There’s no denying that seaweed is taking the health and food industry by storm – and rightly so. Supplementing with seaweed is being increasingly recognised as a natural way to address the nutritional gaps that are increasingly occurring due to the rise in plant-based diets. However – not all seaweed is created equal, and understanding and trusting the source of your seaweed is key to ensuring you’re getting the most out of your seaweed products.
What’s the difference between seaweed and kelp?
It can be a bit confusing (to say the least!) when you search for seaweed and find yourself coming across all kinds of unfamiliar terminology. In this blog, we’ll explore the essential differences between the two terms – seaweed and kelp – what makes them different, and which it is that you should be including in your diet.
What does seaweed include?
Seaweed is a general term, encompassing over 10,000 different species. A more specific term is marine macroalgae – referring to the ‘large’ algae that grows in the sea. Just like land plants, seaweed needs sunlight, carbon dioxide and nutrients to grow – the difference being that it gets these nutrients from the water surrounding it, rather than the earth. Depending on the species, seaweed can be all different colours, shapes and flavours.
The seaweed used in Doctor Seaweed’s Weed & Wonderful® has the Latin name Ascophyllum nodosum, sometimes referred to by more common names such as egg-wrack or knotted-wrack. It is a species of brown seaweed, with the other two colour groups being red and green – it’s quite easy to spot these varying colour groups around rock pools on the beach.
Ascophyllum nodosum grows in an area known as the intertidal-zone – this is the area between low and high tide. This means that when the tide is low, the seaweed is uncovered, and when the tide is high, it is covered by seawater. These extreme conditions, such as going from wet to dry and experiencing different UV levels twice a day, are thought to be one of the reasons why our chosen species of seaweed contains the specific antioxidants and nutrients that it does.
How are seaweed and sea kelp different?
As discussed, the term seaweed can be used to encompass over 10,000 species of seaweed, while sea kelp is a much more specific term. One of the main differences is that seaweed ranges dramatically in size, while sea kelp is always quite large. Another difference is that seaweed can be broken down into three groups – brown, green and red – sea kelp officially falls into the category of brown seaweed (even though it can vary in colour!).
Seaweed and sea kelp also grow in different environments – seaweed can grow in any marine environment including oceans, rivers, lochs and lakes. The seaweed in Doctor Seaweed’s Weed & Wonderful® is harvested in the pristine lochs of the Scottish Outer Hebrides. Kelp on the other hand is most often found along rocky coastlines, and only in salt water.
The definition of kelp, and which seaweeds are described as kelp can vary dependent on what country you’re in, so if you’re unsure it’s always best to check the actual species name. For example, in North America, the term kelp is often incorrectly used to refer to all brown seaweeds.
Health benefits of seaweed and sea kelp
All species of seaweed and sea kelp differ in terms of the nutrients that they can provide us with. However, brown seaweeds generally have higher levels of iodine, with kelps often having extremely high levels. The iodine levels in kelps are not only high, but can vary greatly, so these should be well understood before using any as a food or nutrition source.
Iodine is an essential nutrient for our health, particularly for women’s health, and has a vital role in maintaining healthy thyroid function and regulating metabolism. It’s vital for optimal health that we consume enough iodine in our diet, however, it’s also important that the source we are getting this from is safe and well understood. The seaweed used in Doctor Seaweed’s Weed & Wonderful® supplements is tested every single batch to ensure a safe and consistent level of iodine – this isn’t the case for many kelp supplements on the market.
Seaweed capsules vs sea kelp tablets
A great way to decide which type of supplement is best for you is to look at the format that it’s delivered in. For example, our Pure Seaweed supplements contain 100% organic seaweed – and absolutely nothing else. Our seaweed is carefully dried and milled and simply put into a capsule to allow ease and convenience of use – a wonderful way to include health boosting seaweed in your diet, in its natural whole food form.
The Ascophyllum seaweed we use in both consumer products and food ingredients is fully traceable and sustainable, and is the world’s only DNA Authenticated Seaweed. This means each batch is tested to ensure it’s safe, and a good source of essential nutrients.
Kelp tablets on the other hand often contain a very small amount of actual kelp, combined with lots of artificial fillers and binders in order to produce the tablet style delivery format.
Click here to view the full range of Doctor Seaweed’s Weed & Wonderful supplements and discover the wonder of seaweed.