All Natural Vegetarian Bacon - Too Good to be True?

Posted by Luisa de Luca on


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That’s right – you heard correctly: vegetarian bacon. In fact, this goes so far as to qualify as vegan bacon. How does such a thing exist? In the form of seaweed. If this is starting to sound like science fiction, don’t stop reading yet. Earlier in July, researchers at Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center announced a patented strain of seaweed that, when fried, tastes just like bacon.

Called dulse, this red seaweed grows wild in the Pacific Ocean. Chris Langdon of OSU has been studying the seaweed for 15 years, originally trying to cultivate a strain that could be used as food for abalone. A year and a half ago the focus changed to growing it for human enjoyment.

Not only does this seaweed taste like bacon, but it has other highly attractive nutritious benefits, too. Like most seaweed, it’s packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Some claim it has twice as much nutrition as kale1. But one of the best benefits it has to offer is an extremely high protein content: dulse is 16% protein2.

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It isn’t being grown commercially – yet. But the seaweed superfood was designed for commercial growth. Langdon has been cultivating the seaweed in tanks of seawater, which has allowed them to control the nutritional makeup of the plant. In the future, however, there are high hopes for this seaweed to become a mass-grown specialty crop. Fast growing, dulse can double its weight in a week and the lab in Oregon is already capable of producing 100 pounds per week.

Not only that, but this seaweed also has profound potential for improving the ecosystem because of its amazing ability to turn nitrogen into living tissue (seaweed). With 39% of the US population living along the coastline polluting the ocean, this is another big selling point for growing dulse as a crop.

But why should you care? Besides being a delicious bacon-esque treat for vegetarians and vegans alike, dulse offers tremendous health benefits for anybody. The ocean plant has good quantities of Vitamins A and C, and is also a good source of calcium3 – so much so that some people recommend using it to treat osteoporosis. It’s also one of the few plant sources of Vitamin B124. But the real selling point for seaweed is its concentrated amounts of iodine3, an important nutrient not found in very many other foods. Iodine is the key to a healthy thyroid. Most varieties are also good plant sources of iron4.

Besides what you eat as part of your sushi roll, you might be wondering how seaweed makes a good snack. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

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1. Look for a green variety called Nori (the kind they use in sushi) and tuck a sheet inside your wrap or sandwich.

2. Look for seaweed chips at your health food store – they have a similar texture to kale chips and come in a variety of flavors.

3. Get fresh seaweed and add some in with your daily breakfast shake or add it to your kale salad. 

It might be a while before this new “bacon seaweed” is available to the public, but until then, you can start now adding some of this delicious and healthy superfood to your diet!

Additional Information:

 

Sources:

  1. http://www.thekitchn.com/does-the-next-superfood-taste-like-bacon-221821
  2. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/finally-seaweed-that-tastes-like-bacon/
  3. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/21/superfood-seaweed-health-benefits_n_3786076.html
  4. http://www.eufic.org/article/en/artid/Seaweed-exploring-its-dietary-value/

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