What Is Sea Moss, and Is It Worth Trying?
Thanks to Hailey Bieber, sea moss has been having a major moment. The 26-year-old influencer and entrepreneur included the sea veggie in her viral $17 Strawberry Glaze Skin Smoothie, which she created in partnership with Erewhon to promote her skincare line. Besides sea moss, the smoothie includes a house-made strawberry sauce (yum!) and ingredients like collagen and hyaluronic acid, which may support skin health — hence the name.
With countless sea moss videos all over TikTok, it doesn’t seem like influencers will be done posting about the algae anytime soon. But is it really the miracle food for skin and gut health that so many influencers claim, and should you add it to your diet? Read on to see what registered dietitians have to say.
WTF is Sea Moss?
Sea moss (aka chondrus crispus) is a spiny sea vegetable that’s similar to algae and seaweed. Raw Irish sea moss, one of the most commonly consumed varieties, is mostly found in tidepools and inlets on the rocky coasts of the Atlantic in North America and Europe. However, Erewhon sources theirs from St. Lucia in the Caribbean.
While sea moss may be having its moment as the superfood, it’s been around for a long time, mainly as a home remedy for sore throats and congestion, says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, media dietitian and creator of BetterThanDieting.com. These days, sea moss is primarily used as a thickening agent in processed foods or as a nutritional supplement in either gel, powder, or capsule forms. The gel and powder are what are most commonly used in smoothies, whereas capsules are used primarily as a dietary supplement.
Sea Moss Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits
It’s important to note that there is very little research on the benefits of sea moss. Additionally, because the environment in which it’s grown has an impact on nutritional value, there can be a lot of variability in its nutrient content, making it hard to know exactly what you’re getting. That said, generally speaking, a 4-tablespoon serving of raw Irish sea moss provides about:
- 10 calories
- 0.5 grams protein
- 3 grams of carbs
- 0.5 grams of fiber
- 0 grams of sugar
- 10% of the daily value (DV) for iron
- 7% of the DV for magnesium
- 4% of the DV for zinc
It also provides some copper, iodine, vitamin A, vitamin B-12, vitamin C, amino acids, and antioxidants. Like many fruits and vegetables, it also contains prebiotic fibers and antioxidant compounds. Here’s a closer look at what’s in sea moss and the potential benefits.
Sea moss contains soluble fiber, which is important for gut health. “It might also help you feel more full and help reduce cholesterol levels,” Taub-Dix says. She adds that oats and beans are also rich in soluble fiber and are less costly than sea moss.
Keri Gans, RDN, author of The Small Change Diet and podcast host of The Keri Report, says that sea moss contains prebiotics, a fuel for probiotics, which may promote a healthy digestive system and immune system.
Other prebiotic foods also include garlic, Jerusalem artichokes, onions, and leeks.
Sea moss is rich in iodine, an important nutrient for thyroid function, says dietitian Jaclyn London, MS, RD, CDN. “This nutrient is under-consumed in certain populations, so it’s great to have an additional source available to help us meet our needs,” London says.
You can also consume the nutrient by eating 8-12 ounces of mixed seafood per week and using iodized salt when cooking.
The TL;DR? While sea moss is nutrient-dense food, there are many ways to get the nutrients it provides. “The idea that consuming sea moss is better for you than much [tastier vegetables]…is just straight-up Hollywood marketing,” says London.
Another thing worth noting is that most of the research about sea moss has been done in a pitry dish or on animals, says Gans. More research is needed so scientists can say for certain how sea moss may impact human health.
Are There Any Downsides To Sea Moss?
Generally speaking, sea moss is a nutritious diet addition, but those taking blood thinners and thyroid medications should be cautious about consuming it, notes Taub-Dix, “Because sea moss contains iodine, it may be harmful to those with thyroid disease and those taking medications to control thyroid issues. Sea moss also has blood thinning properties, potentially dangerous for those who take blood-thinning medications,” she says.
She also points out that sea moss is rich in carrageenan — a substance that studies have linked to inflammatory gastrointestinal conditions — which has been banned from many food products. Once in a great while, it’s not a big deal, but the concern comes into play when someone eats very large quantities of foods containing carrageenan.
As with any supplement, you should talk to your doctor before using sea moss if you have any underlying health conditions or concerns.
The Bottom Line
Sea moss is not a magical food, and its hype should be taken with a grain of salt. However, it may have some health benefits and is safe for most people to enjoy in moderation — so long as it doesn’t take the place of a varied, nutrient-rich diet.
Consuming sea moss may be unsafe for people taking blood thinners or thyroid medications. So, talking to a healthcare professional before adding sea moss to your diet is especially important if you fall into this group.