The other day when I was making a chicken salad, I realized (while unloading my groceries) I had forgotten my heavy whipping cream at the store. Yes, it is true; I use heavy cream in my chicken salad. It makes some seriously divine chicken salad, but we’ll save that recipe for another day. So, on my regretful trek back to the grocery store (mind you, I had traveled out of my way to go to the coop up the road) I buzzed over to a grocery store nearly a block from my house to get my one forgotten ingredient. Rrgh! As I am running in to get some heavy whipping cream am thinking that I know that it’s probably not going to be the best cream choice in the world, but at this point, I’m okay with that…I just want to make this chicken salad, so we have lunches for the week. I reach in to grab the best looking cream option, one that I have reached for before when I’ve had slim pick ‘ins in the cream department.
As I’m walking away to purchase this cream, I flip it over and look at the ingredient list, although it’s heavy cream, so what else would you expect the list to say? Naively, I still obviously have too much trust in our food suppliers. Low and behold, I see the word “CARRAGEENAN”?!?! I’m already not in the best mood because of this extra excursion to the store, but now I’m seeing that carrageenan is an additive to my heavy whipping cream?!? I was pissed, frustrated, and saddened all at the same time. I go back to the dairy section and turn over every whipping cream carton or bottle. Yup, the dreaded carrageenan is in EVERY SINGLE ONE. I needed to vent, so what did I do? I sent ranting texts to Laura, my other foodie half, and ended our conversation with “you better believe I’m going to blog about this”. Ha! So here it is friends. This is just a brief overview of carrageenan and merely an introduction to the sneaky food additive that has gotten in under the radar.
What is carrageenan?
- It is derived from red seaweed and is processed in a way to make it a “food grade” additive.
- For many years the carrageenan trade lobby group has fought to promote this seaweed- based additive as a “safe and natural food additive”.
- It is not used for nutritional value, flavor, or color, but instead used in many products as a thickener, giving food a fattier texture or sensation on your palate. Imitating a thick, rich, full-fat food option. ( Um, no thanks. I’ll take the real deal instead!)
- It is also used as a stabilizer, so it creates a even texture and consistency throughout the entire product. (An example would be a beverage with particles that naturally separate. Instead of having to shake it to reincorporate it, it just stays evenly mixed. Weird right?!)
What foods do you find carrageenan in?
- Dairy: ice cream, chocolate milk, sour cream, cottage cheese, whipping cream, squeezable yogurts…you know the ones that are marketed as kid friendly
- Dairy Alternatives: soy milk, hemp milk, almond milk, coconut milk, a good majority of the previously listed alternative products i.e. soy yogurt, pudding, ice cream etc.
- Meats: Prepared chicken products, and sliced turkey
- Nutritional Drinks: Ensure™, SlimFast™, Carnation Breakfast Essentials™, and Orgain™
- Prepared Foods: microwaveable dinners, canned soups, broths, frozen pizza, even pet foods
Why should you avoid Carrageenan?
- The way carrageenan is chemically structured triggers an autoimmune response. Autoimmune responses lead to inflammation within the body.
- The inflammation has been noticed more specifically in the gastrointestinal system. Ranging from “belly bloat” , to (IBS) irritable bowel syndrome, to (IBD) Irritable bowel disease.
- Prolonged inflammation within the body is a precursor to more serious health morbidity.
- There are many inflammatory diseases that have been associated with the human body: inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, arteriosclerosis, as well as cancers.
- There is concern by scientists that the acidity found within the stomach causes “food grade” carrageenan to “degrade”, which would expose your digestive system to a recognized carcinogen.
- “Carrageenan exposure clearly causes inflammation; the amount of carrageenan in food products is sufficient to cause inflammation; and degraded carrageenan and food-grade carrageenan are both harmful.” – Dr. Joanne Tobacman, MD, Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago Click here to read more from Dr. Joanne Tobacman
- “[Dr. Tobacman] explained that all forms of carrageenan are capable of causing inflammation. This is bad news. We know that chronic inflammation is a root cause of many serious diseases including heart disease, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, and cancer. All told, I recommend avoiding regular consumption of foods containing carrageenan.” – Dr. Andrew Weil
- According to Bhattacharyya, Dedeja, and Tobacman’s journal article in 2008, numerous studies have been published identifying carrageenan’s unique chemical structure and how it triggers an immune response in the body, which is similar to the effects of pathogenic bacteria like Salmonella.
Want to know more?
- A Report by The Cornucopia Institute on carrageenan lays out the facts about this “natural” food additive and why it should be removed from our food supply. It shares a wealth of knowledge based around studies that have been conducted over many years of research.
What can you do?
- Here is a Shopping Guide that can help you select brands of food that are made without the addition of carrageenan.
- Sign the FDA petition to remove carrageenan from our food supply.
- Know where you are getting your food from and don’t be afraid to ask questions!
Over and over we are seeing conflict of interest from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), not to mention other regulating groups. Sadly, we have seen that money talks, and the interests of other individuals and group entities have prevailed over the general health of our population and communities as a whole. It is so important that we ask questions, demand change, and recreate a healthy food culture.
“Science at the bidding of the corporations is knowledge reduced to merchandise” – Wendell Berry