Carrageenan: A Food Additive You Should Avoid

There are so many additives in our foods now and it can be really hard to decipher what is harmless and what may be causing health issues in our bodies. Especially when they use scientific names that we have no idea what it even is. For example, “Ascorbic Acid” is just another name for vitamin C, so there’s nothing scary to see here… Unfortunately that is usually not the case with additives. Many of them are unhealthy or even harmful.

During a Whole30, we ask you to cut out three common food additives: carrageenan, MSG, and sulfites. It is my personal belief that we should not only cut them out for the duration of your Whole30 but even in your everyday life. Why? In this article, we are going to dive deep into carrageenan.

Carrageenan is a thickener made from red seaweed. You love to eat Seawood with your sushi so something that comes from something natural has to be harmless, yes? Actually, no… Carrageenan is actually very harmful to our health and should be something to avoid. Yet, it is commonly found in so many foods in the grocery store. It is very common in dairy-alternative milk, such as almond milk, or in deli meat. But you can even find it in things like ice cream, dog food, and Costco’s beloved rotisserie chicken.

So what’s the big deal with Carrageenan? As I said above it is extracted from red seaweed. To create “food grade” carrageenan it is processed with a chemical compound called alkali. However, if you take the same red seaweed and process it with acid rather than alkali, you would create “degraded carrageenan” or poligeenan. Scientists use this substance to promote inflammation in lab animals to test out anti-inflammatory drugs. Let me say that again, it promotes inflammation!

One study even found that food-grade carrageenan can cause glucose intolerance and insulin resistance. The study was done on mice, and it states, “These effects may result from carrageenan-induced inflammation.” Inflammation can cause so many issues in our bodies and we should do our best to avoid foods that can lead to inflammation.

So what can you do? My biggest advice is to read your labels and choose companies that go without adding carrageenan into their products. As more information about the negative effects of carrageenan comes out, fewer companies are using it in their products, which is great! I am a big believer in voting with our dollars, so that is the best thing we can do to tell companies that we will not stand for inflammation-causing substances in our foods!


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