By Jackie Rainford Corcoran EBS Health Columnist

Have you ever been grocery shopping and found yourself in the ethnic foods aisle wondering how one incorporates seaweed into one’s diet outside of eating sushi?

The next time you’re there, do yourself and your family a favor and pick up a bag of kombu, a member of the kelp family found in oceans around the world. It costs about $5 and will provide added nutrients to many meals.

Here’s how to use it: Tear off a 2-by-4-inch strip of kombu, and add it to your grains, beans, legumes or soups before you turn on the heat. Cook your food as usual, and the kombu will expand and stay intact.

As this sea vegetable cooks with your food, it releases essential trace minerals and vitamins like calcium, iron, vitamin B, vitamin A, potassium, magnesium, iodine and zinc to name a few.

Kombu has anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties, and is alkalizing, meaning it balances your body’s pH so it can optimally perform basic functions. It also improves digestibility, reduces gas and bloating, and tenderizes grains, beans and legumes.

Once you remove the sheet of kombu after cooking, you’ll notice a subtle and unique aroma, but one that has little impact on the flavor and salinity of your food.

You might also enjoy the taste and texture of the kombu. If so, chop it up and add it to your meal. If you’re eating with others who have a squeamish appetite, keep it on the side and invite them to try a small piece.

If eating kombu isn’t for you, try feeding it to your dog. It’s considered a superfood for your furry friend, and is easy to digest. If that fails, add it to your compost – your soil will be better for it.

It’s worth noting that sea vegetables like kombu are an abundant source of iodine. Until the 1920s, America had many communities that were iodine deficient and experienced severe thyroid disease.
Our bodies don’t make iodine, so we have to get it from food. And without it, our thyroid can’t function properly.

In 1924, after the discovery that iodine supported healthy thyroid function, Morton Salt started an effective trend by adding iodine to table salt, which greatly reduced thyroid disease related to insufficient iodine.

Today, there’s much debate about iodine deficiency in the U.S. In recent decades, several factors have depleted our iodine intake. Please note: if you have a hyperthyroid (overactive thyroid) condition like Grave’s disease your physician may want to limit your iodine intake. Ask their opinion.

Kombu is easy to come by, affordable and has a long shelf life. Store it an airtight glass container at room temperature. Keep it near your grains, beans and legumes as a reminder to add it before cooking.
Let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear about other unique ways you’re adding sea vegetables to your diet.

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Recently, a number of factors have depleted our iodine intake. Here are a few:

1. American’s consume large amounts of highly processed and salty foods, but most food companies don’t use iodized salt.
2. When cooking at home, many of us have switched to gourmet salts that have not been iodized.
3. Our soil has been depleted of naturally occurring iodine, which diminishes iodine levels in the plants that grow in it or the animals that graze on it.

Jackie Rainford Corcoran is an IIN Certified Holistic Health Coach, a public speaker and health activist. Contact her at rainfordcorcoran@gmail.com.