Carrageenan: Natural, But Not Good For You

Carrageenan, derived from seaweed, is natural as the day is long, and appears in all kinds of organic, “good for you” foods and beverages. But is it really healthful? For that matter, is it even necessary? Used to thicken and emulsify foods and drinks such as nutritional shakes, dressings, yogurt, chocolate, soups and more, carrageenan is increasingly popping up in many diet and organic foods.

The problem is that research shows that carrageenan may cause inflammation, contribute to irritable bowel syndrome and gut irratation, and may cause cancer. Prevention magazine writes , ” ‘What’s striking to me is that carrageenan has no nutritional value,’ says Charlotte Vallaeys, director of farm and food policy at the Cornucopia Institute , an organic watchdog group that promotes family-scale farming. The organization has been critical of carrageenan’s approved use in organics and recently launched a nationwide petition urging the FDA to ban the ingredient from the food supply. Its use in beverage products could be completely eliminated if companies printed “Shake Well” on their packages, since carrageenan essentially makes sure liquids remain mixed.

Andrew Weil, on his website, , writes, ” All told, I recommend avoiding regular consumption of foods containing carrageenan. This is especially important advice for persons with inflammatory bowel disease.”

Here’s how to cut carrageenan from your diet:

Scan the label. Carrageenan must legally appear on a food label, so check labels of even organic foods to see if it’s an ingredient. While organic foods ban the use of GMOs, chemical pesticides, and toxic synthetic additives, the program does allow carrageenan. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Standards Board isn’t set to vote on removing it from organics for four more years.

Speak up. Sign the Carrageenan Petition to the FDA to let the federal agency know you don’t want this ingredient in the food chain.

Check the list. The Cornucopia Institute created a Buying Guide to help you shop carrageenan-free products. Vallaeys says the good news is companies like Stonyfield Farm, So Delicious, Eden Foods, and Oregon Ice Cream are voluntarily working to reformulate carrageenan-free products.

by Staff