Friday, January 27, 2012

Adzuki Bean and Sea Vegetable Soup

Seaweed? Yep, that's right, those beautiful vegetables that grow in the ocean. They're really quite tasty! I realized recently that I had not yet highlighted this wonderful, mineral-rich plant. Did you know that sea vegetables offer a concentrated source of trace minerals, particularly iodine? Iodine is needed to make thyroid hormone. Thyroid hormone is incredibly important for normal function of the human body. So important that every single cell has a receptor for this amazing "master switch" of metabolism. Want to have perfectly regulated body weight and body temperature? Then shoot for optimal thyroid hormone function. How do you do that? Eat a gluten-free diet that keeps your autoimmune thyroid antibodies down, and add in some seaweed on a regular basis.

Seaweed is one of nature's richest sources of iodine. Iodine is THE key ingredient in thyroid hormones. We have all heard of T4, tetraiodothyronine, the pre-hormone, and T3, triiodothyronine, the active form of thyroid hormone, but what does that mean? It means four iodines attached to a tyrosine amino acid or three iodines attached to a tyrosine amino acid. One of these iodines is removed with the help of selenium as a cofactor when turning the inactive T4 into the active T3 thyroid hormone. So in essence, if you do not have adequate iodine and selenium, your body may not be able to produce enough thyroid hormone. Are you eating a diet high in phytates, oxalates, and raw cruciferous vegetables? You may have an increased need for iodine, as these foods tend to bind to iodine.

Seaweed can be found at your local health food store. Look for kombu (kelp), wakame, hijiki, arame, or dulse. I keep kelp granules in a small container on our table to sprinkle on food. I like to add wakame to soups like this one.

Adzuki Bean and Sea Vegetable Soup

Serve this nourishing soup for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. You can make this on the stovetop or in your slow cooker. Although adzuki beans don't need to be soaked before cooking, I have found that when using the slow cooker you need to soak them in order for them to cook properly. Before you go to work or school in the morning, place your beans in a bowl and cover with filtered water. Then before you go to bed that night, drain the beans and place them into your slow cooker with the rest of the ingredients. You will wake up to a pot full of warm soup to serve for breakfast or pack for lunch! I prefer to use homemade chicken stock instead of water for the base of the soup; it adds much more flavor and nutrients. Serve this soup with a dollop of sticky brown rice if desired. This soup can be used for Phase 2 of the Elimination Diet! Please note that I use a ready-to-use Pacific Wakame from Emerald Cove. It is already broken into small pieces that you can just toss into soups and stews, though I like to crush it to make the pieces even smaller. I use about 2 tablespoons per batch of soup. You can also use wakame strips and then just break them into little pieces. Look for seaweed in the bulk section of your local co-op or health food store (sometimes it can be in an obscure, hidden place) or the asian foods section.

1 cup adzuki beans, soaked for 8 to 12 hours
1 tablespoon coconut oil or olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
3 to 4 cloves garlic, crushed
1-inch piece of ginger, grated
2 to 3 carrots, diced
1 to 2 stalks celery, diced
4 to 6 shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 to 2 strips wakame, broken into small pieces
8 cups water or homemade stock
2 teaspoons sea salt (omit or lessen if you are using a salted stock)

Optional Garnishes:
chopped cilantro
hot pepper sesame oil
dash of rice vinegar
dash of coconut aminos
spoonful of soy-free, gluten-free miso

Saute the diced onion in the oil for about 5 minutes, or until softened. If you are making this recipe on the stove, then add the remaining ingredients to a 3 to 4-quart pot, cover and simmer for about 45 minutes.

If you are using a crockpot, then add the sautéed onions to the pot and then add the remaining ingredients, cover, and cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 to 5 hours.

To test and see if the beans are cooked you can take a few out and mash them between your fingers. They should be soft and mash easily. If not, continue to cook until done. Serve hot with optional garnishes (my favorite is a combination of chopped cilantro and hot pepper sesame oil). Source:

Slow Cooker Update:
After my last slow cooker post I had a few emails and comments about the presence of lead in slow cookers. I did quite a bit of research and found that yes, lead can be found in the ceramic crock but as long as you don't have any cracking in the crock, that no lead would leach out. Here is an interesting article I found: The Skinny on Crock Pots. You can read it and do your own research and then decide whether or not you want to use one. I have a small 3-quart crockpot that I have had for years. It is in great condition because I rarely use it. It is just too small to make meals for our family. When I make a recipe, I like to make a large enough batch so we can actually have leftovers! But it still comes in handy for cooking things like meat, which we eat a much smaller amount of, and for smaller batches of soups and stews on occasion.

More Soups and Stews:
Lentil and Kale Dal
Curried Carrot Cauliflower Soup
Thai Fish Curry

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About the Author

Alissa Segersten holds a Bachelor's of Science in Nutrition from Bastyr University. She is the founder of Whole Life Nutrition, the mother of five children, a whole foods cooking instructor, professional recipe developer, and cookbook author. She is passionate about helping others find a diet that will truly nourish them, and offers elimination diet recipes, healthy gluten-free recipes, paleo and vegan recipes, as well as tips for feeding your family a nourishing, whole foods diet. Alissa is the author of two very popular gluten-free, whole foods cookbooks and guidebooks: The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook and Nourishing Meals. She is also the co-author of The Elimination Diet book. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram!


  1. I adore seaweed and sprouted adzuki's are one of my favorite sprouted beans.
    Peace and Raw Health,

  2. This soup is just what I've been craving! I've been looking for yummy adzuki bean recipes and wanting to add more sea veggies and mushrooms to my diet lately. We'll definitely make this!


  3. This looks fantastic! I love seaweed. I haven't cooked all that much with it, but I have yet to meet a sea vegetable I didn't like! And now that you've reminded me of its health benefits (specifically for the thyroid-thyroid issues run in my family) I'll have to start incorporating it more!

  4. I recently cooked Adzuki beans in a soup for the very first time. I loved it. Thanks for a new recipe idea. May you would like to try mine, too. Here is the link:

  5. As regards small crockpots, I use mine mainly for soaking oatmeal overnite, then cooking it in the morning. If I had to rush off to work, I'd put it on a timer, but I don't.

  6. Ali, the timing of your posting couldn't be more perfect for me. I'm loving gut soothing soups right now and I suspect I might be having some thyroid issues. Thanks for the recipe and the information about the health benefits of sea veggies! 

  7. I can't wait to try this! I was wondering if you have any resources for more info on the connection to a GF diet and other diet changes to thyroid function. I've had Hashimotos for 13 years, under control with meds, and a very strong family history. I honestly don't have side effects from the meds and expect that I'll be taking some for the rest of my life. But I am interested in learning more about whether or not diet changes could significantly change my dosage, or perhaps to introduce to my kids so they are less likely to develop thyroid problems later (again, super strong family history, so quite likely already). We are not currently GF, but I love many of your recipes anyway :) Thanks!

  8. Made this soup for dinner, with the only change being the substitution of celery with parsnips (it added a bit of sweetness to it, I highly recommend this substitution). Garnished the soup with some liquid aminos. Very nourishing and very yummy!

  9. Is there such a thing as having too much seaweed? I live in Japan right now and I eat fresh seaweed everyday! I can't get enough, but I wonder if it is too much for my thyroid. However, I also eat a ton of cruciferous vegetables. In fact cabbage, wakame, cucumber, and salmon salad with black sesame oil has been a recent favorite.

  10. Can you recommend a gluten free miso?

  11. There's so few recipes floating around out there for adzuki beans. This sounds lovely and a great way of getting more into my diet. Looks great.

    I'll be hosting whole food wednesdays at if you'd like to come over and share, we'd love to have you!

  12. Rebecca MagliozziMarch 24, 2012 at 7:25 PM

    I have had autoimmune thyroid disease since age 14, first Graves and now Hashimoto's. Gluten free helps alot, but if you have autoimmune thyroid you should avoid seaweed. The high iodine content will make you feel great at first, and then your antibodies will shoot sky high within a few weeks. I had this happen to me over the summer after consuming dulse. Dr. Kharrazian, who is the natural medicine thyroid expert talks about this in his book "Why Do I still have symptoms if my thyroid tests are normal?" Seaweed is great if you don't have graves or hashimotos. Just a word of caution. High antibodies are not fun, and neither are the heart palpitations, mood swings and fatigue that accompany them.

  13. Thanks for the amazing recipes, cookbooks, and inspiration on healthy foods. I love your work.

    I am on day 4 of the Elimination Diet and would like to know what other miso pastes are acceptable to use as I cannot find Adzuki miso. Would a brown rice miso be appropriate if this exists?


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Thanks and Happy Cooking! ~Ali :)