Wakame (botanical name Undaria pinnatifida) is a seaweed that grows extremely aggressively having green-brown hued fronds. This seaweed often grows to a length of 3 meters and is usually found growing in sheltered water in places having temperate climatic conditions. In such locations, wakame forms thick forests under the water at depths of about 15 meters and usually displaces the original habitations.
This species is a safe to eat sea vegetable or seaweed, which is used traditionally in Japanese as well as Korean cuisines. Wakame is leafy and its color is deep green. Generally, this seaweed is available in a dried out, desiccated form. However, in some places close to their origin, you may also buy fresh wakame preserved in salt. This seaweed has a gentle flavour, which, to some extent, matches that of spinach. It is frequently used in salads and soups. This variety of seaweed is thought to be a healthy and macrobiotic (vegan) food, as it contains very low fat as well as cholesterol. On the other hand, wakame is loaded with various essential minerals and vitamins.
For several centuries now, growers in Japan and Korea have used aquaculture methods to farm wakame. During the later part of the 20th century, people in France (Brittany) and Tasmania in Australia started cultivating this variety of seaweed. Dried out wakame can be marketed as a whole plant or as flakes. On the other hand, fresh wakame is also marketed as a whole sea vegetable. Before you use wakame for cooking purposes, it is necessary to soak the whole plants in plain water with a view to change their original form (reconstitute) as well as to lessen their saline flavour.
Generally, it is enough to soak the seaweed in water for about 30 minutes. When it is soaked in water, wakame absorbs lots of water and increases significantly in its size. Subsequently, the leaves are separated and sliced into small pieces. As the stem of this sea vegetable is inedible, you may either throw them away or keep them aside to prepare soup stock, something like dashi. If you are purchasing wakame flakes it is not necessary to soak them in water. Instead, they can be sprinkled over several dissimilar foods items to impart a salty taste as well as a crunchy texture.
A number of wakame varieties have a deeper brown hue compared to others. In addition, these wakame varieties also have a propensity to have a potent salty taste and a deeper color too. Nearly all varieties of this seaweed possess a gentle flavour, which is salty as well as sweet, and are generally used in miso soup. Frequently people combine wakame with other different vegetables and also dress it generously using rice wine vinegar to prepare a widely accepted Japanese salad called sunomono. In addition, this seaweed variety may also be included in rice and noodle preparations, stir fries or used individually to prepare a side dish that is dressed with miso, vinegar or soy.
As discussed earlier, wakame is a healthy and wholesome sea vegetable that contains rich amounts of vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin E, in addition to elevated amounts of calcium and iron. Early this century, chemists in Japan found that wakame also enclosed a chemical substance known as fucoxanthin, which when used on rats seemed to encourage weight loss enabling them to burn their fat more rapidly. However, it is still not clear whether the action of fucoxanthin is same on humans. In spite of the fact that consuming seaweeds provides several health benefits, nearly all varieties of seaweeds contain elevated amounts of sodium. Hence, it is advisable that you should consume seaweed in moderation to prevent the risks of developing health conditions like high blood pressure (hypertension), stroke and heart ailments.
This variety of seaweed contains very low amounts of calories and each serving of wakame provides just five calories along with bare minimum amount of fat. While it contains elevated amounts of sodium, it is also an excellent source of several different minerals, such as iodine, iron, calcium and magnesium. In addition, wakame also contains high amounts of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, and vitamin K, in addition to riboflavin and folate. Wakame is also a good resource of lignans, which are believed to have an important function in putting off specific forms of cancer, especially breast cancer. In effect, findings of a study carried in 2005 in the journal 'Cancer Science' show that this seaweed variety is effective in suppressing breast tumour growth in rats.
Some of the health benefits offered by wakame and therapeutic properties possessed by this seaweed are discussed in brief below.
Wakame (Undaria pinnatifida) is basically greenish-brown seaweed that is generally found growing on mountainous bays and shores in places like Japan, China, and the Republic of Korea having temperate climatic conditions. This variety of seaweed is found growing on reefs and rocks located in sub-littoral (shallow coastal water) zones, to a depth of roughly 7 meters. This seaweed thrives best in temperature ranging between 5°C and 15°C. In fact, the growth of this seaweed stops when the temperature increases beyond 25°C. It is assumed that wakame has spread to different places like Australia, New Zealand and even France by means of ship ballast water.
Chemical analysis of the seaweed wakame has revealed that it encloses many vitamins and other nutrients, including vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K and B vitamins. In addition, it also contains several vital minerals such as sodium, calcium and magnesium. The elevated amounts of minerals and nutrients contained by this seaweed enable wakame to facilitate healthy hair and nail growth.
Although consumption of seaweeds provide numerous health benefits, you ought to remember that eating them in excess, for instance, consuming many plates in a day, may result in a number of adverse side effects. Excessive consumption of wakame may result in hypothyroidism, as it contains high amounts of iodine. However, if you stop eating the seaweed, the hypothyroidism will overturn after about three or four months.