Eating vegan means eliminating animal products, but it doesn’t technically mean steering clear of all seafood—that is, if you take a looser look at the term. If you’re wondering where in the world I’m going with this, I’m talking about sea vegetables (such as kelp). Because, just like up on dry land, the sea is full of leafy green veggies—many of which are packed with nutrients.
Why you should consider adding kelp to your vegan diet (and how to do it).
It’s certainly possible to get adequate nutrients from vegan foods, and an addition like kelp can help you get there. “Kelp is often called a ‘superfood from the sea’ because it has 10 times more calcium than milk and more vitamin C than OJ,” Robin Berzin, M.D., functional medicine doctor and the founder of Parsley Health, told mindbodygreen. It can also help support bone health, longevity, and thyroid function.*
As plant-based and vegan diets become more common, and we look for more sustainable food options, seaweed and kelp are likely to become a more frequent feature on global menus. “Since kelp is a large brown seaweed, it may not seem like the most appetizing thing, but you can try it in several different forms,” registered dietitian and nutritionist Jess Cording, M.S., R.D., CDN, explains.
If the health benefits of kelp aren’t enough to convince you, more good news! Because it’s such a sustainable crop, companies are now harnessing it as a plant-based meat substitute and snack addition.
How kelp is becoming a part of the vegan alternatives conversation.
Back in 2019, AKUA launched kelp “jerky” as a new snack offering, with the hopes of shifting that particular snack toward a more sustainable future. “Kelp sequesters carbon and nitrogen from the water as land-based plants do from the air, helping to reduce ocean acidification and mitigate climate change,” founder Courtney Boyd Myers told senior sustainability editor Emma Loewe at the time. Other brands are up on the snacks, too: Barnacle Foods sells kelp pickles, kelp salsa, and kelp hot sauce (among other things), while 12 Tides is slinging puffed kelp chips in three different flavors.
Since then, mbg has also gotten in on the kelp convo with our own product: We feature seaweed (specifically organic kelp and chlorella) in organic veggies+, our USDA-certified organic greens powder. Though it also has plenty of other powerhouse ingredients (31 in total), the sea veggies are a unique cornerstone. The benefit of a powdered version? Well, it’s easier to add to just about anything (even baked goods).
More recently, AKUA brand also launched a line of kelp burgers as an alternative to the already alternative options, such as Impossible and Beyond burgers. While the faux-meat burgers are meant to appeal to an already meat-eating crowd (and to replace some of the meat those people would otherwise eat), the kelp burger is meant to be a veggie burger with even more nutrients. In case you’re wondering, I tried one, and they taste pretty amazing.
Really, adding some sea veggies to your meals probably isn’t a bad idea for people who follow any eating style—but for vegans and plant-based eaters, in particular, kelp is a vegan meat alternative to watch.