s busy lives that don’t always allow them to eat 5-7 cups of vegetables per day. If you grow your own vegetables you have a better chance of upping your content of minerals because you will be able to control how you care and tend for the soil and water that you provide your plants. But if you are unable to grow your own vegetables, seaweed is an easy way to provide your body with all 56 necessary minerals and trace elements that your body requires to function at optimal levels. Hope you try prepping some seaweed at home and please let us know if you discover yummy ways to eat it regularly.
Author and alternative medicine television personality Chris Kilham, best known as the Medicine Hunter, recently discussed how adding seaweed to your diet can be a great way to boost weight loss.
This superfood has been a staple in Asian diets since ancient times, and is known as one of the healthiest foods that can be consumed – packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Kilham notes that seaweed is also plentiful in the ocean – free and readily available in massive amounts – making it a very sustainable food.
According to ThinkProgress.org, seaweed is one of the fastest growing plants in the world, growing at a rate of 9 to 12 feet in just a few months. Seaweed farms have the capacity to grow massive amounts of nutrient-rich food.
Professor Ronald Osinga at Wageningen University in The Netherlands calculated that a global network of sea-vegetable farms, about the size of Washington State, could provide enough protein for the entire world population.
One of the reasons seaweed is so good for weight loss, Kilham states, is that not only is it low in calories, but the act of chewing and digesting it likely burns more calories than what you’re taking in – ultimately you’ll end up with a calorie deficit when consuming seaweed.
Seaweed will also help you stay satisfied and fuller longer, preventing overeating and cravings for unhealthy snacks.
A 2010 study confirms another one of Kilham’s findings; eating seaweed may reduce the rate of fat absorption by 75 percent due to its inhibitory effect on a digestive enzyme known as lipase. This surpasses the ability of most anti-obesity treatments available on store shelves.
The fiber found in seaweed also offers many other health benefits in addition to weight loss including:
- Lowering LDL, or bad, cholesterol
- Regulating blood sugar levels
- Improving digestive functions
- Decreasing the risk of some cancers, especially colorectal cancer
- Reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes
Just a few of the benefits of seaweed’s antioxidants, vitamins and minerals include:
- Nourishing your body’s cells from the inside out
- Building the immune system
- Increasing energy levels
- Supporting joint health
- Boosting metabolism
- Repairing a poorly functioning digestive system
- Improving the appearance of skin, hair and nails
How can you add seaweed to your diet?
There are many different types of seaweed; kombu, nori and arame are a few of the most popular forms.
Kombu: For those who prefer something that is thicker and more full-bodied, kombu may be an ideal choice. It can be added to a winter stew or used as a flavorful broth known as dashi, the chicken stock of Japan.
Just simmer a strip of dried kombu in water for about five minutes. You can also add a kombu leaf the next time you cook beans, or add a few strips in with a pot of brown rice.
Nori: Nori is a type of seaweed that many people are familiar with. This is the thin wrapping used for sushi rolls. Nori strips can be toasted in the oven on low heat to make a great snack.
Or, you might also cover a sheet of Nori with cooked brown rice and add a layer of vegetables, like sliced carrots and celery, and top it off with a dash of wasabi. Roll it up and dip it in a sauce made of toasted sesame oil, ginger, rice vinegar and tamari.
Arame: Arame is a great choice for someone just beginning to use sea vegetables, due to its mild aroma and taste. Soak arame strands in cold water for five minutes – keep in mind that over-soaking can draw out important nutrients. Combine a little chopped arame with cooked rice or millet. It also makes a good addition to salads.
Get creative and find new ways to add seaweed to your daily diet!
What are the benefits of a rich seaweed diet, and how can we go about incorporating this very nutritious food?
It has become very evident that there is a definite relationship between the digestive system and the decisions we make concerning our food. As a result, good nutrition is becoming a way of life. Seaweed is one of the areas being researched, with positive effects being discovered, other than adding iodine to the diet – for example, for thyroid function, as well as hair and nail growth.
There have been numerous benefits connected with eating seaweed, as many Asian cultures can attest to, with their use of the sea product dating back about 1,200 years. These include boosting the immune capabilities in the body, protecting against such cancers as thyroid, decreasing high blood sugar as well as cholesterol levels, and helping the body to detoxify itself of free radicals and toxins, including heavy metals. Many important health benefits of a rich seaweed diet, indeed.
The nutrient content of the vegetable also contributes greatly to the health benefits of seaweed diets. Containing such minerals as calcium, phosphorous, sodium, zinc, iron, magnesium as well as many of the trace elements, it helps in areas such as weight loss, too. It is also a source of complete protein, containing all of the essential amino acids, which helps when you are cutting down on animal proteins because of their fat content.
Adding fiber to the diet improves the function of the gastrointestinal tract and helps in the feeling of fullness (particularly kanten). Besides fiber, seaweed also contains vitamin A, the B complex and vitamin B12, vitamin C, folic acid, as well as niacin. Not to mention it has significant amounts of vitamins K, D, and E.
As you can see, a rich seaweed diet has many health and nutritional benefits.
Does this then mean we should forego most foods for seaweed? Though you can obtain seaweed in various forms – capsules, dried-chopped, minced or powdered, extracts, pureed jelly (and for topical use), and you can see the benefits of incorporating it into your diet, it is not always easy to ‘make a meal of it’.
Here are some tips and ideas on how to incorporate this sea vegetable into a rich seaweed diet.
Seaweed not only provides great nutrition, it binds and thickens, giving everything an enhanced and creamier texture. Most people do not notice the difference when it is used in soups, casseroles, slow cooked meals, and any of the entrées requiring a sauce. And for children, it can be added to favorites foods (such as milk, etc.) to make nutritious snacks and even desserts (sugar cookies – just omit salt and add 1 tsp of dried kelp), due to many of its properties. For babies, mix with any pureed food.
The question, therefore, is how to add it to an existing diet to make the diet better. Because most seaweed is sold in its dehydrated form, it is easy to add to every salad you eat – which should be no less than two a day. It can be added to every stir-fry you make, every dish of vegetables you serve (at least two everyday), every casserole or stew you place before your family, and in every drink of green tea or smoothie of fruits and vegetables. What a rich seaweed diet that would be!
Many Asian countries dry and use seaweed as a wrap to keep other foods contained as they eat. One example is sushi in Japan. Further, seaweed flakes are easily added to cereals, and grain meals of rice or oats. Seaweed can also easily be baked into bread or served with whole grain pasta dishes.
Many seaweed varieties have no flavor (some do and need getting used to), few calories, the same type of fiber as such foods as apples, strawberries, nuts, and oatmeal, as well as rich amounts of iron and calcium. If you are trying to lose weight, you can dissolve 2g into a hot liquid and it will boost the system with nutrients as it curbs the appetite.
So, these are some tips and ideas on consuming a rich seaweed diet. If you aren’t already doing so, you may wish to start enjoying the many health benefits of this superfood from the sea.
Having read about rich seaweed diets, you can learn more about this vegetable by reading the other related seaweed articles and pages.
Have you been ever been to the beach or maybe a lake, that’s just around the corner of your neighbour or city? But you know what? Beaches and seas offer us more than just the fun, calm and stress-free environment. What? Seaweed! Most of you might think of Seaweed as some useless algae, floating in the sea and sometimes getting stick onto to your feet when you go for a dip. But that’s just not it, Seaweed is more than just some useless or annoying feet sticking algae floating in the sea.
How? Well, according to some research and dieticians, Seaweed Salad Nutrition is a great source of Sodium and a must for a healthy diet. And surprisingly, Seaweed’s have been a part of many diverse culture’s staple diets. Seaweed has a rather high Iodine level and interestingly, Japanese people consume Seaweed as a staple ingredient in their everyday diet making them the healthiest people on the globe due to their high Iodine intake. For example, ‘Sushi’ a popular Japanese cuisine which is quite famous among folks who are a great fan of Sea-food. And you know what? They not only use Seaweed their dishes and cuisines but also for medicinal purposes since centuries.
Seaweed is not only enriched in Sodium and Iodine but also in various other minerals, Amino acid and Vitamins, which are rather a vital part of our diet and must for healthy streamlining of our bodily functions. Seaweed is enriched in Vitamins A, B, C, E and K and also a great source of several minerals such as Iron, Calcium, Iodine and Selenium etc. It is even a boon for people worried about their weight. Why? Well, that’s because according to various studies Seaweed consists of Polysaccharide Alginate, which in other words can also be interpreted as a kind of ‘Fibre’ that helps to prevent absorption of fat in the body thus possessing anti-obese properties.
And even if that’s not enough convincing enough as to why Seaweed Salad Nutrition must be included as a part of your healthy diet, then I guess that the fact Seaweed has Anti-estrogenic effects which help to lower the risk of Breast cancer and have a positive effect on menstrual health of women might just do the trick. Yes, that’s right. Consumption of Seaweed as a part of your diet, per se, a great source of plant-based nutrition.
Well, speaking of plant-based nutrition, Seaweed can also be consumed by vegans and vegetarians as well with no second thoughts or whatsoever. Seaweed shouldn’t be confused as something that cannot be consumed by vegans or vegetarians just because it’s an alga. Then, don’t worry as it is a very common misconception. The fact that it’s an algae is all the more assuring on the same instead of confusing. For algae is not fungi at all, they have photosynthetic properties and also consist of Chloroplast needed to make food from sun and carbon dioxide. However, they aren’t also categorized as a plant as they lack roots and other requirements. Hence, they are neither fungi, animals nor plants.
• Properties of Seaweed Salad:
Seaweed Salad nutrition composition is very unique, per se and highly effective and good for health at the same time, which we will discuss in more detail in later but first let’s have a glimpse as to why Seaweed might just be the great nutrition, you need to add in your healthy diet and why you must!
New Long-Term Study Could Mean More Sustainable Burgers
- by Diane Nelson
- March 17, 2021
alt=”beef steer” width=”1280″ height=”720″ />This steer at UC Davis was fed a small amount of seaweed that resulted in a dramatic drop in methane emissions. (Breanna Roque/UC Davis)
- Seaweed diet reduced emissions with no drop-off in efficacy
- Research could help farmers produce beef and dairy more sustainably
- Scientists studying ways to farm seaweed in future for broad application
A bit of seaweed in cattle feed could reduce methane emissions from beef cattle as much as 82 percent, according to new findings from researchers at the University of California, Davis. The results, published today (March 17) in the journal PLOS ONE, could pave the way for the sustainable production of livestock throughout the world.
“We now have sound evidence that seaweed in cattle diet is effective at reducing greenhouse gases and that the efficacy does not diminish over time,” said Ermias Kebreab, professor and Sesnon Endowed Chair of the Department of Animal Science and director of the World Food Center. Kebreab conducted the study along with his Ph.D. graduate student Breanna Roque.
“This could help farmers sustainably produce the beef and dairy products we need to feed the world,” Roque added.
Over the course of five months last summer, Kebreab and Roque added scant amounts of seaweed to the diet of 21 beef cattle and tracked their weight gain and methane emissions. Cattle that consumed doses of about 80 grams (3 ounces) of seaweed gained as much weight as their herd mates while burping out 82 percent less methane into the atmosphere. Kebreab and Roque are building on their earlier work with dairy cattle, which was the world’s first experiment reported that used seaweed in cattle.
Less gassy, more sustainable
Greenhouse gases are a major cause of climate change, and methane is a potent greenhouse gas. Agriculture is responsible for 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., and half of those come from cows and other ruminant animals that belch methane and other gases throughout the day as they digest forages like grass and hay.
Since cattle are the top agricultural source of greenhouse gases, many have suggested people eat less meat to help address climate change. Kebreab looks to cattle nutrition instead.
“Only a tiny fraction of the earth is fit for crop production,” Kebreab explained. “Much more land is suitable only for grazing, so livestock plays a vital role in feeding the 10 billion people who will soon inhabit the planet. Since much of livestock’s methane emissions come from the animal itself, nutrition plays a big role in finding solutions.”
In 2018, Kebreab and Roque were able to reduce methane emissions from dairy cows by over 50 percent by supplementing their diet with seaweed for two weeks. The seaweed inhibits an enzyme in the cow’s digestive system that contributes to methane production.
In the new study, Kebreab and Roque tested whether those reductions were sustainable over time by feeding cows a touch of seaweed every day for five months, from the time they were young on the range through their later days on the feed lot.
Four times a day, the cows ate a snack from an open-air contraption that measured the methane in their breath. The results were clear. Cattle that consumed seaweed emitted much less methane, and there was no drop-off in efficacy over time.
Results from a taste-test panel found no differences in the flavor of the beef from seaweed-fed steers compared with a control group. Similar tests with dairy cattle showed that seaweed had no impact on the taste of milk.
Also, scientists are studying ways to farm the type of seaweed — Asparagopsis taxiformis — that Kebreab’s team used in the tests. There is not enough of it in the wild for broad application.
Another challenge: How do ranchers provide seaweed supplements to grazing cattle on the open range? That’s the subject of Kebreab’s next study.
Kebreab and Roque collaborated with a federal scientific agency in Australia called the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, James Cook University in Australia, Meat and Livestock Australia, and Blue Ocean Barns, a startup company that sources, processes, markets and certifies seaweed-based additives to cattle feed. Kebreab is a scientific adviser to Blue Ocean Barns.
“There is more work to be done, but we are very encouraged by these results,” Roque said. “We now have a clear answer to the question of whether seaweed supplements can sustainably reduce livestock methane emissions and its long term effectiveness.”
Support for the research comes from Blue Ocean Barns, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the Grantham Foundation.