Live Consciously

What Is Carrageenan and Why Should I Care?



Sometimes it feels like everything we eat is so complicated.

It can be really hard to say with 100% confidence that the salad dressing you love is really clean of fillers and junk, or the ice cream from the corner store isn’t using some food coloring that could rot your insides.

You can make yourself crazy looking up the the seemingly millions of food additives that are GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe), or you could choose to not look at the ingredient list and save yourself from the potential horror (don’t make this latter choice, please).

By the way, GRAS doesn’t guarantee a “clean” ingredient.

It’s a good idea to be informed. It may make you crazy (at first) but will remove the stress of the unknown and give you the opportunity to make decisions you feel good about, when you put just a little time into educating yourself.

Today we’re spotlighting  carrageenan <kara-gee-nan>, which has been of hot, hot, hot controversy in the nutrition world.

What is Carrageenan?

Carrageenan is a food additive that can be labeled organic and natural. We put it in dairy products and beverages to keep them from separating.

When added to foods, it keeps your yogurt from getting that layer of water on the top, the fat in your milk from floating on the surface and the frozen dinner you heat up from looking entirely unappealing.

We’re usually grossed out by separated foods, but if the labels on our dairy and beverages told us to shake ‘em before we consume ‘em, carrageenan would be most likely be out of a job.

Where Does Carrageenan Come From?

Carrageenan is made from algae and can be cultivated or wild. Most of it is from the Kappaphycus alvarezii and Eucheuma denticulatum varieties.

The seaweed gets harvested from the ocean, cleaned, put through an extraction process, filtered a couple of times, concentrated, mixed with chemicals, pressed, dried, milled, blended and refined.

It’s not exactly seaweed with all its nutrient dense-ness after all of that. Eeeeek.

Should We Be Concerned About Carrageenan?

There’s strong evidence that carrageenan is linked to cancer, damaging the GI tract, diabetic precursors and inflammation.

We’re not talking just a little gas or bloating found in many GRAS additives, but it may be a factor in serious health problems.

While there are solid animal studies to support the toxicity of carrageenan, the implications for humans is not kicking the food industry into action.

Is it Okay To Eat Carrageenan?

I tell my clients to steer clear of carrageenan. The Cornucopia Institute has made it really easy to find carrageenan-free foods with a list of common brands to look for and avoid.



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