For most of us, seaweed is a nuisance: It can get in the way when you're trying to swim, and that's only if the smell of the stuff rotting on the beach doesn't chase you back home before you even dip a toe in the water.
But in Asia, this nuisance is on the menu -- and with good reason, too: Seaweed is one of the healthiest foods you can eat, and a new review of the research finds it can boost your heart health like nothing else.
Researchers looked at about 100 studies on seaweed and found that it has a similar effect on blood pressure as ACE inhibitors -- but unlike prescription meds, seaweed comes with virtually no risks.
But that's not all -- not even close.
Researchers from the Teagasc Food Research Center in Dublin say the studies they reviewed show that seaweed and microalgae are as rich in bioactive peptides as dairy.
They're also easy to cultivate, low in calories and rich in vitamins A, C, D, and E, as well as B vitamins and minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, sodium, and potassium.
And once you get over the fact that you're eating beach debris, it can taste pretty good too. The Japanese use seaweed in nearly everything, including a simple salad of fresh seaweed tossed with healthy sesame oil and seeds.
I don't know if seaweed is the reason they live longer than nearly anyone on the planet -- all the fatty fish in the diet there probably have just as much, if not more, to do with it -- but it's an easy enough dish to replicate at home if you're willing to give it a shot.
Along with keeping blood pressure in check, a regular side of seaweed might even help keep your weight under control by blocking the absorption of fat. One study found that rats given seaweed lost 10 percent of their body weight.
Seaweed also contains anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and antioxidant compounds. It can help beat pain, fight arthritis, lower your cancer risk, and keep cholesterol in check.
I could go on, but I think you get the point: It almost doesn't matter what benefit you're looking for -- chances are, you'll find it in simple seaweed… if you can stand the smell, anyway.