A few thousand years ago, our ancestors were consuming seaweed as both food and medicine. And it turns out many of the marine nutrients provided by seaweed are the very ones our modern diets are deficient in – things like iron, magnesium, calcium, boron and iodine. Just as impressive, seaweed is rich in protein (up to 40%), has essential amino acids and Vitamin B12, as well as containing gut-healthy fibre. In fact, the gut-health aspects, which have been extensively researched at the University of Wollongong, feature in The Clever Guts Diet, a book by well-known British doctor and television journalist Michael Mosley.
In Australia, one of the world’s foremost seaweed scientists, Dr Pia Winberg, is reintroducing this wonder-food to our diets through her business PhycoHealth, which she established in 2015. “PhycoHealth is Australia’s first food-grade seaweed farm,” explains Pia. Even better news is these marine plants are being sustainably farmed.
Grow you good thing
Located in the Shoalhaven region on NSW’s South Coast, the farm is a result of Pia’s two decades of research into sustainable seaweed production, which has taken her from Stockholm University to the coastal communities of Sri Lanka. As Australia’s first land-based seaweed farm, it uses a process where seawater is pumped into giant pools, and nutrients and CO2 are captured from the Southern Hemisphere’s largest fermentation and distillery plant. This means the seaweed can grow at a fast rate – over 50 times faster than standard land crops – and capture all the lovely marine nutrients in the process.
Food glorious good
The PhycoHealth food product range includes seaweed as a core ingredient in a collection of pantry goods, which includes muesli, pasta, snacks and condiments. And there are constantly new products in development. “We’re preparing a flatbread and a pesto,” says Pia, “and we have just released a kombucha, called PhycoBucha, as the magic of kombucha originally included kelp or seaweed. So, we are bringing it back to its roots.”
It hasn’t happened overnight – Pia has been researching Australian species of seaweed since 2009, to identify which ones offer the best health benefits and cuisine opportunities. The company’s long-term vision is to educate everyone on the benefits of seaweed in the diet. But, in the meantime, she says their range makes it easy to get the right doses of ocean nutrition (and delicious flavours) in ready-to-eat and ready-to-cook products.
Look for the PhycoHealth range of products at all HFM stores.