When you think of a sea cucumber, you might think of a pickle-like vegetable sitting at the bottom of the ocean. But that’s not actually what sea cucumbers are.
In fact, they’re not vegetables at all. This often-misunderstood animal can be found on sea floors all over the world, although they are most common in the Pacific.
Not only are they considered delicious by many people, sea cucumbers have long been used in traditional medicine because of their purported health benefits.
The Health Benefits of Sea Cucumbers
They look like large caterpillars or oversized worms with a soft, tube-shaped appearance, which is why they are also called sea slugs. Of course, on first glance, you may question who would ever eat one of these things, but sea cucumbers are actually a delicacy in many parts of the world.
As we all try to live a healthy lifestyle, it grows increasingly important to keep your food routine from stagnating, and that means adding variety. Sea cucumbers can fulfill that role in a great way, thanks to their numerous health benefits. These include:
This mineral is essential when it comes to bone health. It might seem ironic that a creature with no bones in its body contains a mineral that can help with your production of strong bones, but it’s true
Sea cucumbers are loaded with magnesium, which makes them a great boost for bone health. And, as some studies have shown, magnesium helps with anxiety as well
Another critical bone health component, calcium also helps your heart and muscles function properly. In fact, some research has suggested a link between calcium and disease prevention.
More research is needed on this front, but calcium is a proven health booster in many other respects, which makes the sea cucumber even more appealing.
A powerful antioxidant, vitamin A moves through the body and has a wide range of benefits. This vitamin affects almost every aspect of your health, including heart and kidney function, brain health, proper skin, lungs, and vision, plus it can give a potent boost to your immune system.
In several studies, rats with heart conditions like high blood pressure were given extract from a sea cucumber, to measure its effectiveness in heart health situations. Sure enough, the rats that consumed the sea cucumber extract exhibited measurable results, like lower cholesterol and triglycerides.
Still, more studies are needed, but it’s a promising sign for those who hold the sea cucumber in high regard as a heart health protector.
While sea cucumbers are loaded with vitamins and minerals that can help your body, they contain a very low fat content. This makes them an ideal addition to any diet plan, and makes the vitamins they provide that much more worth it.
While not as hearty as a big steak, sea cucumber is an effective source of protein, which means it can help your body produce natural energy.
And unlike a red meat, sea cucumbers do not have the negative health effects associated with red meat. This energy component makes sea cucumber an adequate dish all on its own.
Vitamin B2, also known as riboflavin, is another crucial energy supplier in your body. Vitamin B2 helps you break down carbs, fats, and proteins and convert them into useful energy. It’s also critical in the body’s absorption of oxygen.
It’s just another way that sea cucumber can help keep you on the right healthy track.
Like vitamin B2, vitamin B3 is a powerful vitamin with many health benefits. It can help maintain healthy heart function, and it may also reduce feelings of joint pain or stiffness related to arthritis. Plus, vitamin B3 has been shown to help with cognitive health.
A few of the vitamins and minerals listed here actually fall into the category of antioxidants. Antioxidants are a proven immune booster; they help your body stave off free radicals, which can cause a wide variety of negative health effects.
Perhaps most famously found in dark-colored berries, antioxidants are actually present in a surprising amount of foods, sea cucumbers included.
This is a compound most people have never heard of, but sea cucumbers are loaded with chondroitin. In humans, it can be found in the tissues between bone and cartilage, which makes it an important building block in the skeletal structure.
Healthy Liver Function
In a similar study to the one mentioned above, a group of lab rats was given just one dose of sea cucumber. The researchers found that the rats who consumed the sea cucumber exhibited improved kidney function, less oxidative stress, and reduced liver damage.
Where to Find and How to Eat Sea Cucumbers
It might not be as easy to find as a regular cucumber, but sea cucumbers can be found in specialty stores if you look for them. If you can’t find one at your usual grocery store, try searching your local Asian food market, where they sell more specialty items.
What’s the best way to eat sea cucumber? Well that depends on your personal taste. They can be prepared in a variety of ways, including pickled, raw, or fried.
On its own, a sea cucumber has a typically bland taste, so usually they are mixed in with other ingredients or spices, although it’s not necessary.
The Bottom Line
Sea cucumbers have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for over a hundred years, and they’ve even been used in oils, creams, and other cosmetics.
They may seem strange at first, especially if you’ve never seen one before. But if you get the chance to enjoy this nutrient-rich delicacy, don’t miss out. You’ll be doing your overall health a big favor.
And who knows? You might end up liking them so much that they become a regular staple of your diet. Trying new foods is great for many reasons, but in this case, your health might be the biggest one.