I saw an interview once with a nutritionist who said the way to determine what you should and should not eat could be easily determined by following one simple rule: “avoid anything with a label.” In other words…eat real, whole food that does not come in a box or a can. Now that may be all well and good, but it is not that simple for the average person who is juggling a thousand things a day and may not have time to make their own almond mild or cook everything from scratch. There are times convenience is a must!
But have you ever looked closely at the labels of some of the things your are buying? Sometimes people think they are buying a health food and take for granted that there won't be any not so healthy additives. Having found out that I have a dairy allergy about 6 months ago, I have fully embraced the alternative non-dairy products; namely almond and coconut milks and yogurts. However I recently learned about an additive that is commonly found in these products that may potentially be carcinogenic.
Carrageenan is a common food additive that is extracted from a red seaweed, Chondrus crispus, which is popularly known as Irish Moss. Carrageenan, which has no nutritional value, has been used as a thickener and emulsifier to improve the texture of ice cream, yogurt, cottage cheese, soy milk and other processed foods.1
A number of studies have shown that Carrageenan can cause inflammation in humans and chronic inflammation puts us at risk of several diseases; i.e. heart disease, Alzheimer's, as well as several cancers. It can be particularly detrimental to people with digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome. A recent article in the Chicago Tribune highlights the submission of a petition back in 2008 to the FDA by a researcher, who has studied Carrageenan and its effects for many years, asking them to prohibit the use of Carrageenan in foods.2
Unfortunately this request was denied, despite significant evidence as the dangers of this common food additive.
Sadly several foods that I regularly eat contain Carrageenan...luckily there are a number of non-Carrageenan options! See the Cornucopia Institute Guide to Avoiding Foods With Carrageenan.