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September 29, 2020
Ah, wonderful seaweed. You might not have thought much about the stuff beyond noticing it brushing against your leg while in the surf, or surveying it as you pop a nori roll into your mouth.
Yet seaweed — by which we mean countless species of marine algae — boasts a pretty impressive resume. So impressive, in fact, that we’ve included seaweed in our forthcoming skincare range (more on that soon). Let’s dive into some of the benefits of seaweed... excuse the pun!
Eaten in Japan for around 1500 years, many scientists now attribute the longevity of Japanese people to their consumption of seaweed (think nori rolls and miso soup).
Seaweed is an excellent source of vitamins, minerals and fibre. It’s also one of the best sources of iodine — a chemical element found in soil and oceans that many people in the modern world are lacking in their diets (leading to iodine deficiency and a host of other problems).
Environmentalist Tim Flannery, who wrote Sunlight and Seaweed: An Argument for how to Feed, Power and Clean Up the World, says that seaweed is a “future food” in a world scrambling for resources. According to Tim, if we invest in seaweed farms there’ll be enough seaweed in the world to provide a nutritional food source for everyone.
Seaweed can grow a whole metre in one day! It also doesn’t require soil or fresh water as land crops do, and it can be harvested by cutting off the upper part of the plant while allowing the base to continue growing.
As you might know, our oceans help sequester blue carbon from the atmosphere via their plant life. Tim Flannery says that because oceans cover 70 per cent of the planet, it makes a lot of sense to focus our attention on growing more seaweed as opposed to just planting more trees. If we could cover 9 per cent of the world’s oceans with seaweed farms, he says, we could drawdown a year’s worth of greenhouse gases. Seaweed also helps to de-acidify the ocean.
Yep. Not only does seaweed have the capacity to feed the world, researchers at the University of the Sunshine Coast’s Seaweed Research Group have been experimenting with mixing it into the food of cows.
In recent years, CSIRO researchers found that when cows consume a certain pink seaweed called Asparagopsis (which grows on the coast of Queensland), it decreases the microbes in their stomach that cause them to burp methane. The USC is working out how to grow enough to feed every cow in Australia, which would reduce our gas emissions by 10 per cent!
We know that overfishing is a problem, but many of the people who actually catch our fish are fishermen in small villages in countries such as Indonesia whose meagre income would be further reduced if fishing were restricted. Instead, these fishing people could derive an income from the much more sustainable practice of seaweed harvesting — an idea that’s already been successfully trialled in the South Sulawesi region of Indonesia.
The serious seaweed advocates at Milkwood tell us that because of its rich nutrients, seaweed can be thrown into your compost or used as mulch on your garden. Next time you come across some seaweed hanging out on your local beach, drag it home and chuck it in your compost instead (but check the rules and regulations in your local area first to make sure it’s legal, and only take as much as you need!).
If “seaweed beauty” sounds like some kind of mermaid trend, think again. Seaweed has actually been used in cosmetic products for years — including by high-end companies such as La Mer and Repêchage. The beta-carotene, potassium, zinc and iodine in seaweed means that it’s super hydrating, anti-inflammatory and full of antioxidants. It can also be used as a natural emollient and emulsifier in place of nasty chemicals.
Given all of the above and our already-deep love for all things ocean-related, it only makes sense that seaweed would feature as a hero ingredient in our skincare collection, which we’ll be unveiling over the coming weeks. Stay tuned!
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