I’ve been hearing the word ‘carrageenan’ in online circles for months. It’s been listed as another ingredient to avoid, but until quite recently, my little brain was already very full so I ignored this new information. But after recently completing a Whole30 eating schedule which involves no sugar, gluten, grain, alcohol, dairy, legumes, all forms of packaged food, nitrates, MSG, and Carrageenan, I needed to figure out why I’m supposed to avoid it. One thing you instantly notice with eating Whole30 compliant food or ‘cave man’ with only meat, plants, fruit, nuts, eggs, and oils is your stomach becomes happier and flatter. I didn’t complete the Whole30 to loose weight, rather I was trying to figure out what my body is sensitive to (sugar, gluten, or dairy) when they are reintroduced after 30 days. But I have to admit – the flat stomach that only felt full, not bloated after eating was amazing.
Back to carrageenan. This preservative is specifically mentioned on the Whole30 diet to avoid. With all the ingredients in the world, why is this one listed? And why when I went to my local health food store, was it listed in every single brand of almond and coconut milk that wasn’t in a can? Carrageenan is extracted from red seaweed and is used as a thickener, stabilizer, and/or emulsifier in many dairy, dairy alternatives, and deli meat products. Why should it be avoided? Research links carrageenan to gastrointestinal inflammation, lesions, and even colon cancer in animals. Carrageenan is significantly inflammatory if it gets into the body, which can happen with increased gut permeability. The concern with carrageenan while eating very clean like Whole30 for gut health is that it can degrade into components that can cross even a healthy gut barrier. Leaky gut it not the goal with clean or organic food. So I ask again, why is this ingredient widely found in organics products and stores? And I’ve calmed down a little, because I just figured out it’s an ingredient in my Jason brand toothpaste. With so much concern and attention paid to gut health, it’s more than a little disturbing that this ingredient is in so many products. Start looking for it – you’ll be surprised.
A great resource if you want more information on Carrageenan and how it can be potentially toxic to health is Cornucopia site. And it’s very interesting to look at their Shopping Guide to Avoiding Organic Foods with Carrageenan. Because I guess we’ve been lulled into a false sense of security when purchasing certified organic foods. I have to saw – my heart sank at many of the brands listed in this shopping guide. Especially local Avalon Dairy with their chocolate milk and yes, even a few of the Trader Joe and Whole Food brands.
Interesting to note that alcoholic beverages may contain carrageenan (e.g. to clarify beer) and ingredients don’t have to be listed for alcohol. Did you know that certain beer brands contain GMOs (corn and/or corn syrup)? Worth mentioning if you are trying to reduce tummy issues – beer is not going to do you any favours with a long list of ingredients that is filled with harmful ingredients.
I’ve checked my the milk my children consume and have found an almond milk brand for myself that is delicious and made without carrageenan, but making my own almond milk is on the list. It always give me so much satisfaction to make something that is expensive and in this case is a bit of a mystery.
C-A-R-R-A-G-E-E-N-A-N …it’s your new ingredient to look for.