January 25, 2019 #ChileDiverse

Seaweed in Chile, more than just a superfood

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Along the more than 6,000 kilometers of coastline that Chile has, it is possible to find various types and varieties of seaweed, which are commonly used as a complement to traditional culinary preparations, or as a food in itself. The popularity of seaweed in the gastronomic and nutritional area is due to its unique and different flavors, together with its high levels of iron, calcium, iodine, potassium, as well as vitamins A, B and C, which has led it to be considered a superfood.

For years Chile has been an important exporter of brown algae to countries in Asia and Europe, algae such as the black huiro black huiro, huiro palo y sargazoThis has led to a considerable growth in their exploitation, and little by little the extraction of seaweed has become a more lucrative activity than fishing itself.

But this new interest in seaweed goes beyond its high nutritional contribution, both in Chile and in the countries where these products are exported, several areas have been able to take advantage of the unique characteristics of these marine plants. In cosmetics, you can find creams, shampoos, dyes and makeup based on seaweed, due to its moisturizing, antioxidant and regenerating properties, helping to cleanse the skin and eliminate toxins.

Other uses of these plants are in the agricultural and pharmacological fields, in the first case they are used as fertilizer because they improve the nutritional characteristics of the soil, stimulating plant growth and preventing the growth of weeds. In pharmacology we can see the use of seaweed in western medicine as well as in homeopathy, due to its gelling, antioxidant, antitumor, emollient, laxative and expectorant properties.

One use that has been studied for the last few years in Chile is its potential use as an energy resource. A team of academics from the Catholic University of Chiletogether with experts in automotive mechanics from DUOC UC and researchers from the University of Coloradohave succeeded in creating biodiesel from microalgae. This is achieved through a process in which the microalgae are cultivated in photobioreactorsto the point of obtaining biomass and oil.

It has been shown that the use of this fuel reduces gas emissions in vehicles such as Transantiago buses and large trucks by 80%, which could lead to a considerable reduction in pollution within the city of Santiago. Despite its advantages, the production of this biodiesel has been limited due to the impossibility of producing it on a large scale and at low cost.

In Chile, we have also seen how several entrepreneurs have decided to take Chile's most popular seaweed, the cochayuyo, to the next level. cochayuyoand innovate with it, such as the exquisite marmalade prepared by the Algueros de Navidada locality in the Sixth Region, and the novel use that has been given to it by Sisawho have created clothing made entirely from this seaweed, a use that would never have been thought of years ago.


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