Seaweed health benefits and seaweed eating have been mainly explored by island and coastal peoples. Japanese culture has developed seaweed cuisine to a notable level. The flavours and textures add a subtle and exotic element to Japanese food which has made it increasingly popular in the west. They have perhaps exploited seaweed's culinary possibilities more than any other nation. Where most nations manage one or two seaweed types at most, the Japanese have five common types in regular use. In Japan people take seaweed eating seriously; as much as 4 kilograms is eaten per person per year!
Seaweeds are algae and they have unique health and nutritional properties. Algae use sunlight to photosynthesise food for themselves but they are far simpler in structure than most land plants.
Nori is rich in iodine and iron and quite high in protein. It is also a good source of vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, magnesium and riboflavin (B2). Not only does it have all these nutritional riches, it is also a low-fat food! The fact is seaweed is packed full of much-needed vitamins and minerals, including some relatively rare trace elements.
It's an important part of Japanese cuisines and is now a multi-million dollar industry. Nori tends to be sold as flat sheets or flakes. It is also often toasted. If you have eaten sushi, chances are that you have eaten nori; it is often used for wrapping rolled pieces of sushi.
Japanese nori is grown in the Ise Bay region - a mountainous and well-forested coastal area where the sea waters are still relatively pure. Development is restricted in order to protect the seaweed quality and purity, (though there is an international airport and some built-up areas.)