by Diane Spicer
Seaweed hiking snacks?
Am I trying to mess with you?
I know that you’re probably comfortable with granola, trail mix, crackers and energy bars as recommended hiking snacks.
But today, let’s blow that stereotypical approach to trail food right out of the water, using something tasty from the waters of our planet: seaweed.
First of all, let’s substitute the proper name for this gift from Mother Nature’s vast salty waters:
Sounds better already, doesn’t it!
There are a variety of edible sea vegetables, as humans around the globe already know.
As hikers, let’s focus on four of them:
If you’re comfortable with granola and energy bars, what's the motivation to add sea vegetable snacks to your hiking menu?
Two good physiological reasons: salts and iodine.
Sea water and your blood have the same salty composition.
Eating sea veggie snacks is an easy way to return salt to your bloodstream, for delivery to your hard working cells.
Cells use the salts (sodium, chloride, potassium) for vital electrical activity, which includes opening and closing membrane pores, muscle contractions, and brain activity.
Sounds like important work for a hiker's body, right?
And then there’s iodine.
Sea vegetables are bursting with it.
While you don’t need iodine directly for fueling your muscle
contractions as you hike, your thyroid uses it to build important hormones directly related to your overall performance as an endurance athlete.
Your thyroid is like the throttle on an engine: it regulates how fast you consume fuel.
And as women, we are prone to thyroid problems (often undiagnosed), so enjoying a seaweed snack is a low cost health "insurance policy".
You already expect these snacks to be salty. That’s the whole point of eating them!
But unless you already appreciate Japanese and Korean cuisine, sea vegetable snacks can be an acquired taste.
Here’s your chance to be a bit more adventurous in your hiking snack selection.
But fair warning: Don’t pack them for your hiking lunch without
trying them on several occasions at home.
give up if you don’t like the first brand you try. Sometimes it takes more than one exposure to a new food to truly appreciate it.
You may learn to appreciate umami, the savory taste among your five taste senses, which is a combination of many factors.
One other cautionary note: Be careful to select products which come from unpolluted ocean waters.You want to ingest only good stuff!
I know you get tired on the trail, but do you ever experience taste bud fatigue on a hike?
Sea vegetable snacking will shake you out of your complacency.
If you're ready to explore this new trail food option, here are my current favorites:
Want to really wake up your taste buds?
Another approach: Rice crackers wrapped in nori. I can't get enough of these things!
That's a solid win-win for hiking energy and endurance, especially in dry, hot conditions.
Backpacking really takes a toll on your body.
Sea veggies can help reverse it, by supplying nutrients for cellular repair and optimal functioning.
And you can fine tune this process by selecting the right sea veggies to add to your hiking menu, depending on your chronic backpacking issues.
Are you new to the wonderful world of backpacking food?
Backpackers should bring along some dried, ground up kombu for two reasons.
This sea veggie contains glutamic acid, which can reduce the gassy effect of eating beans (and most backpackers rely on beans for at least a few dinners).
Tip: Soup is an easy way to re-hydrate after a long day. Make it part of your pre-dinner ritual as your main entrée is being prepared.
Speaking of soups, wakame can be combined with miso paste for a tasty, healthy cup of something hot while you set up camp.
Wakame also provides calcium and magnesium, which are important for your next day’s muscle contractions.
Arame is the sea vegetable to bring along for maximum potassium benefits.
If you experience muscle cramping after a day or two of backpacking, why not add some re-hydrated arame to a cooked grain?
Nori is the “seaweed” you’ve seen offered as paper thin sheets.
You can use it to roll up the rice you cooked up for dinner, and appreciate the fact that you’re now eating a meal high in protein along with your starches.
Nori delivers a nice dose of vitamin B12, important for optimal nerve function.
You have your favorite trail food, so it’s not my intention to mess with what’s working for you.
But why not consider this as gentle encouragement to try something a little different in your hiking snack repertoire?
Start off with a few nibbles, and before you know it, you'll be carving the salty, indescribably goodness of seaweed hiking snacks.
Ready for more nitty gritty hiking nutrition tips?
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