(WJBK) - You may find your next salad from under the sea. The latest food fad has some restaurants stocking up on seaweed because it's packed with antioxidants, fiber and good fats. Some are even calling it the next "super food."
"Seaweed is becoming less foreign to a lot of people and now there's actually people harvesting it off the coast of California and off the coast of Maine, so it is readily available," says food writer Amy Chaplin.
These restaurants are taking cues from Japanese and Nordic chefs by adding seaweed elements to their menus.
"Seaweed's actually been used by traditional cultures in all different parts of the world because it's a great source of nutrients," Chaplin. And the variety of seaweed is vast.
"They all have different, slightly different flavors, like Nori seaweed a little more toasty-tasting, so it's actually a toasted seaweed. Dulce is smokey; Arame is mild and briny. Kombu is actually a flavor enhancer so it doesn't actually have a strong flavor," Chaplin explains.
Seaweed is also packed full of nutrients and health benefits.
"It's very rich in various minerals," says Lilian Cheung, M.D., from Harvard School of Public Health. "Calcium, for example, and Magnesium, Iodide; if you eat it a few times a week you're going to add a lot of minerals to your diet."
Fish actually get Omega-3 fatty acids from eating algae and seaweed.
"In terms of fiber, in terms of the type of fatty acids that it has in it, the long chain and 3 and 6 omega-3 fatty acids ratio, which is really in the right range, is quite a super food to me," Cheung says.
Sea vegetables have also been found in recent studies to be a promising source of protein as well as cancer-fighting antioxidants.
"Seaweed and longevity is another area of research that scientists are looking at," Cheung says.
So, maybe use seaweed as a main ingredient like a salad, or maybe just for a bit of extra flavor.
"Seaweed, as vegetables, have a really lovely briny taste and it might take a little bit of getting used to at first for some people that don't like that flavor, but when it's combined with sweet flavors like onion or mirin, the Japanese cooking wine, it can really have a very satisfying, delicious taste," Chaplin says.
Farming seaweed has a very low impact on aquatic eco-systems and can help offset ocean acidification caused by carbon emissions.