Should You Try Sea Moss for Weight Loss? A Dietitian Weighs In
Is the secret to reaching your best weight lurking at the bottom of the ocean?
Sea moss for weight loss is a trending topic. Let’s wade through what is currently known about sea moss so that you can make an informed decision about if this product is right for you…or if you should wish it bon voyage.
Let’s get our feet wet with what sea moss is.
What is sea moss?
While you may be quick to assume that you’ve never tried sea moss before, you just might be mistaken. If you’ve ever indulged in ice cream, drank a glass of chocolate milk, or gobbled up some cottage cheese, you’ve probably ingested sea moss. Well, at least it’s extract – carrageenan.
Since the 1950’s humans have used carrageenan to thicken foods, give them a creamy texture, and keep ingredients mixed that might otherwise separate out (like the chocolate in chocolate milk).
Despite its recent use to keep our delicious chocolate milk from splitting into multiple liquid layers, sea moss certainly isn’t new to the menu.
Archaeologists believe sea moss first made its way to humans’ plates about 14,000 years ago (1)! In some parts of the world, sea moss is believed to have medicinal properties and is used to treat coughing or the common cold. However, there’s no solid scientific evidence to back its effectiveness as a treatment (2).
Sea moss does contain essential vitamins and minerals. The nutrient-rich sea plant is harvested from rocky shores and tide pools along the Northern Atlantic coasts and was actually eaten during the Irish potato famine when the citizens were in desperate need of nutrients (3).
If you have been scrolling on social media lately, this marine veggie and its long list of alleged “benefits” may keep popping up, including a promise of weight loss. But why now? We’ve known about it for centuries.
Why is sea moss suddenly resurfacing?
Clearly, sea moss isn’t a recent scientific discovery, so what’s all the fuss about? The excitement started ramping up in 2020 when celebrities like Kim Kardashian raved about its health benefits on social media. As she showcased her #SeaMossSmoothies, her curious followers took an interest.
That same year, the TikTok #seamoss hashtag came along and was viewed hundreds of millions of times as influencers rattled off its benefits. They claimed it would help lose weight, cleanse toxins from your body, clear up acne, and improve gut health – among other benefits from the seemingly magical supplement.
So, is it true? Are Kim Kardashian and TikTokers right about sea moss’ benefits? Let’s dive into the details.
Does sea moss actually help with weight loss?
Although it’s been advertised as the dream supplement for weight loss, there are actually very limited studies on the effects of sea moss and weight loss, and the results that scientists are finding are mixed.
For example, one animal study tested the effects of adding red seaweed to rats’ diets. All of the rats were fed identical high-fat diets, but half were given red seaweed, too.
Scientists found that rats without red seaweed gained weight, while the others did not. So, the sea vegetable actually prevented weight gain and stabilized fat content (4).
Scientists also studied the effects on humans – 78 obese adults volunteered for a study in which half of the group received red seaweed extract for 3 months while the other half did not (5). The results? The half that ingested seaweed lost more total body fat compared to the group that did not eat the seaweed.
But, there’s a catch. The scientists noted the group who ate seaweed also unintentionally increased their exercise, which may have been the reason for their weight loss…not the sea moss.
One other study describes how the fibers in carrageenan can improve cholesterol levels and potentially help the participants to feel more full (6). But, these benefits happen for any high-fiber food and are not unique to seaweed. Eating beans, fruits and veggies also improves satiety and garners many health benefits.
(And it is always worth noting that even if an intervention promoted weight loss, did the results stick? If the study participants regained the lost weight after a few weeks or months, that doesn’t count as a “win” in my book).
Are there any benefits to eating sea moss?
Alright, so the research didn’t completely prove or disprove what TikTokers were saying about weight loss – we still have more to learn! But we do know there are some nutritional benefits.
Like the fact that sea moss is high in iodine, a mineral that we have to ingest because our bodies can’t produce it.
The recommended daily value of iodine is 150 mcg (7), and you can almost reach your daily intake with just two tablespoons of dried seaweed, which contains roughly 116 mcg (8)! To put things into perspective, the average glass of milk only contains 85 mcg.
Sea moss also contains several essential nutrients that your body needs to function, including (9):
- Vitamin B2
- Vitamin B12
- Omega-3 fatty acids
Sea moss isn’t the only source of these nutrients, but two tablespoons can help you meet some of your body’s daily needs.
Potential risks of too much sea moss
There are a few things I’d suggest that you keep in mind as you explore if sea moss is right for you.
While sea moss can give you the iodine you need, keep in mind, you can have too much iodine in your diet, which can lead to a goiter – an enlarged thyroid – that may require surgery to fix (10).
Eating more than 1.1 milligrams in a day can lead to iodine toxicity, but that’s about 19 tablespoons of dried seaweed! I can’t imagine anyone loving sea moss that much, but if you just can’t stop yourself, remember the 19-tablespoon limit (11).
This means that the research is still unfolding, but it is possible that people who already have challenges with their digestion – such as IBS – might be at greater risk of having an inflammatory reaction to sea moss and carrageenan.
Regulation of supplements
Beyond that risk, all supplements come with potential risks. In the US, supplements are not well-regulated (14). And it’s not a perfect system in Canada either. Plus, committing to taking a supplement comes with a cost.
If sea moss – or any supplement – allows you to lose weight, do you have to continue taking that supplement daily until the end of time? That can add up to quite a financial commitment.
Good news: I have a few alternative ideas instead. (Aaaannd, they’re backed by far more research than sea moss).
What to do for weight loss instead
There’s not one perfect pill that can magically help you lose weight, or override your complex metabolic activities – even the sea moss celebrities swear by.
To lose weight we have to eat fewer calories than we burn consistently. But what are some ways we can achieve this?
Focus on building sustainable habits
There are many ways you can maintain sustainable healthy habits to achieve your health and wellness goals! Like eating nutritious meals that keep you feeling full, and getting a good night’s sleep every night, while still eating foods we love – just in moderation. Health is what we do most of the time; a fun meal or a sweet treat now and then is totally okay. Especially around your period! (check out my post on chocolate cravings if you’re curious to learn more).
Balanced meals and snacks
Carbs are great at giving our bodies the energy they need, but when the meals are focused only on carbs, you might feel hungry not long after enjoying them. (Think white bread, cookies, or pastries).
But, by adding a “friend” like fiber, protein, or fat, you create more balanced snacks and meals that help you feel full for longer and give your body the nutrients it needs.
Find movement that you enjoy
I get it, not everyone springs out of bed yelling “I can’t wait to get on the treadmill!” But not all exercise looks the same.
If you’ve been curious about exploring a new walking trail, picking up pickleball, or that water aerobics class at your local gym, I encourage you to try it out! You might just enjoy yourself and work toward your health and wellness goals at the same time.
If you feel like you’ve tried everything under the sun, here are 10 more ideas you maybe haven’t explored yet:
- Do jumping jacks or squats during TV commercials
- Try a new class like yoga, water aerobics, or Zumba
- Revisit an old sport – did you play basketball or baseball in the good old days? Try shooting some hoops at the local courts or visit the batting cages
- Grab a friend and go on a “hike” or take a walk through a new neighborhood
- Get a standing desk if you work in an office
- Park a little further from the grocery store to get a few extra steps
- Volunteer to walk dogs at a local shelter
- Do calf raises while you brush your teeth
- Simply stretch – it counts as movement too! (15)
- Play a game of golf and walk the course – it requires more energy than you’d think (16).
Tackle emotional eating
It’s no secret food is a big deal in our lives! We celebrate with tasty treats – hello birthday cake – go out for dinner with our boo, and excitedly plop down on the couch to see who will win the bake-off this week. With all the joy surrounding food, it makes sense that emotions are often linked to eating.
We eat when we celebrate, but we also eat when we’re sad, lonely, or bored because food can give us a little jolt of joy – at least for a minute or two. When the urge to eat is sparked by a feeling rather than physical hunger, it’s called emotional hunger.
When you take a good hard look at why you’re eating, it can become easier to recognize if you’re snacking to avoid a problem, combating boredom, or feeling lonely.
Learning to listen to your body and eat when you feel physical hunger, not just emotional hunger, can help you make intentional food choices aligned with your health and wellness goals.
Understand your cravings
If you’re finding yourself craving sugary treats after a meal, you might not be eating enough, or going too long between meals.
These cravings can cause us to eat more than we mean to, but when you understand where your cravings come from, you can take steps to overcome overeating.
Make room for foods you love
Completely cutting out your favorite foods isn’t necessary to maintain healthy habits overall. I’d argue you can and should still eat the foods you love – simply in moderation.
When we cut ourselves off from a food or an entire food group it’s not uncommon to have obsessive thoughts about it and actually want it more. Talk about backfiring!
Cut yourself a little slack and enjoy the foods you crave. And consider balancing your snack with a more filling food group to feel more satiated and get the nutrients you need.
Steady habits = success
Although sea moss has nutritional benefits and potential weight loss benefits, it’s not the end-all-be-all for weight loss… sorry TikTokers.
Instead of seeking out a quick fix, it’s important to take a look at your daily habits and make small adjustments you’re comfortable with and can stick to for the long run.
Remember, if you want a habit to become permanent, you have to like the “new” way of doing things more than the “old” way! You might just find an exercise you love adding to your daily routine, or a new nutritious recipe that’s even better than the usual frozen supreme pizza.
The goal is to feel healthy and confident in your lifestyle choices and the foods you eat. And that takes time to figure out! We’re human and your day-to-day diet and exercise won’t always be perfect, but that’s OK.