Retrain Your Brain…Is Irish Sea Moss Really a Superfood?
Information you need to know about Irish sea moss.
Irish Sea moss has become very popular recently. People are putting it in their smoothies and claiming that sea moss is this untapped into superfood that has several health benefits but what exactly is Irish sea moss? What are its mainstream health claims and how do they measure up to its evidence-based health benefits? Furthermore, is Irish sea moss a true superfood and should you consider adding it to your diet?
What is Irish sea moss?
The scientific name for Irish sea moss is chondrus crispus. It is also known as sea moss or Irish moss, these terms are often used interchangeably.
Sea moss is a reddish-brown seaweed that naturally grows just below the waterline in the Atlantic coasts of Europe and North America.
Sea moss is known to be very nutrient-dense, being a good source of iron, magnesium, B vitamins, zinc, iodine and a lot more essential vitamins and minerals. It is said to help with the following:
Increase energy (due to its iron content)
Promote weight loss (due to its iodine content, iodine helps regulate thyroid hormones, and your thyroid hormones regulate your metabolism)
Build lean muscle (due to its protein and taurine content)
Strengthen the immune system and prevent sickness (due to its zinc content and anti-inflammatory properties)
Irish sea moss can be consumed as a gel, powder, and/or capsule form. It is rarely consumed in its raw form and it can be used topically on this skin due to its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties as well.
What is Irish sea moss’s biggest claim to fame?
Sea moss’s biggest claim to fame is that it is said to have “92 minerals of the 110 minerals that our bodies need.” This statement seems to support the fact that sea moss contains a lot of nutrients.
Through my research however, I found that this statement was written differently across several different platforms discussing the benefits of sea moss and selling Irish sea moss products. For example, I saw the statement written as “sea moss contains 90% of nutrients our bodies needs” and “sea moss has 92 of the 110 minerals the body is made from.” I even saw the numbers in the statement be inconsistent for example “sea moss has 92 of the 102 minerals the we need to feed our bodies” and “sea moss contains 92 of the 102 elements of the human body.”
The most confusing part was that majority of the websites failed to reference their source for this claim and most did not have a complete list of the 92 minerals that they claimed sea moss possesses.
After some digging, I found that the statement originates from the late, Alfredo Bowman, aka Dr. Sebi, a self-taught Honduran herbalist and self-proclaimed healer. Dr. Sebi’s herbal teachings are controversial. He believed that his strict alkaline plant-based diet could help rid people of any disease. In fact, in 1987 due to his claims around curing HIV, he was arrested on two counts of practicing medicine without a medical license. At the end of the trial however, Dr. Sebi was found not guilty because he was not actually "practicing medicine" as defined by law.
For more information about his court case and final consent agreement click here.
Dr. Sebi was a major advocate for Irish sea moss and its nutritional properties. I did not find any peer-reviewed or clinical-based evidence approving or disproving the statements around sea moss containing 92 of 102 or 110 minerals of the human body.
According to an article in naturelifenergy.com “there is difficulty in knowing what the 102 minerals are because Dr. Sebi didn’t explicitly state what they were, so we have to deduce [assume] what they are…[Furthermore] It is a bit tricky trying to isolate which 102 minerals Dr. Sebi referred to because it appears he used the concepts of “elements,” “minerals,” and “compounds minerals” interchangeably.”
What is true about Irish sea moss?
Irish sea moss is not new. The seaweed has been around for centuries and it has been used in the food and pharmaceutical industry as a binding agent.
It has historically been used for coughs and bronchitis, aiding the lungs to cough up phlegm and soothe mucous membranes.
The actual health benefits of Irish sea moss are not well researched or understood. The studies providing evidence of its true health benefits are still ongoing and unfortunately these studies do not utilize standardized forms of sea moss which can alter results from study to study. Furthermore, there are different types of seaweeds or sea algae like Bladderwack (fucus vesiculosus) and sometimes they get categorized under Irish sea moss even though they are different species of algae.
Irish sea moss does contain a lot of nutrients. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 100g (3.527 oz) of raw Irish sea moss contains 8.9g iron, 1.51g of protein, 1.3g of fiber, 0.61g of sugar, 72mg of calcium, 144mg of magnesium, 157mg of phosphorus, 63mg of potassium, 67mg of sodium, 1.95mg of zinc, 0.149 mg of copper, 0.37 mg of manganese, 0.7 µg of selenium, 3mg of Vitamin C, 0.015 mg of thiamin (vitamin B1), 0.466 mg of riboflavin (vitamin B2), 0.593mg of niacin (vitamin B3), 0.176mg of pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), 0.069 mg of pyridoxine (vitamin B6), 182 µg of folate (vitamin B9), 12.9 mg of choline, 6 µg of vitamin A (RAE), 71 µg of beta-carotene, 0.87mg of vitamin E, and 5 µg of vitamin K.
For the complete sea moss nutrition composition list in table format click here.
The USDA does not list the iodine content of sea moss, but other credible sources confirm the link between Irish sea moss and high iodine content.
The recommended serving size of sea moss is 2 tablespoons (10g) per day meaning the nutritional content listed above should be divided by 10.
With sea moss containing so many nutrients the main question you should be asking yourself is if the nutritional content in 10g of sea moss is enough to meet the current recommended daily nutritional requirements of each vitamin or mineral?
Sea moss is made up of a lot of vitamins and minerals but I am sure you could find other foods or dietary supplements that have a higher iron, protein, calcium, and/or B-vitamin content depending on the kind of nutrients you want to add to your diet.
Is Irish sea moss a superfood?
Truth is, there is really no such thing as a superfood, meaning that there is no one food we could eat and survive off for the rest of our lives. We need to eat different foods from different food groups to maintain optimal nutrition. The term “superfood” is just a marketing term used for foods that have nutritional value. All whole foods (unprocessed foods) have nutritional value so essentially all whole foods are superfoods. Therefore, do not be fooled by the term “superfoods” instead pay attention to the quantity of nutrients (vitamins, minerals, amino acids, etc.) in each serving.
Remember there are no quick fixes with nutrition. The focus should be on balance, eating several different foods that contain different nutrients not just on one versatile food, so you can meet your daily recommended nutritional requirements.
What should be my takeaway?
Irish sea moss contains a lot of nutrients, iron, magnesium, iodine, and zinc just to name a few. Sea moss has become popular due to its nutritional composition but based upon the quantity of each nutrient in the recommended daily serving size of Irish sea moss (10g), there are other foods and dietary supplements available that can provide higher quantities of nutrients depending on the nutritional content you are trying to add to your diet.
The actual health benefits of Irish sea moss are not well researched. Due to this reality, you should use sea moss as suggested on its packaging to avoid risks.
As a result of its high iodine content, you may want to monitor your thyroid levels when taking Irish sea moss regularly. Do not use sea moss to treat low thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism). Interfering with your thyroid levels without supervision of a healthcare professional can be detrimental to your health.
Sea moss has some blood thinning properties as well so please refrain from taking sea moss if you are taking blood thinning medications.
If you decide to take Irish sea moss, there is a difference between wild-crafted and pool-grown sea-moss; so thoroughly research your Irish sea moss vendor to make sure you are maximizing your sea moss’s nutritional content.
When it comes to understanding the meaning behind a superfood your focus should not be on one food, it should be on everything you choose to eat and put into your body. It is about balance and everything you choose to put in your body should have some nutritional value (contain essential vitamins, minerals, nutrients etc.).
“Your diet is a bank account. Good food choices are good investments.” – Bethenny Frankel
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102 Minerals In Dr. Sebi's African Bio Mineral Balance. Alkaline Plant Based Diet. (2016, November 7). https://www.naturallifeenergy.com/understanding-minerals-in-dr-sebis-african-bio-mineral-balance/.
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