Seaweed: it’s no longer strange to most people because of the prevalence of sushi bars and nori rolls. But could you eat it for a whole week to lose weight? I put myself on the seaweed diet to see if it made any difference to how I felt and what I weighed.
Seaweed is rich in vitamins A, B12 and C and is rich in calcium and potassium. It also contains a lot of fiber, which can help with feelings of fullness and helps to regulate your blood sugar. Many vegetarians will be familiar with a product called agar agar which is a vegetable product derived from algae that is used instead of gelatine in vegetarian jello and puddings (as gelatine is derived from an animal product). If you mix agar agar into fruit juice, you get a very thick jello-like substance, which is very filling.
Seaweed supplements come in a few different forms: there are seaweed pills and also powders which you mix into liquid and drink before eating a meal. The idea is that the alginate expands in your stomach to form a thick gel, mimicking the effect of a large meal.
For this experiment I used a seaweed supplement powder before every meal, three times daily. I also took a seaweed supplement pill (available online or in health food stores) and ate nori papers (the seaweed papers used to wrap nori rolls) every day, snacking on them like crackers, just to get an additional seaweed boost. I also tried to eat a healthy diet and I kept up my regular gym routine of 40 minutes of cardio, four times per week. Here’s what happened. I am 5’6″ or 168 cms tall.
Seaweed Diet Day 1: 143.2 pounds, energy low
It’s Monday morning and I can’t manage to get to the gym – I just feel too exhausted. I start the day by taking my supplement pill and then half an hour later, I take my powdered seaweed supplement, mixed with water. 10 minutes later, I do notice that I feel fuller and I skip my coffee and grab two pieces of toast with tomato and head out the door.
By lunchtime I’m starving, the ‘full’ feeling only lasted about two hours and by half past ten I was ravenous. At noon I drank my next powdered supplement and noticed the full feeling straight away. I ate a tofu salad with brown rice and felt completely satisfied.
I made it through the afternoon without snacking, even though I did have sugar cravings (as usual) at about 3:30. Before dinner at 7pm, I drank my third and final supplement and had a vegetable pasta dish with salad, plus a small glass of red wine.
Seaweed Diet Day 2: 142.6 pounds, energy levels improved
A small loss! I am so happy about it that I manage to get to the gym while my partner gets sorts out some household things. After the gym I take my supplement and my seaweed powder and drink a ton of water with breakfast.
By lunchtime I am not as hungry as yesterday. I snack on a packet of nori papers and enjoy the salty, fishy taste (I guess I’m hungry after all!). I have my regular salad, tofu and rice and feel full and satisfied. Again the cravings hit me at 3:30pm. I’m so starving that I have to get some candy from the vending machine. I eat three pieces and give the rest away. At dinner I take my supplement and my husband sits down to chicken (him), tofu (me) and plenty of veggies. After dinner I need a cookie.
Seaweed Diet Day 3: 142.1 pounds, energy very low
I feel awful. I drag myself to the gym in a very grumpy state. I am somewhat comforted by the fact that I’ve lost a pound. However I am being more disciplined with my eating, despite the occasional cookie and glass of wine. I eat the same as yesterday and have included a snack of miso soup and a carrot at 3:30 to stave off the cravings. The seaweed powder is definitely making me feel full when I have it, but the effects are not long lasting. I also tend to feel bloated and this makes me uncomfortable.
Seaweed Diet Day 4: 141.7 pounds, energy level is average
I skip the gym and drive my husband to the train station. He has tried some of the nori paper (he’s already a fan of sushi) and has some in his lunch box. It’s a healthy snack and I’m glad he likes it. Today I feel sluggish and tired by lunchtime and my regular salad is just not going to cut it. After my seaweed powder, I buy a salad sandwich on thick, white bread and I feel a lot better.
Seaweed Diet Day 5: 141.9 pounds, energy normal
My weight has gone up, ever so slightly and I’m thinking of ditching the seaweed but I stick with it. I manage a good gym session and I can definitely see that I look thinner around my mid section. However, after the seaweed powder at lunch my stomach expands very painfully and I feel like I’m four months pregnant. It stays that way all afternoon and I’m dreading my seaweed powder at dinner. The powder (which I mixed into fruit juice) makes me feel truly awful and I don’t feel like eating my dinner. I pick at my meal (bad example for the hubby!) and then eat cookies and ice cream after he is tucked away in bed!
Seaweed Diet Day 6: 141.2 pounds, energy high
I’ve lost two pounds! I head to the gym with a spring in my step and run fast on the treadmill feeling light on my feet. The supplement is staring to really bother me and I can see how the fishy taste would put many people off. I have my seaweed powder before each meal and don’t feel as bloated as yesterday, but it still makes for an uncomfortable, full feeling, rather than the satiety of eating a solid, balanced meal.
I am noticing that I have preferred to eat more lightly while taking the powder. I have no interest in starchy carbs but I have still been reaching for the sugar quite a bit. It’s Saturday so I take a nice, long walk with my husband and we go out for ice cream later. I keep my intake moderate and skip the toppings. I have to admit that I feel lighter and my clothes feel looser.
Seaweed Diet Final Day: 140.8 pounds, energy normal
I made it! I am amazed that I have dropped nearly 2 ½ pounds in one week, although I have to admit that I was very careful with my diet, as well as using the seaweed supplement, seaweed powder and eating the nori paper. My results were good, the main challenge was the bloating I experienced after the third day, which was quite uncomfortable. On my last day I stuck to the program but had a large Sunday dinner with the family and an extra glass of red wine.
Would I recommend it?
I think that seaweed is one of those health supplements that is unlikely to do you any harm, so try it by all means. After my week on the program I feel fantastic, lighter and have good energy levels. My hair also seems shinier and my nails and skin seem healthy as well.
Seaweed is currently being studied for its benefits related to health and cancer. You can find seaweed in most good health food stores or research and order online. The Mayo clinic has also conducted trails on seaweed gels, to varying degrees of success. Once an improvement has been made to the taste and texture of these products, we see them going more mainstream.
For now, I’m taking my two pound weight loss and getting back into my bikini (Here she is, above!) and hitting the pool!