Confused? – then read on Not confused? – take me to the seaweed!
It can be slightly confusing when you get bombarded with different terminology when searching for seaweed. If you don’t know the difference (and who could blame you!) between seaweed and kelp, and want clarity on spirulina, algae and sea vegetables then you’ve come to the right place!
What does seaweed include?
Firstly seaweed is quite a general term, encompassing over 10,000 different species! Seaweed can also be called marine macroalgae – in other words large algae that grows in the sea. Seaweeds use light from the sun, carbon dioxide and nutrients from seawater to grow. It can form many shapes, colours and flavours! For example, the seaweed we use has the Latin name Ascophyllum nodosum and is commonly referred to as egg-wrack or knotted-wrack. It is in the wide group of brown seaweeds, with the other two main colour groups being red and green. It is quite easy to spot these varying colours on the beach around rock pools.
Ascophyllum nodosum grows in what is called the inter-tidal zone. This is the area between low and high tide. So, when the tide is low, the seaweed is uncovered, and when the tide is high, it is covered. These extremes of conditions (from wet to dry, different UV levels, different predators etc), twice a day every day, are thought to contribute to the specific antioxidants and other nutrients found in our chosen species of seaweed.
Sea vegetables is just another phrase often used when talking about seaweed for food! (See our range of seaweed infused oils – they’re delicious!)
So what is the difference between seaweed and kelp?
We mentioned the different colour groups of seaweed in the previous paragraph, and kelp is within the brown seaweeds (the same big group as our Ascophyllum nodosum). However, unlike our Ascophyllum seaweed, the kelps are often larger and grow on the lowest part of the shore, being mainly below the water even at low tide. You may have heard of kelp forests, growing several meters tall – they’re beautiful! An example of a kelp would be a species such as Laminaria digitata. A common name for kelps in food is Kombu.
The definition of kelp, and which seaweeds are described as kelp, can change depending on which country you are in so watch out for the actual species name. For example the term kelp is sometimes (mainly in North America) used to describe all the brown seaweeds (which it actually doesn’t!)
Nutritionally all species of seaweed and kelp differ. However, brown seaweeds generally have higher levels of iodine than red or green seaweeds, and the kelps can have extremely high levels. The variation in levels in kelps, often sourced in China and other parts of Asia, can be huge and should be well understood before using any as a food or nutrition source.
Iodine is an essential nutrient that is especially important for women’s health and helps to maintain a healthy thyroid (regulating hormones). It is important to know how much iodine you are taking in, and that the source is well understood. This is why here at Seaweed & Co. we measure the iodine levels of every single batch of our harvested seaweed.
Just two of Doctor Seaweed’s Weed & Wonderful Organic Scottish Seaweed Supplements contain enough seaweed to provide you with a good source of iodine. Read more about the nutrition of our Scottish seaweed. Also, our capsules contain ONLY 100% PureSea Organic Hebridean Ascophyllum seaweed, and nothing else. Watch out for cheap kelp tablets that have a very small amount of kelp, and then loads of fillers and other products to make the tablet.
And is spirulina a seaweed?
No! Spirulina is actually a biomass of cyanobacteria. And what the heck are cyanobacteria I hear you ask? Cyanobacteria are bacteria that use the sun’s light to produce food = photosynthesis! For this reason they have, coined the name ‘blue-green algae’ even though they are not a true algae (Your brain hurting yet?). This is how seaweed and spirulina can sometimes be confused! Spirulina only grows in fresh water and not the marine environment, and is a micro, and not macro-algae.
If you’re still confused on the difference between our Organic Hebridean Ascophyllum seaweed and kelp then perhaps try Doctor Seaweed’s Weed & Wonderful Organic Seaweed supplements, as a good source of iodine they can support normal cognitive function!
Also take a look at our recipe page, there are tons of videos with easy-to-follow recipes using Doctor Seaweed’s Weed & Wonderful Seaweed Infused Oils so get seaweed into your life now!