Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Carrageenan: Danger in your Almond Milk?

I’ve been wary of the ingredient Carrageenan for a while. It is used as a thickener and stabilizer in a lot of foods especially in the health food industry in milk and non-dairy milks like almond milk, coconut milk, hemp milk and non-dairy and dairy ice creams. Something about it has always given me a bad vibe though it has been used in all these supposedly healthy health foods.
I started reading research studies about the negative impact on carrageenan on gut health. Alarming results showed that carrageenan has:

-carcinogenic properties
- causes intestinal damage
- is pro-inflammatory
- can cause damage to gut health and associated with digestion and gut issues

There is a lot of controversy on the studies. For one, it is hard to transfer the results from rats and mice to humans. The results on the rodents varied from study to study. And some studies used varying forms of carrageenan. Some used undegraded carrageenan (allowed to be used in food) and some with degraded (not allowed in food).
A couple of months ago, I predicted that we would start seeing “carrageenan free” labels on foods in a couple of years. Pretty soon the health concerns would be exposed and we would start to be more cognizant of putting this stuff in our body.
And as I was walking the aisles of Whole Foods the other day, I saw it. I saw it way way sooner than I had predicted. But there it was staring at me in the face “No Carrageenan” right above the “No High Fructose Corn Syrup”.

I hesitated to even blog about this, in fear of instilling frustration. “What? I thought I have been doing the healthy thing by switching to almond milk, by eating coconut ice cream. How do I know what to eat?” …and as a result throw up your hands and giving up efforts to healthy eating.
That is certainly not my intention. My intention is to encourage you to read ingredient labels. If you don’t know what an ingredient is, decide if you want to put a foreign substance in your body.
The food companies will always come out with new ingredients to stick in our food to make it last longer on the shelves, be more palatable, more addictive, and more attractive etc. It is impossible to keep up and research all of these ingredients. Stick to foods that are whole and unprocessed then you don’t need to worry about it.