Edible algae: types, properties and benefits

Did you know that there are some types of algae that are suitable for consumption? More and more people include these organisms that grow in the oceans in their daily meals to have a healthier and more balanced diet. Algae are organisms that grow mainly in the aquatic world and can present a wide variety of colors and shapes. However, those that we consider as edible can be classified as green, red and brown or brown.

But why has it become such a well-known food all over the world? Edible algae are being used in different cuisines around the world for their great health benefits, since they provide a high concentration of nutrients in insignificant amounts. If you want to know more about this popular food, in the following article we will explain different aspects of edible algae, their types, properties and benefits.

What are seaweeds

Marine algae are organisms with the capacity to carry out oxygenic photosynthesis that live mainly in aquatic environments (either freshwater or saltwater), although they are also cultivated in different coastal areas. Currently 25,000 different species have been discovered around the world, but only 50 of them are suitable for human consumption.

These organisms defined as eukaryotes can be of two main types: unicellular or multicellular. However, marine algae classified as edible are currently also being classified according to their color:

  • Red algae: they have this tone due to their richness in biliproteins, a substance that causes the elimination of the green color.
  • Blue- green algae: its high content of chlorophyll is the cause of the color of this type of organism.
  • Brown algae: they are only found in salty waters and their color is caused by their content of xanthophylls, iodine and other pigmenting substances.
  • Golden algae: also called Chrysophyceae and are mainly freshwater. Its color is from an intense yellow to yellow and golden tones, close to brown or brown.
  • Green algae: due to their presence of chlorophyll and starch, these algae are distinguished by having a more greenish tone than the bluish ones.

Types of Edible Seaweeds and How to Eat Them

We already know both the properties and the benefits of these organisms. But how are they consumed? Below we will explain what the types of edible seaweed are and how we can consume them:


This type of seaweed, also known as Undaria pinnatifida, is especially rich in vitamins such as complex B and C and minerals such as calcium and potassium. One of the most popular ways to consume Wakame is as a condiment in salads or as an ingredient in pesto. Here we offer several delicious recipes with wakame seaweed.


It stands out for being easy to digest and for being especially rich in protein and vitamin A. The most popular way to eat nori seaweed is in sushi due to its delicate flavor, but it can also be used as an ingredient in any soup, stew or pasta dish. For example, it is also common to find it in hot dishes such as ramen.

Spirulina or spirulina

In addition to its intense blue-green color, spirulina is an algae that stands out for being one of the foods with the highest protein content (even more than eggs and meat). In addition to this, it also has a high content of calcium, phosphorus and different vitamins (including B12, E and provitamin A). This seaweed can be consumed either as a vitamin supplement, or in the form of a paste.

Barnacle algae or sea branch

Its scientific name is Codium fragile and it is increasingly used in cooking for its unique texture and flavor, which is reminiscent of barnacles.


Fucus vesiculosus is one of the types of brown edible algae, which stands out for its great richness in vitamins and minerals. Due to its laxative and diuretic properties, the best known way to consume fucus is as a food supplement for weight loss diets.

kombu seaweed

It has a high content of both iodine and glutamic acid, which is why this seaweed is used to enhance the flavor of stews and to soften the fibers of other legumes during cooking.

sea ​​lettuce

It is also known as Ulva lactuca. This algae, rich in minerals such as iron and magnesium and in vitamins A and C, can be consumed both raw and in different broths.

sweet seaweed

This reddish-hued seaweed, also known as Palmaria palmata, dillisk, dilsk or creathnach seaweed, is especially rich in iron and fiber. This seaweed can be consumed both cooked by adding it to soups and raw in salads after soaking.

agar agar

This type is an extract obtained from different red algae, which stand out for their mucilage content. Due to its water-absorbing properties and its lack of flavour, agar agar is used both to thicken and gel various kitchen dishes such as sauces, jams, jams, ice creams, creams and mousses.

Almost all of these algae, in addition to being able to eat them directly in dishes, can be taken in capsules or pills of specific algae. For example, spirulina and fucus pills are very common.

Properties of edible algae

As we mentioned in previous lines, algae have become a very popular food all over the world because, in addition to having a delicious flavor and easy storage, they have a high concentration of essential nutrients for our health in very small amounts.

Next, we will explain the properties of edible algae for which they have become an increasingly sought-after food for a healthy and balanced diet:

  • Healthy fats: edible seaweed provides up to 5% essential unsaturated fats. In addition to this, this vegetable does not contain saturated fats, that is, those that are not healthy for our body.
  • High fiber content: thanks to this, they have certain laxative and digestive properties. In addition, they also contain other fibers such as mucilage, polysaccharides that can retain several times their volume in water, so they are also considered a fairly satiating food.
  • Great source of iodine: this nutrient is considered an essential trace element for our cells to carry out energy metabolism correctly. In addition, due to this richness, they are an ideal alternative for vegetarians since the main sources of iodine are fish and shellfish.
  • High calcium content: some edible algae can provide up to 1,400 mg of this nutrient by consuming just 100 grams of this aquatic organism.
  • Rich in iron: seaweed is an ideal food for vegan diets since, although its iron content is of vegetable origin, it also has vitamin C, which favors the absorption of this mineral.
  • Other nutrients in its composition: in addition to the above properties, algae are also rich in different vitamins such as A, B and E and in other minerals such as selenium and zinc.

Benefits of edible seaweed

Due to the properties and nutrients that we have explained in the previous section, edible algae have the following health benefits:

  • They prevent some intestinal problems: due to their digestive and laxative properties, algae regulate the intestinal tract and prevent some problems such as constipation.
  • They favor weight loss: algae are very useful in hypocaloric diets since, thanks to their mucilage content, they reduce appetite and increase the feeling of satiety if you drank a glass of water before consuming them.
  • They help purify the body: due to its contribution in alginic acid, this food helps to eliminate toxins accumulated in our body.
  • They help regulate the thyroid: thanks to their richness in iodine, algae favor the functioning of the thyroid gland.
  • They promote cardiovascular health: as we have indicated, this food is rich in healthy fats, which helps us prevent high levels of bad cholesterol.
  • They prevent osteoporosis: thanks to their content of minerals such as calcium, phosphorus and magnesium, algae are an excellent product for keeping both our bones and teeth in good condition.


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