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What’s in This?: Seaweed Snacks

How many can I eat before overdosing on sodium?

We’re often told that you should never eat anything (or put anything on your body) if you don’t recognize everything on the ingredients list. But since most of us have no idea what xanthan gum or potassium benzoate are — or more importantly, what they’re doing to our bodies — we’re decoding the ingredients in the many things Americans put in (and on, or near) themselves.

This edition: Annie Chun’s Sea Salt Seaweed Snacks, which are made from four separate ingredients that we’ve broken down as they appear on Annie Chun’s website.

The Ingredients

1) Organic Seaweed: Seaweed is a common name for all sorts of marine plants and algae, but the species typically used in the making of crispy seaweed snacks is an edible red algae known as nori. The production process is fairly simple: Harvest, wash, prune, dry, roast and season.

The great thing about seaweed is that it contains an extremely wide spectrum of vitamins and minerals — magnesium, calcium, potassium, manganese, vitamin K, B vitamins — while being virtually calorie-less (one serving of Annie Chun’s seaweed snacks has only 30 calories). It provides some protein, too, so it’s a pretty well-rounded snack.

The one thing you should watch out for when shopping for seaweed snacks is an usually high level of the mineral iodine, which certain types of seaweed have. Iodine is important for proper thyroid function, but too much can be dangerous, so check the label, and remember that even though seaweed snacks are low-calorie, you should still stick to a regular serving size. (Annie Chun’s seaweed snacks don’t list iodine on the label, so you should be fine snacking away on them.)

Heavy metals from the ocean can also contaminate seaweed snacks, but the FDA is supposed to regulate that kind of thing.

2) Organic Sunflower Oil: While sunflower oil does have some potential health benefits — it contains fats that are good for your heart — in processed foods, it can be added in excessive amounts. And according to physician and biochemist Cate Shanahan, consuming too much vegetable oil — which is easy to do, considering Shanahan says roughly 45 percent of the average American’s calories come from refined oils — has serious repercussions (i.e., fatty liver disease, insulin resistance and migraines).

That said, seaweed snacks probably aren’t going to send you over the edge.

3) Sea Salt: Seaweed snacks can at times be too high in salt, but Annie Chun’s only have 50 milligrams per serving, or two percent of your daily recommended intake.

4) Organic Rosemary Extract (Organic Rosemary Oleoresin, Organic Olive Oil): Rosemary extract is a natural preservative, often used as an alternative to synthetic ones, like BHA and BHT, and it works well. It does cost more for the producer, being natural and all, but in the end, the consumer benefits. 

The Takeaway

I don’t have anything bad to say about Annie Chun’s seaweed snacks. They do a lot of good, barely any bad, and you can eat a bunch of them without feeling terrible. What’s not to like?

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