Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Carrageenan: Another food enemy?

Every day I'm learning about some other poison or hazard in our food.

It's very annoying and very overwhelming.

I find myself longing for the days when I was much more clueless and I wasn't so overwhelmed with the whole GMO, organic, processed food, etc. issue. Not to mention my own personal sensitivities to gluten, almonds, dairy and artificial sweeteners.

Oh the good ol' days when I could just grab a slice of pizza on the go and not think twice.

Anyway, so I've been going along merrily on my gluten-dairy-almond-artificial sweetener-free, mostly organic journey and now I've learned of a new thing I've gotta worry about.

Carrageenan.

Have you heard of it?

It's in all kind of "organic" products including most soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk, flax milk, cheese alternatives, non-dairy frozen desserts, many Applegate cold cuts and much more. You can see a complete list here.  In short, almost everything I've used to cut out the dairy or use as substitutes contain carrageenan.

ugh. always something


So what is it?

Carrageenan is an additive that is used primarily as a thickener.  According to Healthkismit:
Carrageenan is a polysaccharide that’s derived from red seaweed. On a molecular level it’s actually very similar to plastic and is popular for that reason. It bends easily but snaps back into place, which makes it a useful additive to foods, gels, and foams.
The problem?

Well if you begin to dig it could be linked to gastrointestinal inflammation and colon cancer!!

But wait. It's organic! It's in all those vegan foods! How can this be?

Now even after cutting out all of those foods that I'm sensitive to, I'm still often experiencing tummy aches. Can it be the carrageenan in my organic soy milk that I use every morning? I'm not sure. But as of right now I'm going to try to eliminate that too. An article I read recommends that if you suffer from IBS or gastric distress you should experiment with cutting it out for two weeks.

Will it ever end? Soon I'll be just consuming air and water.

According to Cornucopia Institute:
Research links the controversial food ingredient carrageenan to serious gastrointestinal inflammation and colon cancer.
Yet it is still found in many foods, including some certified organic foods.
At the USDA’s National Organic Standards Board meeting in May 2012, Dr. Joanne Tobacman, a physician-scientist at the University of Illinois School of Medicine and the nation’s foremost independent expert on carrageenan, presented her research and urged the NOSB to remove carrageenan from organic foods.
Oy vey. The carrageenan lobbyists teamed up with some of our favorite organic companies and fought back hard so in many of our favorite brands they remain. If you google this ingredient you'll find all kinds of research worth considering.

Have you ever heard of this ingredient!? Thoughts?

XO
Jen

PS: so out of curiosity - I found a few more interesting reads - here's another from The Charis Holistic Center out of Los Angeles that leans towards it being something to avoid.

Here is another interesting read from the Organic Consumers Association where you can read about Stonyfield Farms and Organic Valley responses. They are not concerned with risks.

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