Wakame Nutrition Facts

Calories, Carbs, and Health Benefits of Wakame

Wakame (Undaria pinnatifida) is a bright, green edible seaweed with a distinctive flavor and texture. The sea vegetable is one of the three most common seaweed varieties in Japan and is commonly grown in Japan and Korea. Wakame can be eaten on its own but is often added to miso soup, stir fry dishes, salads, and other Asian foods.

Like most seaweed, wakame is considered to be good for your body and good for the environment. The food is also versatile and easy to add to your healthy diet.

Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for 2 tablespoons or 1/8 cup (10g) of raw wakame seaweed.

  • Calories: 4.5
  • Fat: <1g
  • Sodium: 87mg
  • Carbohydrates: 0.9g
  • Fiber: <1g
  • Sugars: <1g
  • Protein: 0.3g

Carbs in Wakame

Wakame, like all seaweed, is very low in carbohydrates. A typical serving measuring 2 tablespoons provides less than 1 gram of carbs. But even a more substantial 1/2 cup (100-gram) serving provides only about 9 grams of carbs. Most of the carbohydrate is starch. There is less than one gram of fiber and less than one gram of sugar in a serving of wakame.

The estimated glycemic load of wakame is zero if your serving size is 1/8 cup. A larger 100-gram serving has a glycemic load of four, making it a low glycemic food.

Fats in Wakame

There is almost no fat in wakame seaweed. Even the larger serving has less than one gram of fat and most of that fat is healthy polyunsaturated fat.

Protein in Wakame

Wakame can boost the protein content of your favorite soup, salad or dish, depending on how much you use. A small serving provides less than 1 gram of protein, but the larger 100-gram serving provides 3 grams of protein.

Micronutrients in Wakame

Wakame is a good source of iodine providing about 42 micrograms per gram of seaweed. A 2-tablespoon serving would provide 420 micrograms of iodine or nearly three times the recommended daily intake for adults. Other minerals in wakame include manganese, magnesium, and calcium.

Wakame also provides vitamins. Each 2-tablespoon serving of wakame provides 5% of your recommended daily intake of folate. It also provides smaller amounts of vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin E, and pantothenic acid.

Health Benefits

An ingredient in wakame called fucoxanthin is the subject of several research studies investigating potential health benefits. Fucoxanthin is a carotenoid that provides antioxidant benefits and is believed to provide other advantages as well. For example, wakame is often promoted as a weight loss aid and even as a potential treatment for obesity, diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other chronic conditions.

However, research investigating these benefits is still in the early stages. While scientists point out that there are no side effects to wakame consumption and fucoxanthin and can be easily extracted from sea vegetables, there are not enough human studies to confirm these benefits .

The iodine in wakame can boost your health. According to the National Institutes of Health, iodine is needed to make thyroid hormones in the body. Thyroid hormones help regulate your metabolism and are essential for bone and brain development during pregnancy and infancy. If you don’t get enough iodine, a goiter—or enlarged thyroid gland—may develop and is often the first sign of hypothyroidism.

It is also possible, however, to get too much iodine. If you consume too much iodine on a regular basis, thyroid hormone synthesis is inhibited. The NIH warns that too much iodine can cause the same symptoms as iodine deficiency including goiter, elevated TSH levels, and hypothyroidism.

U.S.health officials have established the upper limit for adults at 1,100 micrograms of iodine per day.

Studies have shown that iodine levels among Japanese people who consume nori, wakame, and kelp is estimated to average 1,000-3,000 micrograms per day. Some health experts associate the higher iodine intake with health benefits seen in Japanese populations including a longer average life expectancy, a lower risk for certain types of cancer, and fewer heart-related deaths in men and women aged 35-74 years.

Common Questions

What does wakame taste like?

Many people say that wakame has a salty, sweet flavor with a silky, satiny texture similar to pappardelle pasta.

How does wakame compare to other types of seaweed?

Wakame is often compared to another seaweed called alaria. These two seaweeds can be used interchangeably in recipes. Wakame has a softer taste and texture as compared to nori and much more mild and sweet than kombu.

In terms of nutrition, kombu has the highest iodine content while nori and wakame have lower iodine contents. But even among these three popular varieties, the nutritional content including the iodine content can vary depending on species, harvest location, and preparation.

Can you eat seaweed that you find on the beach?

While you might be able to eat seaweed that you harvest on the beach, it is not always recommended simply because there is no way of knowing if the sea vegetable has been exposed to pollutants or other contaminants.

Does boiling seaweed change its nutritional profile? 

In general, cooking seaweed reduces its iodine content. You may also eat more seaweed after it has been boiled as the texture softens, making it easier to consume. 

Is a seaweed supplement just as healthy as eating seaweed?

For those that don't like the taste or texture of wakame or other types of seaweed, supplements are available. However, there isn't strong evidence to show any benefit. And there may be cause for concern.

Researchers have noted that there is very little legislation requiring food or supplement companies to disclose mineral, heavy metal, or iodine content of seaweed products or to provide guidance on a safe portion size of certain whole seaweeds in order to prevent excessive intakes.

If you are interested in gaining the potential health benefits of wakame, it's best to eat the food in its whole natural form. This allows you to consume both the fiber and protein it provides, along with vitamins and minerals.

Can seaweed help me lose weight?

You’ll see reports in magazines and online about the weight loss benefits of seaweed. However, there is very little evidence to support the claims.

Seaweed does contain some fiber which can help you to feel full and satisfied after eating, but human studies have not found that seaweed can provide any special benefit when you are trying to lose weight.

Recipes and Preparation Tips

Cooking with wakame or any seaweed is relatively simple. You'll find seaweed sold in sheets or dried and packaged in many grocery stores. If you buy it fresh from a market, you'll need to clip the blades and hang them to dry yourself. You can keep the blades whole or process with a spice grinder to toss into soups or salads.

Some cooks combine wakame with other ingredients that provide flavor and texture, such as pink shrimp, cucumbers cabbage or sauerkraut. You can also eat it alone as a salad topped with sesame seeds or crushed peanuts.

You can also add wakame to your favorite recipe or try one of these:

Allergies and Interventions

According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, there are rare cases of seaweed allergy. However, there have been published reports of individuals stating that iodine-rich foods such as wakame, may skin rash or other reactions in sensitized individuals .

Those with seafood allergies may be concerned about consuming seaweed or other sea vegetables like kelp or kombu. These foods do not contain fish protein which generally causes an allergic reaction in sensitive individuals. But experts still advise caution when trying seaweed for the first time.

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