Home Healthy nutritionHealthy food Agar Agar; properties and benefits

Agar Agar; properties and benefits

by Georgia Ede
Published: Last Updated on

What is agar agar?

Agar agar is one of the best known algae, especially in the culinary world, this neutral-flavored algae is used in cooking as a thickener or gelling agent . It has a potency ten times greater than animal gelatins and as its nutritional composition is more interesting and its taste is neutral , it becomes one of the most widely used and known algae.

In addition, its high fiber content makes it an exceptional ally for the digestive system and it is also an exceptional satiating agent with an extra supply of minerals. Once the properties of this food are known and we become familiar with its use, it cannot be missing in our kitchen.

The algae receives the scientific name of Gelidium sesquipedale , an algae that falls within the second largest group, the group of red algae . It belongs to the Gelidiaceae family. Its production area is basically centered on the western Mediterranean coast, the Cantabrian coast and the Atlantic, it also grows in ponds and natural estuaries.

How is agar agar produced?

Agar agar is not in itself as we know it, this red algae must be processed to eliminate its starchy fibers and thus make it suitable for consumption, it is not like other algae that are only dried to be able to preserve and market them. During this industrial processing procedure, a compound consisting of polysaccharides (agarose and agaropectins) is extracted . It also has proteins of high biological value and minerals such as calcium, iron and potassium.

These algae, once collected, are dried in the sun, once the first drying step has elapsed, they are placed in a container with very hot water in which an alkaline product similar to caustic soda is put, this procedure is known as alkalization of algae. .

Once this step is finished, we go on to the next procedure known as washing and bleaching the algae in which they are washed with cold water to remove all impurities, sulfuric acid is added to dealkalize them and also add sodium hypochlorite to bleach them . Once this is done, they are cleaned again with cold water.

After these steps, they are cooked for two hours , then they will be filtered to separate the product from other residues such as stones, shells, etc., that could have been collected at the same time. After going through different filtrations, it will be the turn of gelling , a process by which it acquires the gel texture, for this it will cool down in different processes to go from 80ºC to 25ºC.

Subsequently, the drying and pressing step takes place , in which the product is compacted and dried using hot air. The last step will be to be ground, sieved and packed.

As you can see, it is a process that needs chemical agents to be able to consume it, all that we can find commercialized will have this previous procedure carried out.

It has traditionally been used in traditional Chinese medicine and in Japan to treat obesity and to purify the body by alkalizing and purifying blood . If you are interested in the alkaline diet you can see it in the link.

It is widely used in the kitchen as a thickener or stabilizer but it is also used in laboratories and to purify liquids by making impurities remain at the bottom.

It is used for canned meat and fish, since it gives them better qualities and texture, also preventing their oxidation. It is the vegan substitute for traditional fish jelly.

What does agar agar give us and what are its properties?

Agar agar provides us with proteins of vegetable origin , mainly iodine , potassium , magnesium and calcium . In addition, its high content of prebiotic fiber makes this algae a great ally for intestinal tract problems, for constipation , etc.

We can say that the soluble fiber they have (agaropectin and algarose) have a satiating effect and also reduce cholesterol and regulate intestinal transit.

If you have hemorrhoid problems, agar agar can help you as it hydrates the stool and promotes intestinal movements known as peristalsis, also improving the intestinal flora and the intestinal microbiota. All this makes the expulsion of the stool less difficult since the stool is softer. Its consumption is totally successful if you suffer from hemorrhoids.

Due to its high fiber content, it helps reduce cholesterol that is carried along with bile salts in the intestine, thus reducing excess fat in the body.

If you suffer from cholesterol, this post on how to lower cholesterol can help you .

In the case of having intestinal diseases such as gastroenteritis, diarrhea, colitis, Chron’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome or irritable bowel, agar agar can help us. It stops diarrhea, although it improves constipation, it also reduces diarrhea because it acts as an intestinal regulator.

In cases of dysphagia it is also a great ally, dysphagia is a pathology that generally appears with age, or after a traumatic process, accidents, etc. This pathology means that we cannot eat and drink in a controlled way since we cannot coordinate the swallowing process, if you want to know it in depth you can find out here . The fact is that agar agar is used as a thickener in the diet of people with this pathology since they make the texture easier to swallow.

It is also useful in patients with xarostomia , a condition known as dry mouth in the elderly. Agar agar is mixed with other elements that stimulate the production of salivary secretions that hydrate and refresh the mouth.

Like other algae, agar stands out for its low caloric content, we can say that for every 100 grams they provide 30 kcal , its low content of carbohydrates, sugars, fats and salt, makes them a food of great nutritional quality, in addition if we take into account that it provides us with a large amount of natural soluble fiber since around 95% of its content is soluble fiber, very beneficial for intestinal health and also makes it useful for losing weight , since it keeps us Satiated , it regulates our transit and its size increases in the intestine, making us reduce our appetite.

How can we take agar agar?

Well, agar agar is marketed in different formats: powder, strips, capsules and flakes. To make homemade jellies , or for sauces, powders, flakes or strips are used.

Powders have a fairly strong thickening power since a tablespoon of powder can thicken up to half a liter of water, or any other liquid.

Agar agar is a substitute for what is known as fish gelatin, which is made with the remains of fish bones and animal waste, this option is healthier and with higher nutritional content.

It is important to emphasize that so that it does not form lumps when making jelly, it is important to boil it for at least 10 minutes. Being transparent, it does not alter the color of the food with which it is mixed and neither does it add flavor, which is advantageous when cooking.

Another advantage of agar agar is that it maintains its consistency even outside cold temperatures, something that does not happen with all gelling agents or thickeners.

Being transparent, it does not alter the color of the original food, and it does not add any smell or taste.

Another advantage is that, while other gelatins begin to liquefy and lose consistency at room temperature, agar agar maintains its texture up to 80 ° C, which makes it more versatile.

How much to take for constipation?

To avoid constipation and regulate intestinal transit, just take two teaspoons of agar agar powder dissolved in water, preferably cold.

It is very important to drink water since this is how agar agar increases in size and promotes bowel movements.

It can also be taken by making jellies with fruits or vegetables to add more flavor to the seaweed since, as we have mentioned, agar agar has no flavor.

If we take capsules, we must always heed the manufacturer’s instructions, since we will find different compositions and combinations with other elements.

Contraindications of agar agar

Agar agar does not present high levels of toxicity but we must emphasize that people who suffer from diarrhea should control their consumption, since their intestinal situation can worsen if it is taken in high doses.

There are people who can be sensitive to agar agar presenting allergic reactions to said food. It usually manifests itself with dermal allergies and itching mainly.

How is agar agar used in cooking?

Well, before explaining this we must distinguish between the different forms of presentation that we have to cook it. First of all, powders are the easiest way to use in the kitchen.

It is very easy to incorporate it into the preparation of any dish. It is simply diluted in boiling water, or quite hot (or broth, or juice, or any other liquid) the recommended amount, which can vary depending on the texture we want to obtain and wait for it to cool.

The most common is to find it in powder, a very comfortable presentation if we are going to use it to cook as a thickener, which is its most common use. The manufacturer already indicates the recommended proportions to mix with water and obtain the texture we want.

We can also find dried and packed algae . It appears as transparent filaments. We will simply have to cut some strips and put them to soak for a few minutes to hydrate and regain their original consistency.

Once it is ready, the seaweed can be added directly to the salad or to a plate with other vegetables. It can also be used as a thickener, if we cut some filaments and incorporate them during the last minutes of cooking.

Finally, if we want to use it as a gelling agent , we will only have to boil water with a few grams of seaweed for five minutes. Then we let it cool down and that’s it!

Recipes with Agar Agar

Rich and healthy, fruit jelly with agar agar:

We will need :

  • Fruit (to taste, about 500 gr of assorted fruit).
  • 4 small teaspoons of agar agar.
  • Half a liter of water.
  • A quarter of a liter of lemon or pineapple juice.
  • Sugar or sweetener to taste.

Elaboration :

We can cut fruits of all kinds, strawberries, kiwi, orange, peach, melon, watermelon, whatever we want.

We will dissolve 4 small level teaspoons of agar agar in half a liter of water and bring it to a boil for one minute, when it is tempered we will add a glass of lemon or natural pineapple juice.

We will cut the pieces of fruit and place everything in a mold to which we will add the previous mixture.

It is time to keep it in the fridge until it gels and is cool, that is when we must unmold it.

You can add sugar to the water or sweetener if you prefer it sweeter, it’s all a matter of taste.

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