When sorting through the growing variety of non-dairy milks, creamers and other products appearing on grocery store shelves, one controversial ingredient is gaining the attention of a number of "health watchdogs". This ingredient is none other than carrageenan, and it may very well be found in the almond milk sitting in your refrigerator right now.
What is carrageenan and why is it in our food? Well, Google defines carrageenan as "a family of linear sulfated polysaccharides that are extracted from red edible seaweeds. They are widely used in the food industry, for their gelling, thickening, and stabilizing properties."
If it comes from something natural, shouldn't it be okay for us? Not necessarily. Like many dyes, food additives, preservatives and chemicals, carrageenan IS a naturally-derived thickener. But that doesn't mean we as humans should be consuming it.
The problem? It is not digestible by humans. According to Joanne Tobacman M.D., a well-versed researcher of carrageenan at the University of Illinois, the substance triggers an immune response in our bodies. It can lead to ulcerations, bleeding and increased inflammation. There are also theories that carrageenan is linked to cancer, but the verdict is still out in the scientific community while more research and testing is done.
The bottom line is this: evidence continues to mount in the harmfulness of carrageenan and it should not be consumed on a regular basis. Many people may be reacting to this ingredient if they are consuming non-dairy or dairy-free products and may not even realize it or be blaming it on something else entirely.
A born-and-raised Texas gal, University of Texas student Audrey Wright had to learn on her own how to navigate the daunting world of school, social outings and life as a teen with Celiac Disease. She loves her family and friends, writing, cooking and staying active. Now more than ever, she wishes to share her discoveries, tips and tricks about practical food allergy survival and hopes to make things just a little bit easier for others.
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