Despite its humble background, carrageenan has been the subject of a lot of unearned backlash. With opinions buzzing worldwide regarding untruthful claims touted by a dizzying array of sources with questionable agendas, we figured that it was time for a lightning round clarification session on the seaweed extract.
Fact vs. Fiction: Common Carrageenan Claims
Myth: Carrageenan causes cancer!
- Reality: Despite some vocal critics’ interpretation of older, unfounded data, modern studies have proven time and time again that carrageenan has no negative health effects as currently used. In over seven decades of its use in popular processed foods, not a single substantiated claim of chronic illness has been reported as arising from carrageenan itself.
Myth: Additives have no place in my healthy/organic foods!
- Reality: Do you like yogurt? Ice cream? Almond milk? Do you think you would still love those foods if they were watery, separated, icy or moldy, and you had no way of knowing how they would vary from carton to carton? Stabilizers have always existed in processed foods to prevent these issues. As long as the additives come from sustainable, ethical backgrounds, they only serve to keep your favorite foods tasting as they should, and do not detract from any organic or dietary certification.
Myth: Additives are avoidable.
- Reality: For those with the true time, money and inclination to purchase all their food daily directly from farmers, there is nothing standing in their way. However, in the modern world, processed food is a fact of life, and additives can be a blessing. Preserving natural food by the addition of minuscule amounts of naturally derived plant compounds means the difference between buying a carton of delicious, certified organic almond milk at the store to pour over your morning cereal throughout the week, and buying your own almonds from a certified farmer, soaking the nuts for days, grinding them to a meal, squeezing the liquid by hand… just to have it go bad in the fridge by Day 3.
With that said, there are some additives you can avoid.
For those looking to make the healthiest choice, it is always best to side with science. Gellan gum, for instance, is one major synthetic carrageenan alternative that has been proven to cause some of the bad side effects folks often associate with food additives as a whole, and is the most likely to disrupt the organic and all-natural supply chain. The good news is that it is easily avoidable. It really is as simple as reading the labels on the grocery items you keep around the house, and making the switch to the tried-and-true whenever you have the opportunity.