Sea moss, also known as Irish moss or red seaweed, is a type of seaweed that grows year-round in tidepools and inlets.
Sea moss is commonly harvested in New England to extract carrageenan, a gelatinous carbohydrate used in baked goods and cosmetics. But sea moss can also be eaten on its own, and it is often used to thicken soups and stews.
Ever since Kim Kardashian posted about drinking a sea moss smoothie, the healthy eating community has been bursting with information about this superfood, claiming that sea moss can help with everything from your skin to your immune system. But how many of those benefits are based on science and how many are just hearsay?
The truth is that while people have eaten sea moss for years, scientists are only now beginning to research its medical benefits. Here’s what we know so far.
May prevent Parkinson’s disease
Parkinson’s disease is the second-most-common degenerative disease found in older adults.
It causes tremors, stiffness, and slowness of movement, and there is no cure. But early research shows that sea moss may be able to slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease.
In a study done with worms, extract from sea moss was shown to reduce stiffness and slowness of movement. This could mean promising things for people with Parkinson’s. But more research is needed to see if sea moss has the same effect on humans that it has on worms.
May improve the immune system
Early studies suggest that sea moss can boost the immune system and may even protect the body from contracting salmonella.
One study showed that sea moss can stop the growth of S. enteritidis, the bacteria that causes salmonella in humans. But this is a very early study and has not been reproduced in animals or humans. More research is needed to determine whether sea moss could help prevent or treat salmonella in humans.
Sea Moss Nutrition
One of the reasons sea moss has been touted as a superfood recently is that it’s a vegan, gluten-free source of many nutrients. Some of the nutrients in sea moss are:
Nutrients per serving
2 tablespoons of sea moss contain:
Fat: 0 grams
Cholesterol: 0 milligrams
Sodium: 7 milligrams
Carbohydrates: 1 gram
Fiber: 0 grams
Sugar: 0 grams
Protein: 0 grams
When it comes to using sea moss, remember that a little bit goes a long way. A serving of sea moss is just two tablespoons, so it doesn’t take much to start adding it to your diet.
Sea moss is a source of iodine, which is something you can eat too much of. Having too much iodine in your diet can lead to a goiter, or enlarged thyroid gland, which can require surgery to resolve. To prevent this, be sure to stick to no more than one serving of sea moss per day.
Sea Moss Side Effects
Although Irish moss offers many health benefits and can improve your body’s overall function, some studies have shown that carrageenan may have negative effects.
Under certain circumstances, carrageenan can be converted into “degraded carrageenan,” or poligeenan, which is known to be toxic and may cause several health problems. There is no scientific evidence to show that your body can convert carrageenan to poligeenan. But some seaweed can contain poligeenan naturally.
May cause intestinal inflammation
Poligeenan can lead to inflammation of the intestines, causing problems with nutrition absorption. This can also lead to discomfort and bloating over time. It may also be linked with colitis and symptoms of Crohn’s disease.
May cause stomach ulcers
In large amounts, poligeenan has also been shown to cause stomach lesions and ulcers in animal studies. More poligeenan is generally connected to larger ulcers.
May lead to stomach and bowel cancer
Finally, poligeenan has also been linked to polyps that may become cancerous. Poligeenan appears to cause problems in the digestive tract that lead to cell mutations commonly found in cancers, particularly in cases where ulcers are found.
It’s important to note that carrageenan has none of these effects. The FDA has determined that carrageenan is safe to use as a food additive, and the human body cannot produce conditions to convert carrageenan to poligeenan.
High levels of iodine found in sea moss can cause thyroid problems and even cancer. Eating too much sea moss can also cause stomach upset, including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. And sea moss may contain toxic metals like arsenic, mercury, and lead, which can be dangerous to consume. Also, sea moss may have blood-thinning properties, so people taking blood-thinning medication should avoid it. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should also avoid sea moss because there is not enough research on its effects on these populations. Before adding sea moss to your diet, it's best to talk to a health care professional.
How Much Sea Moss to Take Daily
The FDA recommends that people consume no more than 150 micrograms of iodine daily. Since Irish moss is rich in iodine, you may want to be cautious when it comes to overeating it. In general, eating one to two servings, or 2 to 4 tablespoons, is considered safe and healthy.
How to Prepare Sea Moss
Many brands have begun selling sea moss capsules and tablets. But there are plenty of ways you can prepare sea moss yourself to enjoy in dishes at home.
To cook with sea moss, you first need to wash it and then soak it in cold water for a full day, changing the water frequently. You’ll know your sea moss is ready to use when it has doubled in size and become white and gelatinous. Once it’s ready, put the sea moss and some water into a blender and blend until it becomes a thick, honey-colored liquid.
Once you have your prepared sea moss, you can store it in the fridge for up to 2 weeks and use it in a number of recipes. Sea moss acts as a thickening agent in recipes, making it ideal for: