Is Seaweed Vegan?

If you have recently become a vegan, or you are a veteran vegan, you may still wonder if certain food items are classed as ‘vegan’.

In many cases, as with seaweed, concrete definitions of what makes food ‘vegan’ are required as well as understanding how other food items such as seaweed fit into that.

Moreover, it’s important to understand your own definitions of veganism and where you place your own boundaries.

When you become vegan you are putting in a lot of effort to monitor your diet and keep it plant based. The last thing you want to do is to eat something you didn’t even realize was restricted by your diet.

But don’t fear, these mistakes allow us to learn about our bodies as well as the vegan diet so that you can be better in the future.

Is Seaweed Vegan?

In this article we will specifically talk about seaweed, if it is vegan, and how it may benefit vegans. Read on to learn more about veganism with us.

What Is Seaweed?

Seaweed is an edible algae that grows naturally in oceans around the world.

It has been used for thousands of years as a food product within Asian cuisines and is potentially one of the oldest greens to be consumed for food.

Seaweed actually refers to thousands of different species of algae such as red, brown, green, as well as other algae such as kelp.

Moreover, Seaweed is also processed into other foodstuffs such as nori or Gim which are used to wrap sushi.

Beyond food, Seaweed has a myriad of uses and applications across medicine, horticulture, toiletries, agriculture, and construction as well as many more.

This has caused much human interference in terms of the bioavailability of the plant.

Is Seaweed Vegan?

As we mentioned, this can completely depend on how you define your own veganism. In terms of most common definitions of veganism, yes, by nature, Seaweed is a plant and has nothing to do with animal products.

Seaweed is classed as an algae or sea vegetable so there is  no animal by product involved with the plant.

Even mildly processed versions of seaweed such as nori or Gim do not have any animal products such as fish involved in them. So, no reason to hesitate going to that vegan sushi restaurant.

Moreover, all types of seaweed are vegan, but there are some you should not eat.

Certain types of algae that fall under the common term ‘seaweed’ can have levels of iodine and arsenic that are not good for humans, they can give you a bad stomach ache but aren’t deadly. 

Benefits Of Seaweed For Vegans

Is Seaweed Vegan?

For those who feared Seaweed was not vegan will be glad to hear that Seaweed is actually a vital and unique source of some vitamins that vegans need more of.

While iodine can be harmful in large amounts, which is certainly true for certain varieties of seaweed, iodine is required for the healthy function of your thyroid.

While iodine is usually found in fish as well as other dairy such as eggs and milk, vegans won’t have access to iodine as readily as a carnivorous diet would.

However, one teaspoon of Dulse, Kombu, or Shony, varieties can provide a vegan with 100% of their daily intake of iodine.

You may also be surprised to learn that Seaweed is also full of calcium. Calcium is also rife in dairy products which many vegans will have given up.

Seaweed is an opportunity to boost your calcium intake as well as other vital nutrients and vitamins.

Moreover, seaweed is used throughout Asian cooking for its heavy umami flavor. This can benefit vegans who are looking for punchy umami flavors.

Dashi broth is super meaty and umami as well as salty and has many applications within plant based cooking.

Why Some Vegans May Not Eat Seaweed

By definition, Seaweed is totally a vegan product that adheres to most plant based diets. Yet, some vegans don’t eat Seaweed, which may have prompted this question in the first place, here are some reasons why.

Some vegans take in their own shoulders to also think greatly about the effect their diet has on the environment. This, as we mentioned, will have a lot to do with how you define your own veganism and how far it reaches.

As Seaweed has so many uses across disciplines beyond just food, it has been harvested at an extreme rate throughout history.

Not only does this level of harvest decrease the bioavailability of the plant, but can also greatly affect marine life.

In other words, Seaweed forms the foundation of many habitats for a whole variety of marine life.

Harvesting seaweed at such great rates will undoubtedly affect the habitats of the marine life that call Seaweed forests their home. 

This said, some vegans actually encourage the sustainable crop cultivation of Seaweed over consumption as a food.

Through photosynthesis Seaweed actually consumes carbon dioxide and releases oxygen, in turn reducing carbon levels and being a carbon negative crop.

The IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change) suggests that coastal ecosystems which have Seaweed forests can reduce carbon levels 20 times more quickly than an overground forest.

Some vegans chose not to eat Seaweed to leave them as these carbon negative aquatic forests.

Final Thoughts

While it seems that Seaweed is quite obviously vegan, it is a great example of how being ‘vegan’, depending on your own definitions of the term, requires a level of self awareness that can ultimately benefit the fight against climate change.

Sometimes we need to think beyond our plates and understand how our eating habits can have a large effect on animals without even consuming animal products.

Even if you aren’t vegan there is a lesson to be learned here in self awareness as well as what our priorities are when it comes to food consumption.

Seaweed does adhere to the requirements of a plant based diet, but sometimes there is more to think about than if it simply contains animal products.

Brett White
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