What Are the Advantages of Sea Moss? – Cleveland Clinic
A famous animated crab once sang, “The kelp is always greener in someone else’s lake.” But you don’t have to be a musically gifted crustacean to enjoy the benefits of sea moss – which has a host of potential health benefits.
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Sea moss is a type of red algae also known as Irish moss (or Chondrus crispus, if you want to get it right). It’s harvested for its carrageenan, an ingredient used to thicken dairy products like ice cream, but it’s also available raw and in supplement form – think pills, powders, gels, and gums.
Registered nutritionist Beth Czerwony, MS, RD, CSOWM, LD weighs the benefits and side effects of sea moss so you can decide whether these prickly sea vegetables deserve a place in your diet.
Health Benefits of Sea Moss
First things first, “There seem to be some health benefits from sea moss, but they haven’t been thoroughly studied,” warns Czerwony, “and sea moss supplements are not approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.”
There is a lot of research data on the health benefits of algae, the cousin of sea moss – just not specifically about sea moss. Still, it is generally considered safe to consume, and the benefits are consistent with those of other algae.
It is heart healthy
Algae are a superfood, so to speak. It’s higher in fiber than most vegetables – which is a good thing because fiber has all sorts of beneficial effects on the body. It can improve blood sugar control, lower your cholesterol, and reduce your risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease.
“Studies show that sea moss can help lower bad cholesterol, which is one of the contributing factors to heart disease,” says Czerwony. It has also been shown to lower blood pressure, another key factor in heart health.
It can promote weight loss
Do you remember how much fiber seaweed have? High fiber foods are filling foods, which means that they can keep you from overeating. “Fiber keeps us full longer, which can help with weight management,” says Czerwony.
It is a good source of iodine
Iodine is one of the keys to a healthy thyroid, but since your body doesn’t make iodine itself, you can only get it from food. (Most people, however, get enough iodine from dairy products, seafood, and iodized salt.)
It supports intestinal health
Your digestive system is full of bacteria, some good and some bad. And since gut health is linked to overall health, balancing these bacteria is an important element of your wellbeing. Algae, including sea moss, are a good source of fiber and live bacteria. “It can help replenish the good bacteria in our intestines,” says Czerwony.
It can boost your immunity
One study showed that Atlantic salmon that ate sea moss had a more efficient immune response than salmon that didn’t. Of course, fish and humans have very different bodies, and no similar studies have shown the same effect on humans.
Still, a healthy gut is linked to a healthy immune system. And sea moss is also high in iron and antioxidants, both of which contribute to immune system health.
It can build muscle and aid recovery from exercise
Sea moss is rich in an amino acid called taurine, which helps build muscle. “When we exercise, we get tiny micro-tears in our muscles,” explains Czerwony, “but amino acids can help with this recovery.”
Sea moss also contains around 6 grams of protein per 100 grams, a staple for exercise. Don’t just rely on sea moss to recover from your training! You still need to make sure you are getting enough healthy food, fluids, rest, etc.
Side effects of taking supplements containing sea moss
Sea moss is mostly considered healthy, although it contains inconsistent amounts of both good nutrients and less healthy substances (which we’ll get into in a moment).
“Sea moss is a product of its environment, so its nutritional value depends heavily on where it is grown,” says Czerwony. “Unfortunately, there’s no real way of knowing exactly what’s in it, or how much, and one batch can have a higher potency than the next.”
Seemoos is associated with two main risks.
You could be consuming too much iodine
Too much of a good becomes bad, as is the case with iodine. In fact, endocrinologists advise against taking iodine supplements unless specifically directed by your doctor, as they can actually negatively affect your thyroid.
It contains heavy metals
Ouch! Algae are known to absorb heavy metals from the water in which they grow. It’s non-toxic in small amounts, but you definitely don’t want to overdo it with consuming seaweed.
It has an unpleasant taste and texture
Not dangerous, but still remarkable, is the slimy texture and fishy taste of sea moss.
Raw sea moss has an underwater earthy taste, similar to clams and oysters. “If you don’t like seafood, the taste of raw sea moss probably isn’t for you,” says Czerwony. Fortunately, however, it shouldn’t have a lot of flavor when taken in supplement form.
Aside from the taste, the mouthfeel of sea moss can also put you off: in gel form, it has a smooth, thick texture similar to that of aloe vera. If it bothers you, try switching to a different type of supplement.
Should you take supplements containing sea moss?
One study found that 4 grams of sea moss per day is usually safe – but you should check with your doctor before taking it, especially if you already have hyper- or hypothyroidism.
It’s available both raw and in a variety of supplement forms, including:
- Gummy bear.
Which version you choose is up to you. “It really comes down to what you prefer,” says Czerwony, “as long as you follow the correct dosage instructions.”
But whether you are only taking sea moss supplements or other types as well, remember that you cannot overcompensate for poor diet.
“Sea moss has potential health benefits, but good, varied diet is the most beneficial for your body,” says Czerwony. “Don’t rely on nutritional supplements.”