Kim Kardashian West recently pulled one of our fave celeb moves: She got on Twitter, started chatting with her fans, and decided to do a quick Q & A. While answering questions, the 39-year-old businesswoman, reality star, and mother of four shared a fair amount about her usual eating habits. The top hits: She's been trying to stick to a plant-based diet, she loves vegan tacos, she'll only consume tiny Starbucks drinks, she desperately misses "Big Stuf" Oreos, and she's a fan of sea moss smoothies.
I paused my scrolling and quickly googled that last one to make sure it wasn't a typo. But no, sea moss — also known as Irish moss — is a form of red seaweed that's apparently a newly popular smoothie add-in. It's often sold as a powder, but you can also buy supplements or just get it raw in its natural seaweed form.
My first thought was, simply: Yuck. That can’t taste good, right? But turns out, sea moss has been used as an ingredient for centuries in coastal countries such as Ireland, Spain, and Jamaica, where one popular soft drink contains the seaweed, plus condensed milk, vanilla, and nutmeg. It’s been harvested for its medicinal and nutritional properties in Ireland at least since the 1800s during the Irish Potato Famine, according to the International Food Additives Council.
The ingredient eventually "washed up" on U.S. shores, so to speak, and right now it's making a major comeback. According to Pinterest's 2020 trends report, there was a 380% increase in searches for "sea moss benefits." And, as we learned last night, Kardashian is fully on board.
Its draw is likely its nutritional profile. “Sea moss is high in many vitamins, minerals and antioxidants,” explains Hillary Cecere, RDN, nutritionist at Eat Clean Bro. Like aloe and chia seeds, sea moss is known as a “mucilaginous” food. That means that it’s a slimy substance that may help “soothe the mucus membranes in the digestive system,” Cecere says. One study done on animals even found that it can have a prebiotic effect.
“It’s a great source of selenium, potassium, and magnesium. It’s said to have benefits on thyroid function, immunity, digestive health and inflammation, but more scientific evidence is needed,” Cecere says.
One reason sea moss may help with thyroid function is because it contains iodine, which is often used to treat thyroid issues and disorders, points out Mark Moyad, MD, the Jenkins/Pokempner director of preventive & alternative medicine at The University of Michigan Medical School and author of The Supplement Handbook. That can be a reason for caution.
“The recommended daily intake of iodine is 150 micrograms a day for the average person, but these seaweed and sea-based capsules can sometimes contain 1,000 times the recommended daily allowance. So, if you already have thyroid issues, you have to read those labels, and you have to be very careful,” says Dr. Moyad. It's just as — or more — crucial to be mindful of this if you're pregnant or breast-feeding.
It’s also important to make sure you’re getting your sea moss through a company that does proper quality control, so you can be sure that it's free of heavy metals like mercury. Look up the company to see if a third party such as the National Sanitation Foundation gave them a certificate of analysis, Moyad suggests. In general, it’s best to check with your doctor if you’re incorporating a new supplement into your diet.
If you do want to try out sea moss, you can add it to your smoothie like Kardashian, or stir it into a drink, soup, sauce, or even homemade ice cream. But a word to the wise: It is seaweed, so it does taste... fishy. Use it sparingly, and pair it with strong flavors like peanut butter to make downing it a little easier.