By this point, nutritious sea vegetables like kelp and nori are relatively well-known superfoods. Lesser utilized in American diets (but rising in popularity elsewhere) is sea moss—but what exactly is sea moss, and how does it stand up to other sea vegetables?
Here, registered dietitians break down the nutrients and benefits of sea moss and share some different ways to add sea veggies to a healthy diet.
What is sea moss?
Sea moss, or Irish sea moss, is a type of red algae. "Similar to many different sea veggies, like nori, kelp, and spirulina, sea moss is deemed as a superfood of the sea for its high nutrient content," registered dietitian Mascha Davis, MPH, RDN, says.
Sea moss is traditionally enjoyed in Asian and some Caribbean and Irish cultures, registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator Shahzadi Devje, R.D., CDE, MSc, tells mbg. Similar to spirulina, this sea veggie is becoming more mainstream in the American diet. "You may have come across the slimy seaweed—splashed across Instagram—in colorful smoothies," Devje says.
While they may be used similarly, spirulina and sea moss are different in color and nutrients. Spirulina contains 28 to 38 times more protein than sea moss, significantly more iron, Devje says. "On the other hand," she adds, "sea moss provides substantially more folate than spirulina—almost double."
What are the benefits of sea moss?
"Sea vegetables are a rich source of vitamins and minerals," Devje says, "typically more than what you'd find in land vegetables." Sea moss, specifically, contains iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc, Davis tells mbg. Micronutrients, like iron, folate, and zinc, are not produced by the body naturally, so it's important they're added to your diet for overall health and well-being1.
"However, it's still not known just how much we truly absorb2 if we ingest it," Davis says. One study conducted on rats suggests sea moss may support gut health and immune response by3 contributing prebiotic effects to the gut microbiome. Further research and studies on humans need to be conducted to confirm those findings, though.
Are there any side effects of sea moss?
Anyone who is pregnant, breastfeeding, or taking other medications or herbs should consult their doctor before ingesting sea moss. There is no research on how this sea veggie affects pregnant women, and it could interact with other medications.
"If you notice any side effects like itchy throat or nausea, it's possible you may be allergic to it and should consult with a doctor," Davis says.
Whether or not it's safe to consume daily is not well studied, Devje says. Talking to a doctor about different supplement options is also a good idea.
How can you get more sea moss in your diet?
Sea moss is commonly used to make carrageenan, a chemically engineered vegan thickening ingredient found in many plant-based milks, ice creams, yogurts, and more.
On its own, it's often sold as a supplement, in the form of a powder, pill, or gel, Davis says. "You can add the powder form into a smoothie or mix it with some water," she suggests. The gel form can be used as a thickener for soups.
Sea moss can also be purchased in its raw form, Devje says, but it requires quite a bit of prep, like rinsing, soaking, and repeating.
To get the benefits of other hard-to-find sea veggies, mindbodygreen created organic veggies+ greens powder, which combines kelp, spirulina, and chlorella with dark leafy greens, like kale and spinach. The blend is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants.*
It's important to note that supplements are not tested the same way prescription drugs are, Devje says. The safety and efficacy promised are not always accurate. This is why Devje says it's important to be a savvy shopper and look for supplements from trusted brands with quality-sourced ingredients. For that same reason, mbg teamed up with credible manufacturers to create organic veggies+. This supplement has undergone four rounds of testing for heavy metals and pesticides and is USDA certified organic.
The bottom line.
Sea moss, like other sea vegetables, can be a beneficial source of many nutrients like iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc. More research is necessary to confirm all the benefits and side effects of sea moss specifically, but it is likely safe to consume in moderation in supplement form.
Abby Moore is an editorial operations manager at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine. She has covered topics ranging from regenerative agriculture to celebrity entrepreneurship. Moore worked on the copywriting and marketing team at Siete Family Foods before moving to New York.