Hijiki

Sargassum fusiforme, syn. Hizikia fusiformis

Herbs gallery - Hijiki

Common names

  • Hijiki

Hijiki is a type of seaweed or sea vegetable loaded with numerous vital nutrients, including a number of essential minerals. For several centuries, the Japanese have been incorporating hijiki in their regular diet and its effects are reflected in their sound health as well as youthful skin and shiny hair. Apart from containing rich amounts of dietary fiber, hijiki also promotes health and beauty. Consuming small quantities of hijiki on a regular basis helps to keep the hair dense, black as well as shiny, according to Japanese folklore. While hijiki is a common food item in Japan and some other East Asian countries, this sea vegetable is also available in the United Kingdom. For the last three decades, it is being sold in the stores selling natural products. Over the years, even people in the United States have adopted the culinary uses of hijiki.

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Hijiki is fibrous seaweed with a black hue and is found growing naturally along the coastlines in Japan, China and the two Koreas. This seaweed is a very common ingredient in many Japanese dishes. In fact, it forms a part of the country's traditional food. Hijiki is used in an array of dishes, including vegetable and fish preparations, salads, and stir fries.

More often than not, hijiki is available in a dehydrated state. Before using this seaweed, it is essential to soak it in fresh water and rinse it well. During the process of reconstitution, the dehydrated hijiki increases in size - as much as five times the size of the dried sea vegetable. When you soak the dried seaweed in water, its leaves bear resemblance to black noodles.

Hijiki contains elevated levels of dietary fiber, which gives this seaweed its characteristic texture. This seaweed has a mild flavour. Usually, the seaweed is chopped into extremely fine slices and combined with various food items including dips, grains, sushi rice and dressings. However, unlike many other types of seaweeds, hijiki is not employed to wrap sushi.

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The Japanese generally believe that hijiki offers an assortment of health benefits. They as well as people across the world are of the view that consumption of this seaweed helps to nourish the skin, hair and nails. In addition, hijiki also reinforces the teeth and bones as well as helps in detoxifying the body. The other health benefits of hijiki intake include treating hypertension (high blood pressure), and relieving intestinal problems and congestion. It is also effective for treating problems related to anxiety, since hijiki contains elevated levels of calcium. At the same time, the high iron content of this seaweed helps to prevent and treat anemia.

Parts used

Seaweed.

Uses

Notwithstanding the fact that we seldom emphasize on incorporating iodine in our regular diet, it is a very important element necessary to maintain an optimal health as well as for the normal functioning of our bodily processes. Iodine has a vital function in manipulating as well as balancing the hormones in our body, because this substance interacts with the thyroid gland directly. It is worth mentioning here that the thyroid gland is among the crucial features of our complete endocrine system. While intake of too much iodine may prove to be detrimental for our health, majority of the people either don't get or don't take enough of it. It is interesting to note, that consumption of hijiki, which is an excellent natural source of iodine, provides us with adequate amounts of this substance.

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Seaweed is considered to be the eventual green leafy vegetable and, similar to several other vegetables, it is loaded with dietary fiber that is healthy for your digestive process. Moreover, dietary fiber ensures smooth movement of bowels by means of promoting peristaltic motion, which transports the ingested foods via the digestive tract. This, in turn, helps the body to make the most of ingested nutrients and, at the same time, reduces the risks of constipation.

Traditionally, the Japanese think that consumption of hijiki helps to keep their hair glossy and healthy. Considering the loads of nutrients contained by this seaweed, perhaps it is also helpful for the health of our skin and nail.

Compared to any other vegetables, hijiki contains exceptionally elevated levels of iron. In fact, tests on some varieties of this seaweed have shown that they contain about five times more iron compared to what is found in a chicken liver. Therefore, hijiki is considered to contain the maximum concentration of this essential mineral. In other words, incorporating hijiki in one's weekly diet helps to avoid developing anemia. In addition, when the level of iron is appropriate in your body, it helps to augment the count of red blood cells. This, in turn, helps to supply more oxygen to the extremities and, at the same time, increases the energy levels in general.

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Loss of strength is one of the disadvantages that we face as we grow older. In addition, the resilience of our bones also becomes less when we become old. Nevertheless, incorporating the right amount of minerals in our regular diet helps to avoid the excruciating as well as weakening conditions related to osteoporosis. It has been found that the calcium content of hijiki is more compared to milk, which is believed to be among the best dietary sources of this essential mineral. There is no doubt that consumption of hijiki is effective in keeping one healthy as well as active for several years.

Hijiki offers several other health benefits. While its calorie content is very low, consumption of this seaweed gives one a feeling of fullness for a long time. Since hijiki contains elevated levels of fiber, it helps to get rid of excessive cholesterol from one's cardiovascular system. At the same time, ingestion of this seaweed helps to maintain a healthy balance between insulin and glucose in the body. When the digestive system functions optimally, it offers numerous benefits to the remaining body parts. Therefore, consuming hijiki and other sea vegetables can help to keep your digestive tract as well as other parts of the body in sound health.

It has been established that magnesium promotes sound sleep, mainly because this essential mineral promotes certain hormone production that helps the body to release stress and relax. This, in turn, helps us to sleep and rest well. Since hijiki contains elevated levels of this essential mineral, taking this seaweed as a late night snack will facilitate sound sleep, thereby promoting your mental and physical health.

Side effects and cautions

Hijiki offers several health benefits, but this sea vegetable has one major downside. This seaweed contains exceptionally elevated levels of inorganic arsenic. From the technical point of view, this inorganic arsenic is not only toxic, but a carcinogenic substance. Nevertheless, one would need to consume lots of hijiki to accumulate sufficient inorganic arsenic that can be considered to be detrimental for their health. Nevertheless, authorities in a number of countries have already issued warnings regarding hijiki consumption. However, it is interesting to note that as of now no country has banned the consumption of hijiki. Therefore, like any other food, it is advisable that you should have self-control while consuming hijiki.

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It is worth mentioning here that inorganic arsenic may lead to liver damage, problems related to the gastrointestinal (GI) system and even cancer. Nevertheless, the Ministry for Health, Labor and Welfare in Japan has asserted that the average intake of hijiki by people in Japan daily is negligible and, hence, its inorganic arsenic content does not pose a threat or gives rise to health issues.

In general, it will be necessary for people who want to incorporate hijiki in their meals to weigh the safety issues of consuming this sea vegetable themselves. It is essential that this seaweed is consumed in little quantities. Precisely speaking, a couple of tablespoon of hijiki in each serving is generally sufficient to enhance the texture of any food.

Collection and harvesting

Hijiki is harvested in several coastal areas in East Asia. This seaweed is a natural and excellent source of fucoidan (a sulfated polysaccharide), which is popular among the Japanese for its flavour as well as health benefits. Individual workers collect hijiki from the ocean manually. These workers go into the sea for this purpose and employing small scythes, they catch the floating seaweeds.

Usually, people prepare hijiki in the form of a home-cooked food. Generally, restaurants do not prepare any dish containing this seaweed. People belonging to various cultures in East Asia generally chop and mix this seaweed into salads, dressings, dips, seafood dishes, and stir fries.

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