Gardening

Wakame: properties, how to use it in recipes and contraindications of this algae

What is Wakame seaweed? The Wakame ( Undaria pinnatífida ) is an alga of the Phaeophyta class, of the order of the Laminariales.

It has an olive brown color and can exceed 1.60 meters in length. The undaria lamina bears a central rib and, when it reaches the point of reproductive maturity, it develops a very wavy structure characteristic of this species.

This algae, native to the seas of Japan, Korea and China, reaches its largest size at the end of winter, and in summer it deteriorates due to the high temperatures of the water being carried away by the current.

The use of both this and other types of algae dates back more than 4000 years, especially on the southern coasts of the Pacific Ocean.

In recent years, interest in algae such as wakame has increased, both for fresh consumption and for its use in the development of additives, as well as in the biomedical and cosmetic field.

Wakame seaweed, along with Nori seaweed, are the most consumed worldwide. Its flavor is mild, with a slightly crunchy and meaty texture , and should be cooked between 15 and 20 minutes. To keep them, up to 5 days, they must be kept refrigerated between 2 and 6 degrees.

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Nutritional value of Wakame seaweed

Algae contain a number of bioactive compounds with high potential for health benefits , hence there is great interest in incorporating them into a variety of products as a functional ingredient.

Wakame algae, like most algae used in food, are low in calories, with a high concentration of protein, dietary fiber and minerals .

In particular, wakame algae, and unlike other brown algae, can contain 24% of its weight (dry) of protein, with essential amino acids . It has little potassium content and has only 1.1% lipids. Like most algae, it stands out for its dietary fiber content (38.8g / 100g).

In terms of minerals, wakame is an important source of sodium, potassium, calcium and, especially, magnesium .

The chemical composition of wakame, as in the rest of the algae species, is conditioned by the environmental conditions of its cultivation. This especially influences the concentrations of proteins and polysaccharides.

wakame benefits

What benefits does this seaweed have for health?

It also has an unsaponifiable fraction of carotenoids, such as β-carotene, lutein, violaxanthin and fucoxanthin, as well as tocopherols and sterols, which provide antioxidant capacity to this algae.

However, the most studied is dietary fiber, due to the physiological effects that it can present in the gastrointestinal tract since it has a different composition from that found in terrestrial foods.

Algae fiber is made up of specific polysaccharides that affect the degree of solubility and hydration, which affects viscosity and allows gels to be formed. This is one of the main reasons why it is used in food and that it also has a differential effect on fecal mass.

Its fermentation in the digestive tract gives rise to a prebiotic effect, which is what is most important. Since insoluble fibers reach the large intestine without alterations, there they produce a series of changes that stimulate the growth of microorganisms that are beneficial to our health, such as the production of short-chain fatty acids that could benefit cholesterol metabolism. .

Among the phenolic compounds, which have antioxidant capacity with the ability to help prevent cardiovascular problems , cancer, arthritis and immune disorders , gallic acid, protocatechuic acid and gentisic acid stand out, although the antioxidant activity of brown algae rests especially on the florotannins, of a polyphenolic nature and exclusive to this family.

For its part, the synergistic action with sulfated polysccharides is also relevant in antioxidant, anticoagulant, antithrombotic, antiviral, anticancer and immunomodulatory activity , and these are studied for application in pharmaceutical products, due to their antimicrobial, antiproliferative, anti-inflammatory and liver protection .

Finally, the important contribution of minerals increases the defenses and strengthens the skin, nails and hair , allowing at the same time (due to the flavor they contribute to food) to reduce the consumption of salt.

There are numerous studies that have been carried out on Undaria pinnadtifida , mainly in vitro , reporting the potential of its pharmacological properties for the treatment of hypertension, obesity, as antitumor, antiviral, antiflu, anticoagulant, antidiabetic and in the prevention of cancer .

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How is Wakame seaweed used?

The Undaria pinnatfida alga is obtained as wakame, that is, “in sheets”, but it is also found in presentations called “makabu”, which is obtained from the reproductive structure, and “kuki”, made with the rib.

Virtually any dish can be enriched with wakame , from salads to soups, pâtés, meat and rice using it in powder.

For the preparation, the wakame must be soaked for 10 minutes to consume it raw, and for 2 minutes before being cooked for 20 minutes.

The dishes in which it works best, due to its flavor, are those that contain fish, although it is also used in the preparation of baked goods and smoothies.

Contraindications of Wakame seaweed

An important aspect is that algae can absorb, through the environment in which they live, an excessive amount than elements that can be toxic, such as heavy metals and minerals such as lead, cadmium, mercury, copper, manganese, zinc and arsenic. For this reason, it is important to purchase the product checking that they comply with the regulation of maximum permitted values ​​for some certain substances. The green algae are those that give greater confidence to consumers.

The recommended daily amount of dried seaweed (as they have a great absorption capacity, especially wakame, of water and oil) should not exceed 10 grams.

All algae have a high iodine content, so they should be consumed with caution, taking extreme care in people with thyroid problems . Prolonged excess iodine in the body can cause inflammation in the endocrine gland and become irreversible.

Bibliography

  • “Wakame”, National Information System on Invasive Alien Species (Argentina)
  • “Physical-chemical and nutritional characterization of algae powder used as a food ingredient”, Jagla-Teresa Palasi Mascarós. 2015.
  • “Fiber and antioxidant capacity of edible algae in rats sufficient or deficient in Vitamin E”, Nidia María Rodriguez, Anna María Cioccia, Marlén Gutiérrez, Patricio Hevia. Acta Bioquímica Clínica Latinoamericana. 2018.
  • “Nutritional evaluation and biological properties of edible marine algae. In vitro and in vivo studies ”. Eva Gómez Ordóñez. 2013
  • “Physical-chemical and nutritional characterization of algae powder used as a food ingredient”, Jagla-Teresa Palasí Mascarós. Polytechnic University of Valencia. 2015.
  • “Algae in the diet”, Pedro Ródenas – Nutritionist Physician. Natura Medicatrix. 2003
  • Undaria pinnatífida (Wakame): A Seaweed with Pharmacological Properties”, Hui Zhang, Zunting Pang and Chunchao Han. School of Pharmacy, Shandong University of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Science International. 2014

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