Our first interview on the blog! This month we are speaking with nutritionist Charlotte Faure Green all about the benefits of seaweed.
Tell us a little about yourself and your background
I came to nutrition following over 10 years in finance, travel and PR. Over my career, I had burned the candle at both ends, commuted between Brighton and London, and stayed at the office (and some Soho bars!) late into the night. I had a lot of fun but a fast-paced life, combined with not giving my body the proper fuel it needed, led to a full gamut of health issues including a burnt-out thyroid, bad skin, irregular periods, anxiety, and chronic insomnia. I saw a nutritionist and within 3 months I was back on my feet, with a new perspective about what a healthy life entailed. I’d always been very into food, and so it seemed a no-brainer to retrain in something that I felt so passionate about – combining food and health.
We know nourishment from the inside out is fundamental to you. How do you practice this?
I’m not perfect! I allow room for some less healthful foods for time-to-time. Finding this balance has been integral to making sustainable habits that just become second nature, and have remedied a “black and white thinking” mentality. I know my body, how it likes to eat and how it feels best, and this means that I make the right choices most of the time, and forgive myself when I don’t. It’s conscious nourishment, but not perfect!
Can you tell us a bit about the health benefits of seaweed from a nutritionist perspective?
I am a huge advocate of dietary seaweed for thyroid health - for both healthy and underactive thyroids (if overactive you must speak to a health practitioner). Our thyroid is the control centre for our metabolism – the transformation of food into energy. When it is working sub-optimally, we can feel quite unwell. Seaweed is the number one source of iodine, an essential mineral for creating thyroid hormone – “essential” means that we can’t make it ourselves, and it must be part of our diet. Inadequate dietary iodine leads to insufficient thyroid hormone. A little seaweed can counter this, and I like to use it as a preventative with clients. We are seeing a huge increase in thyroid disease, particularly in women as they age. Prevention is always better than a cure.
The benefits don't end there, seaweed is a rich source of iron, calcium, protein and fibre too. It's a big-hitter, particularly for those following a plant-based diet, who may not be reaching their targets.
How do you experiment with wild ingredients?
We’re very lucky to be based near the South Downs, so come Autumn we can forage (safely!) for mushrooms and berries. I am half-Seychellois and grew up with my dad’s cooking, which gave me an adventurous palate - I’ve always been open to new and different ingredients. I try to instil this in my toddler, who isn’t averse to trying anything once!
Ingredients-wise, what are your three non-negotiables in the kitchen?
Herbs! Specifically, rosemary, lemon balm, basil, sage, thyme and peppermint. They contain rosmarinic acid, a chemical compound that inhibits the breakdown of GABA (our calming neurotransmitter) leading to naturally increased levels in the brain. Therefore, it is “anxiolytic” – effective in reducing anxiety. It is also neuroprotective, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. I think herbs are pretty magic!
Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), I get through a lot! Studies have shown the phenolic compounds in EVOO may help to reduce the compounds that can contribute to brain degeneration and cognitive decline. Another argument for prevention through diet, over cure.
I always like to have a jar of ready-prepared zhoug or harissa to hand. Stirring this through vegetables before they go in the oven is my lazy weeknight meal, and is a quick win for injecting flavour and ensuring that I get my daily plant foods quota in, for antioxidants and fibre.
What is your favourite way to cook with seaweed?
There’s a recipe I have used for nearly a decade from a much-loved Japanese cookbook, Hashi by Reiko Hashimoto; it’s a salad of prawns, cucumber and wakame, with a dashi and mirin based dressing, and it is DELICIOUS. It is my go-to summer dish.
Wakame, Dulse or Sea Spaghetti?
I love them all, but at a push Wakame, because I’d be pretty sad without that salad in my life.
Charlotte Faure Green is a BANT Registered Nutritionist, speaker, writer and brand nutritional advisor. She provides one-to-one expert guidance both online and in person at her Brighton clinic. She helps stressed bodies and minds regain balance through real-world sustainable changes. No fads, no “detoxes” or cleanses.
Her approach is "Science with a Cuddle" – advice that is rooted in up-to-date nutritional research, delivered by a therapist who cares. Support, guidance and cheerleading.
You can find her on Instagram @charlottefauregreennutrition or through her website at charlottefauregreen.com.