Let’s take a look at one of the most popular healthy ingredients used in desserts through Asia called agar agar. Sometimes called ‘agar’ for short, it’s a dairy-free, vegan additive used as a gelling agent (instead of gelatin) to thicken sweet and savory dishes.
What Is It?
When trying to thicken puddings, soups or sauces, gelatin might be your first choice. Most of us have been using gelatin for years. However, gelatin made from animal skin, tissues and bones is not an option for vegans. If you are a vegan or want a healthier alternative, give it a try.
What is it Made From?
It’s made from a type of seaweed called red algae, which is rich in calcium and also contains chlorophyll, red and blue phycoerythrins, carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin. Sourced from pristine waters, it’s also used to make nori, the green seaweed used to make sushi and dulse.
Derived from red algae, it is rich in many vitamins and minerals including magnesium, iron, manganese, amino acids, calcium, folic acid, essential fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6 and also contains many antioxidants. We love the thought of having all those essential vitamins and minerals packed into our delicious dessert or next sweet treat.
If you are like us and love knowing the nutritional content of foods in figures, you might like to know that 100g of agar offers only 26 calories, 0g fat, 0g cholesterol, 7g carbohydrates and 0.5g protein.
Agar is high in fiber and often used to improve digestion, enhance weight loss, relieve constipation, strengthen bones and prevent anemia. It’s also a good source of iron which helps with the production of red blood cells. If you are suffering from dizziness, shortness of breath and tiredness there may be a good chance you are, among other things, deficient in iron, so check with your healthcare professional.
Low levels of iron are often associated with fatigue and anemia, so try eating more foods high in iron such as red meat, spinach, broccoli, lentils, beans, nuts, seeds, brown rice, grains and dried fruit. When eating these iron-rich foods combine them with foods high in vitamin C, as vitamin C enhances the absorption of iron. Foods which are high in vitamin C include leafy greens, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and oranges.
For Weight Loss
As an excellent source of dietary fiber, it works as an effective laxative by bulking the stools and keeping things moving. This fiber content also helps keep you feeling fuller for longer and reduces your appetite.
For Strong Bones
For healthy bones, you need vitamin D, C and K, calcium, potassium and magnesium. Agar contains reasonable amounts of manganese and calcium, so it is a winner if you have a family history or have already been diagnosed with osteoporosis or any other bone disorder.
Vegan Gelatin Substitute
Agar comes in powder, strands and flakes which are all easy to work with. It can set at room temperature and effectively keeps its shape in warmer weather. Gelatin, on the other hand, needs refrigerating to set and will melt in warm temperatures. Powered agar is more straightforward to dissolve than gelatin. Its versatility often makes it more popular than gelatin with chefs.
Whether you are a vegan or not, agar offers a great nutritional profile. Although powdered agar is the easiest to use, agar flakes and strands offer the same nutritional benefits. Powdered agar you merely stir into a liquid that requires gelling and bring to the boil. You can also buy it in sheets, long spindly strands, blocks and now you can also buy it in different colors.
Strands & Flakes
Soak strands and flakes in water, or your desired liquid, for 10 minutes to soften. Bring to the boil while continually stirring until the agar dissolves. After the grains have disappeared, you can add the flavoring your recipe requires. Ensure all grainy bits are not floating on top of sticking to the bottom of the pan. If you add ingredients with these grainy bits still visible, your culinary creation will not set correctly. We usually use two teaspoons of agar flakes to every cup of liquid.
Here is a sprinkling of our favorite healthy recipes:
Healthy Gummies (2)
Coffee & Coconut Agar Dessert (3)
Sago Agar Agar (4)
Mango Coconut Jelly (5)
Jello is another all-time favorite of many families around the world, and it is especially popular with the kids. To make healthy Jello, mix 1 cup of apple juice or your preferred natural juice with 1 teaspoon of agar powder. Place the juice and agar powder in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a gentle boil. Simmer for 2 minutes, continuously stirring. Remove from heat, let it sit for about 5 minutes, then pour into molds and leave to set.