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The Benefits of Sea Vegetables

1. Dietary Fibers

Modern diets today, especially in the U.S. are high in refined and processed foods and are often lacking in the necessary dietary fiber. Dietary fiber is necessary for clearing the digestive system. Constipation elevates blood pressure, however the abundant dietary fiber of sea vegetables can help to lower blood pressure. The dietary fiber of sea vegetables, in addition to assisting in clearing the digestive system, also protects the surface membrane of the stomach and intestine from potential carcinogens and absorbs various substances such as sodium ions and cholesterol, ultimately to be eliminated. Dietary fibers which are high in the absorption of water are found aplenty in edible sea vegetables such as kombu, wakame. These seaweeds contain a sulfate polysaccharide known as fucoidan. In addition, kombu and wakame contain alginates, a polyuronic acid which is also a water-soluble dietary fiber. These types of acidic dietary fibers are generally not present in terrestrial vegetables. Sea vegetables contain more of the acidic polysaccharides which are soluble in water or dilute alkali.

2. Antihypertensive substances

Hypertension, simply stated, is when the blood pressure is elevated, especially, at the lower reading or diastolic pressure. There are various reasons why the blood pressure may be elevated but obesity and high levels of sodium may aggravate this condition. Since ancient times, it has been known in Japan that a diet of sea vegetables had the effect or lowering blood pressure. In recent laboratory experiments results show that incorporating sea vegetables to the diet of rats effectively lowers blood pressure. Blood pressure is regulated by the balance between sodium and potassium ion levels in the blood. With an increase in sodium ions, the autonornic nerves give orders for vasoconstriction. With the lowering of sodium ions and increasing potassium ions, blood pressure is lowered. Most of sea vegetables and particularly polysaccharides isolated from them have been known to show high dietary fiber activities such as somewhat noticeable hypotensive material when they are ingested as food.

3. Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a common word in today's vernacular and most people are aware of what their cholesterol levels are. Also known are the facts that when cholesterol levels are high, this can lead to serious heart problems. Low density lipoproteins (LDL) carries cholesterol that can build up plaque in the arteries and high-density lipoproteins (HDL) carries cholesterol to the level where the body can get rid of it. Research evidence in Japan show that there is a distinct link between the lowering of blood cholesterol level and the prevention and reduction of plaque buildup in the arteries and the ingestion of certain sea vegetables. It shows that most of the sea vegetables, for example, aonori, kombu, wakame, and nori elevated the HDL levels and depressed LDL levels in the blood for the test animals. In particular, a diet containing sea vegetable polysaccharides which have a high function of dietary fiber showed this remarkable tendency. When sea vegetables are ingested in the intestine, the dietary fibers themselves gradually from a colloidal state in a random network of the polysaccharide molecules. Part of cholesterols whether they are exogenous or endogenous get wrapped up in this network and move through the diogstive tract, finally to be eliminated. Thus, cholesterol to be absorbed may become lesser. These sea vegetables have long been used a part of Japanese diet.

4. Thrombosis and Anticoagulants

When we get a cut or wound and bleeding occurs, the blood has a protective mechanism by which the bold clots and the bleeding stops. The bleeding stops because in a series of enzymatic reactions following the blood coagulation. If there is a lesion in the vessel and the clot or thrombosis is formed in the vessel, the results can be very serious, especially if the clot is in the cerebral or coronary arteries. On the other hand, there is an enzyme called plasmin which degrades blood clots and improves blood stream. Plasmin is a kind of serin protease and found in the tissues of the vessel walls and in urine. Plasmin is produced from a precursor called the plasminogen activating enzyme (PAE). Plasminogen is a type of protease. Fucosterol, a substance which occurs naturally in sea vegetables has recently been found to activate PAE and accelerate the formation of plasmin.

5. Diabetes

Diabetes is a complex disorder in metabolism when a person is not able to properly digest sugar, either due to a partial or total lack of insulin or the inability of insulin to carry out its normal function. Insulin is a hormone secreted by the Islets of Langerhans in the pancreas. When blood glucose level is elevated in normal body, insulin is secreted into blood to accelerate glucose degradation in certain tissues and glycogen formation in other tissues. This results in the lowering of glucose levels in the blood. A protein which exhibits similar function to insulin was isolated from sea vegetables. Also, foods high in dietary fibers are effective in lowering glucose levels in the blood stream.

6. Alginic Acid and Healthy Intestines

There are about 10 trillion bacteria with 100 kinds living inside the human intestines. Among those are various beneficial bacteria which prevent pathogenic bacteria from proliferation, and harmful bacteria which enhance decomposition and produce poisons matter. Alginic acid, which is abundant in sea vegetables, is a water-soluble dietary fiber that is a nutrient for beneficial bacteria; therefore, eating sea vegetables helps increase the number of beneficial bacteria. Since the total number of bacteria inside the intestines is stable, the increase of beneficial bacteria will help suppress the activity of harmful bacteria. Therefore, consuming enough sea vegetables is effective in balancing the bacteria inside the intestines and keeping healthy intestines. Alginic acid is also effective in the prevention of high blood pressure by discharging sodium from the body and decreasing blood cholesterol.

7. Cellulose and Prevention of Colon Cancer

Cellulose, which is naturally occurring in sea vegetables, is a non-soluble dietary fiber. It absorbs water and expands inside the intestines; it increases the amount of excrement and softens it. Cellulose also stimulates the walls of intestines to activate vermiculation; it prevents excrement from staying inside the intestines for a longer period of time. This helps prevent harmful matters in excrement from being absorbed inside the intestines. Therefore it is said that consuming sea vegetables allows dietary fiber, cellulose, to work against colon cancers.

8. Minerals and Maintenance of Body Function/Stress Moderation

Minerals are one of the five nutrients (carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals) which must be consumed everyday in order to maintain healthy body function. Lack of minerals could cause deterioration of body structure and function which could then cause various problems such as weakening of bones, anemia, goiter, etc. as well as deterioration of beautiful skin. Sea vegetables are grown in the sea which is called "the treasure of minerals;" therefore, they contain more kinds and quantity of minerals than land vegetables. Particularly iron, iodine, zinc, calcium, potassium, amongst others are naturally contained and easily absorbed through sea vegetables. Sea vegetables work toward maintaining functions of various parts of the body such as the heart, bones, muscles, etc., as well as moderating stress.

9. Iodine and Physical/Mental Health.

Sea vegetables include a plethora of iodine that is the main ingredient of thyroid hormones. Thyroid hormones help hasten the growth of children as well as activate metabolism throughout life. Lack of iodine causes fatigue, physical inflexibility, and physical/mental inactivity. For children, lack of iodine slows growth. The necessary amount for a day is said to be 100 ƒÊg.

10. Toxic substances

There are also some substances in sea vegetables that will be toxic when they are taken an excessively large amount. Among those, arsenic bromine and iodine are the minerals which are of the concern. There are, on the other hand, very few reported cases of poisoning by eating sea vegetables. Generally speaking, unless an abnormally high amount is eaten, by using traditional cooking methods, most iodine should be removed. When sun dried sea vegetable is soaked for some 20 to 30 minutes, 90% of the toxic substance is removed.



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