Have you noticed carrageenan on your food labels? Here are the details on this risky ingredient. If you regularly consume soy, rice, almond or coconut milk, this is a must watch!
Hey there, I’m Elaine Gardner, I’m the founder of DesignYourHealthyLife.com. I struggled with significant health challenges for more than two decades. I found my way back to health by embracing holistic healing and a healthy, holistic lifestyle. I want to share everything that I’ve learned with you so that you can create the health you deserve, feel amazing, and live the life of your dreams.
I’ve been sharing a lot of information lately about food and how to navigate our complicated food system, and today I’m going to be talking about carrageenan. So what is carrageenan? It’s harvested from a specific species of red seaweed and it’s highly effective as a thickener and stabilizer. It’s found in processed foods including infant formula, plant-based beverages, deli meats, and some dairy products such as ice cream. I’ve seen it most frequently in soy, almond, rice and coconut milks.
So it sounds harmless, right? We can eat seaweed, it’s natural, that’s okay for us. But the controversy over carrageenan has existed between food industry representatives and public health researchers for decades, and has recently flared up again over the past few years because it’s being used in organic food. A report issued in 2016 by the Cornucopia Institute summarized research on carrageenan. It exposed the food industry’s hidden data demonstrating that all food grade carrageenan contains a carcinogenic, or cancer causing contaminant, called low molecular weight poligeenan.
The data showed widespread contamination of food grade carrageenan with this poligeenan, an intestinal inflammatory agent that leads to cancer. The physician researcher at the University of Illinois who published the most prominent, independently funded studies of carrageenan, said that exposure to carrageenan causes inflammation and may contribute to human disease including diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, cardiovascular disease and cancer.
And the Cornucopia Institute reports that research has shown that, besides the initial contamination of food grade carrageenan, stomach acid in the human digestive tract can convert a percentage of carrageenan that may otherwise be safe, into the most dangerous, or cancer causing form. In other words, even if the poligeenan contaminant that contributes to cancer was not present, consuming carrageenan is still risky due to what happens to it in the digestive process. Many people have discovered a correlation between carrageenan in their diets and a myriad of symptoms including diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, and more serious bowel disease and colitis. For many, when carrageenan is removed from the diet, symptoms quickly dissipate or disappear.
Carrageenan had been removed from the list of ingredients allowed in organic foods, but appears to be back on the list of approved substances. So you see, even in organic food, carrageenan is allowed. That’s a perfect example of how political and complicated our food system is. It’s not based on the science that’s there to show that it’s risky and yet still being allowed in our food. And it’s still being allowed in organic food production as well. So I’m incredibly grateful for independent researchers and groups like the Cornucopia Institute, who research these important issues and share their findings with the public.
Also, iconic brands in the organic industry like Organic Valley, Stoneyfield, and Eden Foods all looked at the research, listened to the concerns of their customers, and purged carrageenan from their products, according to the Cornucopia Institute. So even though, from a political perspective we’re not winning on this front, companies are paying attention and voluntarily removing carrageenan. That’s really good news.
Now, I’ve worked long and hard to regain my health. I’ve spent a tremendous amount of time learning about our complicated food system and choosing foods that support my health and my long term ability to maintain and improve it. And I have a really sensitive belly, so the last thing I need is a risky ingredient to set me back and cause irritation. I am a dedicated food label reader and highly encourage you to do the same. I never purchase anything that contains carrageenan. It’s not a risk I’m willing to take.
Still, I don’t live in a box and I don’t recommend you do either. I love to travel and I do eat in restaurants and in other people’s homes. I’m well aware that I get exposed to unhealthy ingredients on occasion. But the vast majority of my meals are eaten at home where I have full control over what I purchase, prepare and consume. I choose to focus my efforts there and not worry about what unhealthy ingredients might be lurking in a restaurant meal, even when I’m choosing something close to what I would eat at home. If I ate out often, I would need a different approach.
It’s terribly unfortunate that our food system is so complicated and that harmful substances are plentiful. There is plenty of good food available, but there are many more poor choices. You have to know what to look for. It’s well worth your time and effort to get educated and to buy great food. Every aspect of your life depends upon your health, and food is a powerful part of a healthy lifestyle. Food manufacturers must make money, and if their products aren’t profitable, then they will no longer make them. The reverse is also true. The more money a company makes from healthy food, the more healthy food they will produce. So we can change the food system, and our health, with our purchases.
I’ve created a free guide for you. I highly encourage you to review it and get a sense of what hidden dangers are lurking in your food and how they risk your health. It’s called You Are What You Eat: Hidden Dangers In Your Food. Click here to download it and feel free to let me know if you have any questions. I really encourage you to avoid carrageenan. Make sure you’re reading your labels because it will be listed, so you can easily avoid it.