Is Sea Moss the Perfect Superfood?
Thanks to social media, sea moss has become increasingly popular as people focus more on longevity and disease prevention. The sales of sea moss have soared, with self-subscribed “gurus” claiming it to be the perfect superfood. While it does contain some health benefits, sea moss should be used with caution.
In this article, we share with you the history, benefits, and uses of sea moss. We also research the facts and fallacies surrounding this supposed superfood.
What is Sea Moss?
Sea moss (Chondrus crispus) is a species of red algae that grows around the Atlantic coastal parts of Europe and North America. Some sea moss can also be found off the coast of California and Japan. Also referred to as Irish moss or carrageen moss. It gets the latter name because it contains high amounts of polysaccharides and carrageen, allowing it to form into jelly when boiled. Sea moss can be quite hydrating, as it is able to hold 20-100% of its weight in water.
Sea Moss Consumption on the Rise
Sea Moss has grown in popularity due to companies using affiliate and online marketing to sell sea moss gels and supplements. You’ve seen it all over TikTok and Instagram, influencers encouraging others to consume sea moss daily, and buy their brand of sea moss gel, all while making false claims about its content and benefits.
A study in China noticed an increase in seaweed consumption, notably higher in urban dwellers than rural residents. In the study, city dwellers consumed 100 grams each month, twice as much as rural communities.
Cities also contain more pollution, making some residents seek additional supplements to combat chemical exposure in daily city dwellings.
The study speculated this was impacted by increasing nutrition knowledge. Younger residents also were shown to have increased seaweed consumption, indicating more mindfulness in dietary knowledge. People are curious to know better ways to improve their health and ward off chronic illness.
We know that the readers here at the Carrot Campaign fall into this category too!
Wanna learn more about superfoods? Learn all about The Power of Pumpkin.
Sea Moss is rich in nutrients
It is stated regularly that Irish sea moss contains “92 of the 102 minerals” the body requires, but scientific evidence to back that claim up has yet to be revealed. After seeing enough of this repeated “fact” I researched the claim and found zero evidence to support the statement.
To start, the body only needs around 30 minerals for bodily function.
I kept wondering where people were coming up with this number, so I did some research. Searching the web to only find this claim being repeated site after site. I decided to pull out my metabolism textbooks from college. It was there where I remember where I’ve seen the number 102.
There are 103 elements of the periodic table, which is where I believe this number and claim come from. Many of these elements the body does not need nor should consume. Many elements of the periodic table are toxic, or even radioactive!
Unfortunately, even if sea moss did contain 92 elements of the periodic table; not all of those micro minerals would be beneficial for humans.
Despite these claims, Irish sea moss does contain a hearty amount of minerals including:
- Vitamins A, B6, E, C, and Vitamin K
- Not to mention a great source of iodine
Okiwana, Japan hosts some of the longest-lived people in the world. It is believed to be one of the many reasons why they have a much higher life expectancy than other regions of the world is because they incorporate sea moss and other sea vegetables regularly into their diet.
Understanding Food Labels
In order for a food label to claim their product is “high in”, “Rich“ or an “excellent source” of a certain nutrient, the product needs to contain 20% of the recommended daily allowance.
For a product to be able to claim it provides a “good source of “or provides,” it would require 10 to 19% of the recommended daily allowance. The only nutrients required to be listed on the USDA food label are “vitamin D, calcium, potassium, and iron.” Anything more can be elected to be listed by the manufacturer.
So this makes it difficult to determine what all minerals sea moss contains.
Other minerals and nutrient content will vary from the location where sea moss is harvested. Irish Sea Moss has been touted as the most nutritious type of Chondrus crispus variety.
Any other minerals sea moss is said to contain are not identified on any food labels. Nevertheless, sea moss is a good natural way to supplement vitamins and minerals into the diet.
Other Uses for Sea Moss
Sea moss became a matter of life or death to Irish citizens during the Potato Famine of 1845-1849. The Chondrus crispus would be harvested from the rocks, then cooked into soups. Sea moss was even cooked with spices and milk. The original “protein shake”, so to speak!
Perhaps they were on to something because sea moss is still a regular staple in Ireland even after the Potato Famine. Blancmange, a pudding-like delicacy featuring sea moss, is still made to this day.
Seaweed for Dessert? You may think sea moss is only a recent craze, but it has been used in cooking for centuries. You might be surprised to notice “carrageen” or “carrageenan” on many ingredient lists in common foods, especially ice cream. Not all scientific-sounding ingredients are bad.
Sea Moss is no hot new product. In fact, it has been used in food production for over 50 years!
Sea Moss is a wonderful vegan alternative to gelatin and is used as a thickening agent for many foods and consumer products. It is commonly seen listed as “carrageenan” on the ingredient list. We’re talking icecreams, pudding, fruit snacks, and other culinary uses for its gelatinous texture.
Are there any risks to Sea Moss?
Sea Moss is naturally high in iodine and should be consumed in moderation. Iodine is a required nutrient for thyroid health and is often fortified in table salt. Excessive iodine intake can lead to GI discomfort, including nausea and vomiting. Iodine toxicity can lead to hyper- or hypothyroidism, even thyroid papillary cancer.
The recommended daily intake for iodine is 150 mcg for most people, and sea moss’s iodine levels can skyrocket past the upper daily tolerable limit of 1,100 mcg. One brand of sea moss we reviewed from St. Lucia contains 270% of the daily requirement of iodine, in just one serving!
Sea moss should not be consumed daily or in high amounts due to the high levels of iodine. Heavy metals and toxins from the ocean are also a concern- seafood (especially sea moss) often contains high amounts of lead, mercury, and arsenic. Some of those other 92 minerals?? Heavy metals such as these are not good for us and can cause cancer and neurological issues.
This is not the fault of sea moss, but the pollution of our waters. Sea moss cannot discriminate on what it absorbs. Industrial pollution and the accumulation of plastics in the ocean have skyrocketed in the last 50 years.
Sourcing your sea moss is very important, as well as preparing your own gels. Don’t think a manufacturer will use the same amount of quality and care in their large batches compared to your small batches at home. Sea Moss needs to be rinsed and soaked thoroughly, to clean out any ocean particles and contaminants. The absorptive nature of sea moss means it will also absorb all the chlorine and chemicals in tap water. If preparing at home, rinse and cook Irish sea moss in purified or filtered water.
It is for these reasons we do not suggest taking sea moss daily. 1-3 times spread throughout the week will supplement the diet, without accumulating too much iodine or heavy metals.
Sea Moss is a beneficial way to supplement more vitamins and minerals into the diet. Nutritionists recommend “food first” as an approach to healthy living, with sea moss being a nutrient-dense and easily digestible superfood. What makes sea moss so awesome is how rich it is in both vitamins and minerals. It’s a great natural product that, like many things that come from the ocean these days, is becoming less beneficial due to pollution.
Perhaps once a superfood, back in the day in the purest ocean form. Unfortunately, the quality of our soil and water will continue to degrade unless we take collective action on not only preservation but restoration. Our take from the research is this: use sea moss sparingly and prepare it yourself at home. Any company telling you otherwise is trying to sell you a product!
For the Love of Food
- Harvard Health Publishing: “Precious Metals and Other Important Minerals for Health”
- Drug Genius: “Sea Moss– Uses, Benefits, and Side Effects”
- Gropper-Smith-Groff: Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism 5th Edition
- Food Navigator- Asia.com: “Forest of the Ocean: Seaweed consumption in China driven by increasing urbanization and dietary knowledge.”
- Food Ingredients Facts.Org- “Irish Moss: the History of Carrageenan”
- NIH Angela M. Leung- “Consequences of Excess Iodine“