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Sea Kelp & Weight Loss

By Jessica Lewis

Sea kelp is a type of seaweed, also sometimes called a sea vegetable, that is widely eaten in Asian and health food diets. Sea kelp can be used fresh or dried and is often known by its Japanese name, kombu. A type of brown seaweed, kelp can be safely eaten and is known for containing weight loss aiding compounds.

Weight-Loss Aid

Kelp contains a compound known as fucoxanthin, which may help with weight loss as well as body fat. A 2010 publication of “Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism” included the findings of a study on obese women and fucoxanthin, derived from brown seaweed. The compound was taken along with pomegranate seed oil. Scientists conducting the study found that women taking the supplement of kelp and oil showed overall decreases in liver and body fat content, as well as lower triglyceride levels and a smaller waist circumference. Researchers concluded that kelp showed great promise as a weight-loss aid. However, further study was needed, particularly to determine how much of the benefit is due to fucoxanthin from kelp versus pomegranate seed oil.

Fat Burning and Weight Gain Reduction

A study published in a 2010 issue of "Biotechnology Journal" found that an extract of fucoxanthin from kelp led to lower weight gain in test subjects. The animal study included a high-fat diet, and those receiving the supplement showed less body fat tissue and body fat mass, as well as less weight gain, than those who did not receive the supplement while on the high-fat diet. Triglyceride and cholesterol levels were also significantly lowered for those taking the supplement. Researchers concluded that fucoxanthin could help improve fat metabolism and reduce the risk of weight gain, although long-term human study is required.

Low In Calories

Kelp is a low-calorie food, with only 4 calories per 2 tablespoon serving. Its rich flavor allows its use as a replacement for more high-calorie foods, such as nuts used in a salad. A 2 tablespoon serving of sliced almonds has 67 calories per serving. Replacing the almonds with 2 tablespoons of kelp can lead to a 63-calorie reduction. If you made this substitution twice a week over the course of a year, you'd lose almost 2 pounds of weight.

Eating Kelp

Kelp is most commonly purchased dried, though you can find it fresh or frozen in some health food and Asian grocery stores. Rehydrated or fresh kelp can be sliced into thin strips and lightly seasoned to make a nutritious and healthy salad, either on its own or with other vegetables. It can also be sauteed and served as a side dish. It is perhaps most commonly used in miso soup, where it flavors the stock base and, along with soft tofu and scallions, serves as a garnish. Dried kelp is also sometimes ground into a powder and used as a thickening agent in Asian foods, or is mixed with water and salt to make noodles. It can also be added as a flavoring agent to meats to create an “umami” flavor, a rich, deep taste that boosts savory foods.

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