Compared to dairy products, seaweed provides up to 10% more iron and calcium. In eastern civilizations, the importance of algae as a food has traditionally been recognized to strengthen the blood, heart and circulatory system.
But not only is its nutritional aspect known and recognized, it has also been proven that algae have antibacterial, antiviral and anticancer effects. Likewise, it has been discovered that various types of algae reduce cholesterol levels in the blood, preventing hypertension and arteriosclerosis, improving fat metabolism. In addition, several varieties of algae contain blood anticoagulants, similar to heparin, the natural blood thinner.
Seaweed is also famous for achieving fast beauty results. An application of seaweed can reduce an abdomen by 3 cm and another type of laga can erase wrinkles for 14 hours in less than 2o minutes
Algae and Food
The use of seaweed in human food is widespread. This has led to the development of various cultivation techniques and the creation of a complex marketing network.
If we refer to the traditional cookbooks of coastal communities, we find antecedents of the use of algae in food mainly in Japan, Korea and China, but also in Europe, Canada and South America.
Currently, along with the rampant use of additives and artificial products -among them various industrial derivatives of algae- some natural products are revalued. This is the case of those that come from the diets of the peoples of the East, such as algae.
The convenience of using these natural products from a dietary point of view is a matter for study by the corresponding professionals. But there is no doubt that some species are particularly pleasant because of their taste and texture, so it would be possible to easily introduce their use in the national and South American markets.
In general, the algae that are going to be used in food are subjected to conservation processes by drying or in hermetic containers (preserves). Only in the Pacific islands does the custom of eating some species remain fresh due to the easy access that coastal human communities have to them.
The traditional “hoshi-nori” flakes consumed in Japan are almost all prepared from cultured Porphyra and by mechanized methods. The product obtained is marketed after careful classification. This seaweed is known in Chile under the name of "fight", and it is consumed practically without any other preparation than drying or roasting.
The most frequent and abundant species of Porphyra in Patagonia is Porphyra columbina, whose thallus is relatively thick. After drying, lightly roasting and grinding it acquires a pleasant flavor that makes it a condiment for rice, fish and sauces. It combines very well with soy sauce to dress all kinds of hot dishes and also with chicken, fish and vegetables in fillings for cakes, fritters and empanadas. Its bright and dark color and its marked flavor allow it to be used to sprinkle canapés and give variety to sandwiches fillings, mayonnaise for cold cuts and both standard and diet meals -low in cholesterol-.
An alternative is the elaboration of "laver-bread", similar to that produced in Swansea -Wales-, based on various species of Porphyra.
Another algae that could be marketed - especially in the southern part of the country where the Chilean community uses it - is Durvillaea antarctica. However, the collection areas of this species would be limited to very specific and difficult-to-access points in Tierra del Fuego. It is sold dry in bundles and is cooked mainly in stews, replacing meat for its texture. The taste -although it is particular- is not unpleasant and it accepts very well the type of traditional seasoning in our country.
The Patagonian provinces are evaluating the possibility of developing their aquaculture as an economic alternative. The pollution-free waters of our coasts allow the cultivation of Undaria, an exotic algae that serves as the basis for the production of “wakame”. This seaweed has an interesting value in the international market since its consumption in the East has grown approximately five times in the last 50 years. A kilogram of fresh Undaria has an estimated price of 0.8 US dollars. It would be interesting to develop its use as a way to control its excessive proliferation.
The green algae of the Ulvales and related groups, especially Ulva and Enteromorpha, have been commercially used in the production of flours for poultry feeding, due to their carotene content.
The use of Ulvales in human food is not very high. However, in places where the use of algae is not traditional, they are easily accepted - as in Uruguay, where Ulva is consumed in some coastal towns.
In Comodoro Rivadavia -Chubut, Argentina- pilot tests were carried out on the acceptance of hot and cold foods based on Enteromorpha and Ulva with encouraging results.
A mixture of Monostroma, Enteromorpha and Ulva is marketed as "aonori", which is used to season "sashimi" dishes - raw fish. The only Monostroma species observed so far on the Patagonian coast is Monostroma undulatum. This species has a very pleasant flavor and aroma while fresh and is somewhat difficult to dry.
They are marine plants, which, like terrestrial plants, need light, have chlorophyll, roots, stems ...; although its structure is much less complex. Many are used in food, cosmetics or for medical purposes.
There are algae so simple that they are composed of a single cell and others so large that they form natural walls on the seabed. Many people whose diet is not strictly vegetarian eat seaweed almost every day, perhaps without knowing it. Although they are not seen with the naked eye, among many other uses is that of curdling desserts made with milk, ice cream, fruit juices ... Algae contribute to giving these food products a more pleasant texture and appearance. In other countries (Japan, Chile, Iceland, Central Europe, South Wales ...), algae are part of the daily diet.
Acquiring algae is not a big problem, at least the product in a dry state, since they are currently marketed in most herbodiet and herbal stores.