It turns out that one of the hottest products in today’s superfood marketplace has been right under our noses for years. Sea moss, which is often harvested along the coastline of New England and other beaches around the world, is an excellent thickening agent that improves the consistency of products ranging from soups to stews to ice cream. Regarded as a mere food additive for a very long time, it is coming into prominence as a powerful, holistic, nutrient-rich superfood in a society that has grown wary of over-processed foods laden with empty calories and that has become increasingly interested in a wholesale return to natural health. While it is not a panacea, sea moss is definitely finding its way into the hearts of Americans aspiring to a better quality of life through making conscious changes in diet and nutrition. [This article, “Superfood Sea Moss Gets Its Incredible Moment In The Sun.” was originally published in HealthXWire]
Sea moss comes into its own
Sea moss has a great deal in common with its better-known relative, seaweed, which has long been recognized as a great source of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, earning it the unofficial label of “superfood”. Nutritionists started studying the unique properties of sea moss and found that it contains so many good compounds that it deserves special attention as a separate product, offering its own set of health benefits. The total global commercial market for seaweed and sea moss products combined is anticipated to reach $92.0 billion by 2025, and is expected to continue growing for the foreseeable future, based upon their naturally rich store of nutrients and their exceptional density, gram for gram (especially in the case of sea moss), of dietary fiber, which we all need as an integral part of a sensible diet.
Sea moss achieves celebrity status
The real marketing coup came when celebrity trend-setter Kim Kardashian posted a photo of herself drinking a smoothie containing sea moss on Instagram. Suddenly posts started appearing throughout the internet and ads were cropping up everywhere else for sea moss capsules, powders, and gummies, and a nutritional star was born. Since that initial media breakthrough, a whole host of show business and music industry luminaries have hopped on the sea moss advocacy bandwagon. And that wagon is not slowing down.
Fortunately for those who value science over celebrity, reputable studies have shown that sea moss does indeed offer many tangible health benefits, and it may eventually be used to help patients who are dealing with some very serious medical issues. Say what you will about her, Kim Kardashian may really be on to something.
A full roster of diet and general health benefits
What makes sea moss so special? First, it contains a wide variety of important nutrients such as calcium, chromium, iodine, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, vitamin B2, vitamin B12 and zinc. These beneficial compounds are densely packed into the sea moss, meaning that a daily serving is only two to four tablespoons. That portion amounts to a mere five to ten calories with no fat, no cholesterol, and no sugar.
Nutritionists also say that sea moss has a higher fiber content than most vegetables, meaning it can help control blood sugar levels, lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. Studies have shown that it can help lower blood pressure, and it may promote weight loss because high-fiber foods help us feel full longer.
Not too shabby for a substance that literally washes on shore in abundance along the Atlantic coast of Europe and North America, as well as other locations.
Potential to help prevent or treat illness
In addition to the known and scientifically demonstrated benefits of sea moss, researchers say it may prove to contain compounds that can treat some very serious medical conditions. The data are just starting to be collected at the date of this writing, but scientists are hopeful that sea moss will live up to the promising results that they have already seen.
Work has begun to determine if the unique combination of elements in sea moss may someday be used to treat or even prevent Parkinson’s Disease, which is the second most common degenerative neurological condition occurring in older adults. Parkinson’s interferes with the body’s movement, causing tremors, slowness and stiffness. There is no known cure for Parkinson’s at this time, but very preliminary research has shown that sea moss might be able to slow the progression of the disease. So far most of the studies have involved worms and lower organisms given an extract derived from sea moss, and it remains to be seen if similar results will happen in the case of humans. It\\\’s a bit early to tell, but a breakthrough in the treatment of Parkinson\\\’s made possible through the administration of a purified extract of sea moss would indeed be revolutionary. Scientists remain hopeful.
Strengthening the immune system… and more
A second major area of research involves the effect of sea moss on the body’s immune system, specifically when it comes to the salmonella bacteria. Salmonella is estimated to cause illness in about 1.3 million Americans every year, and around 450 deaths are blamed on diseases caused by the bacteria. At least one laboratory study has demonstrated that sea moss can stop the growth of of the bacteria that causes salmonella, but scientists have not yet determined if the moss will be an effective treatment or preventative for humans.
At least anecdotally, it is believed that certain elements in sea moss can aid the body in preventing or fighting off infections, and that these elements, working together might be a naturally-occurring anti-inflammatory agent. Further, and interestingly, sea moss gel is rich in collagen, and preparations made of the gel can be topically applied to improve the health and appearance of skin and hair. Ingested sea moss gel also confers similar benefits.
So the sea moss market – which is estimated to be about $18 million annually on Amazon alone – could be poised for an even bigger growth spurt than the one attributed to Ms. Kardashian’s smoothie. The question being asked by every company who sells sea moss products is how to stand out among the competition in what is becoming a crowded field.
One company among the many
One producer, Yemaya Organic, believes that it can achieve more in the market by doing less – specifically, doing less to process the product and instead to offer it to consumers in its rawest form. Yemaya CEO Michael Jean says keeping the moss as pure as possible in order to have it retain its full nutritional benefit is his company’s number one goal.
“It’s harvested straight from the marine-protected waters. It’s sun-dried, it’s not process dried, nothing is added to it,” Jean said. “It’s the purest form of sea moss you can get. It’s harvested from St. Lucia. It’s cleaned, it’s dried, and it’s packaged there at an FDA approved facility.”
Of course, buying a less-processed product means the consumer is going to have to do more work to turn the sea moss into a usable form. Even that extra effort is a selling point for the product, especially among consumers who want to know exactly what they are getting when they order the sea moss. Yemaya’s website has complete instructions on how to turn the dried moss into a gel that can be mixed into a variety of dishes.
The first step in the process is to rinse the moss with fresh water to remove any sand or salt that might still be on it. (It comes straight off the beach, remember.) Next, the moss is soaked overnight in water. It has major absorption capacity, so each ounce of dried sea moss requires four cups of water. Finally, the moss is strained and rinsed again before being put into a high-speed blender with more water. The result is a gel with the consistency of a pudding and a taste that is usually described as bland, but not unpleasant.
With all of the good news about the benefits of sea moss, nutritionists remind us that no food is perfect – and this is no exception. The first caveat when trying the product is to remember that the nutritional value of each batch depends on where and when it was harvested. The potency can vary from package to package, so some of the benefits may be pronounced or muted accordingly.
Another potential drawback is the fact that sea moss can contain fairly large amounts of iodine and heavy metals, which it absorbs from its environment. Too much iodine can be a problem for some people, and over-consumption can have a bad effect on the thyroid gland. As for the heavy metals, researchers say they should cause no problems in small amounts, but again over-consumption can lead to bad results. These are two of the main reasons the recommended daily serving of sea moss should not be more than two to four tablespoons.
Portion control is one of the conveniences that some consumers are seeking when they start looking at sea moss products. If they don’t want to go through the whole process of preparing the dried moss, they can find a wide variety of capsules, gels, gummies, lotions and powders already on the market.
While Yemaya Organic still focuses on its unprocessed, raw form of sea moss, it has recently developed a capsule form so it can access a wider market share. Jean says his company’s emphasis on natural ingredients made a big difference when it started working on the new product.
“We developed the capsule as a matter of convenience for our customers,” Jean said. “Providing the raw form is proof that we care about giving you the rawest form of the product, and practicing what we preach.”
A bright future
Whatever form it takes, sea moss is poised to become the next big thing in the natural supplements market. It appears to be moving out of the shadow of the better-known seaweed-based products that have been touted for years. One thing seems certain – sea moss isn’t going to be relegated to the humble obscurity of being a mere “thickening agent” anytime soon. The genie is out of the bottle.