Agar's benefits lie in the fact that it's a functional food, nourishment is only one of its contribution to a healthy body.
AGAR'S BENEFITS AS A FUNCTIONAL FOOD
Agar is very nourishing but has virtually no calories and is fat-free. According to the USDA nutritional data, Agar is a good source of many important minerals. More specifically, Agar shows good levels of manganese, magnesium & iron, and moderate levels of calcium, potassium, zinc , copper and choline*. For vitamins, it shows high levels of folate** (B9) and moderate levels of vitamin E and K. The omega fatty acid ratio is 25/1 in favour of omega-3, a great benefit considering the omega 6 predominance in our diets. Agar is dubbed a 'functional food' because its benefits go beyond nourishment:
"Functional Food is a natural or processed food that contains known biologically active compounds which when in defined quantitative and qualitative amounts provides a clinically proven and documented health benefit, and thus, an important source in the prevention, management and treatment of chronic diseases of the modern age". (Wikipedia)
AGAR'S BENEFITS GO BEYOND NOURISHMENT
Because of its content in soluble fibre (75-80%), Agar has a beneficial effect on digestion & gut health. Soluble fibres form a gel-like material in the gut and are typically readily fermented by the bacteria in the colon. They provide good satiating ability (as agar’s fibre absorbs and retains water resulting in a feeling of fullness) which reduce appetite, while the increase in bulk stimulates large bowel muscle contractions. Agar also has a mild laxative effect and a purifying action on the body.
Research is ongoing to understand its beneficial effects on colon disorders in particular, and also cancer. The sulphated polysaccharides in Agar - galactans - may play a role similar to that of collagen in the body. Galactans & similar compounds are sometimes compared to collagen for their effects on the preservation & remediation of joints, membranes & gut lining and under-layers of the skin. As collagen production naturally declines with age, there is a need to find ways to remedy/compensate for this loss and galactans offer hope. Reasearch is on-going to measure these seaweed compounds' ability to reduce inflammation and also for their therapeutic effects on the bodies' membranes.
*Choline is a macronutrient that’s important for liver function, normal brain development, nerve function and muscle movement. It also supports energy levels and maintains a healthy metabolism. Choline helps in the process of methylation, which is used to create DNA, and for detoxification. More recently it has been looked at in the context of healthy neurological function.
**Folate (B9) plays a role in DNA synthesis and repair. It also encourages cell and tissue growth. These benefits have far-reaching effects.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26767984 (gut dysbiosis)
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23188093 (intestinal inflammation)
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26867562 (colon cancer)
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21763512 (colon cancer)
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26999166 (seaweed bioactive)
Disclaimer: This material is provided for educational purposes only and IS NOT intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This information is generic and may not include the latest research. We encourage you to do your own research and discuss your findings with a qualified health practitioner who can help you validate the outcomes in the context of your specific & individual health situation.