Due to budget constraints, dietary needs, and flavor preferences, grocery lists tend to be a little monotonous and dull.  Want to spice up your pantry and fridge without splurging on something exotic or venturing to a specialty store? Check out these uncommon ingredients that contain surprising health benefits, and could very well become your new best friends in the kitchen:

Unless you are someone who enjoys munching on seaweed as a mid-day snack, seaweed is one of those things most of us only eat when we have dinner at an all-you-can eat sushi restaurant.  Seaweed is green and salty, and is mostly a foreign ingredient, so it is relatively unapproachable and also a little scary.  However, it does have some health benefits you can’t get from too many other foods, so there are plenty of reasons that should inspire you to swim out of your comfort zone and try a little seaweed.

Seaweed isn’t rich in too many typical vitamins and minerals, especially since servings of it are usually pretty small, but it does contain iodine, which isn’t present in too many other foods.  When I think of Iodine, all I can think of is Lucy yelling after Snoopy “kisses” her, but it is actually a helpful nutrient in terms of keeping your thyroid healthy. It can also help regulate estrogen levels, which is helpful in terms of fighting off breast cancer.  Check out this article to learn some more about seaweed’s benefits.  And if you decide you want to start eating more seaweed, try one of these awesome recipes:

1. Seaweed Salad with Miso Dressing (via Just One Cookbook)

Seaweed Salad

If you want to just go for it and totally embrace seaweed, then why not make it the star of a salad?  The miso dressing features classic Japanese flavors, so this salad will probably do a great job of transporting you to another place.  You can also jazz up the salad by adding in some of your favorite salad toppings. Tofu would probably be a great edition.

2. Seaweed Chips (via Fit Sugar)

Seaweed Chips

If crunchy snacks are your downfall, but you are willing to give seaweed a chance, these crispy and spicy nori chips could be an acceptable potato chip replacement. They are super easy to make and the combination of salt, cayenne and garlic may make you forget what you are eating.

3. Korean Seaweed Soup with Tuna (via Beyond Kimchee)

Korean Seaweed soup with tuna

If there is anyone we should be taking seaweed advice from, it is the people of Southeast Asia.  They have been reaping the benefits of seaweed for thousands of years, while us westerners have been late to the game.  This recipe is for a traditional Korean seaweed soup, and it is pretty simple to make.

Will you try to eat more seaweed?

Jaimie is a senior at Adelphi University studying Communications and Political Science. She enjoys exploring and adventures, and recently spent a semester abroad in Prague.