Deciphering Carrageenan

You probably haven’t paid much attention or maybe even heard about carrageenan unless you read labels or heard someone talking about it. A couple months ago I went to Trader Joe’s and grabbed a container of my kids favorite yogurt, when I got home I was reading something on the back to find information about the yogurt and I saw it right in the middle of the ingredients “carrageenan” I was SO mad! Not only because I have been giving this yogurt to my kids for months and months but because I had bought into the lie that everything at Trader Joe’s was additive and GMO free ( but that’s a WHOLE other post)  and I didn’t have to read my labels there. WRONG and I was kicking myself. So what exactly is this? Here I will lay out all the information about Carrageenan and why you need to stay far far far away.

What is it?

Carrageenan is an extract made from red seaweed and algae. It is used as a “food grade” additive to make foods thicker, or to emulsify the food to make it taste richer and thicker.

Carrageenan is commonly found in dairy products (such as ice cream, yogurt, cream cheese, and heavy cream) but can also be found in other foods (i.e, broth, salad dressing, soups) as well as in breakfast cereals, chocolate bars, snacks, deli meats, and baked goods, almond milk and coconut milk.

The FDA has it labeled as GRAS which stands for “Generally recognized as safe” but carrageenan has NO nutritional value.

If it’s from seaweed isn’t it natural?

Yes, it’s from seaweed but no it is not natural. Studies have shown that the use of carrageenan has caused ulcers, inflammation and cancer, yes, cancer.

“Although derived from a natural source, carrageenan appears to be particularly destructive to the digestive system, triggering an immune response similar to that your body has when invaded by pathogens like Salmonella. The result: ‘Carrageenan predictably causes inflammation, which can lead to ulcerations and bleeding,’ explains veteran carrageenan researcher Joanne Tobacman, MD, associate professor of clinical medicine at the University of Illinois School of Medicine at Chicago. She says the food ingredient irritates by activating an immune response that dials up inflammation. Her previous work showed a concerning connection between carrageenan and gastrointestinal cancer in lab animals, and she’s involved with ongoing research funded through the National Institutes of Health that is investigating carrageenan’s effect on ulcerative colitis and other diseases like diabetes.”- Green News

Our bodies are already under enough stress, why add an unnecessary ingredient with no nutritional value to our food that can cause inflammation in our bodies? When it has been linked to colon inflammation and colon cancer in lab animals.

Should We Consume Carrageenan?

NO WAY! I believe that heavy cream doesn’t need carrageenan in it to taste better.If you have had real cream (sans any additives), you know what I mean. The same goes with every other food.

To me, carrageenan is a completely unnecessary ingredient. And there is too many unknowns that go along with it. Did I mention that this ingredient is allowed in organic foods? I will admit, at first, I thought that this ingredient seemed harmless enough; but the more I read, the more alarmed I got and with it being a carcinogen, I will put anything back on the shelf with this ingredient.

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