Food For Thought: Carrageenan

Do you know what carrageenan is? If you don’t, you should…it’s probably in a lot of things you eat, and may even be in your pets’ food.

Carrageenan is a substance made from red seaweed, used as a thickening and stabilizing agent. It’s added to many foods, such as soy milk, wet pet food, yogurt, deli meat, frozen meals. Studies show it causes gastrointestinal (GI) inflammation, and has been linked to GI problems like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

You probably already know we try to eat food that’s healthy (and, ideally, local). Disturbingly, we could describe it another way: we try to eat food that won’t harm us. That’s why it’s infuriating that our food is adulterated with potentially harmful substances like preservatives and artificial colors and that we have to review novel-length ingredient lists in 4-point font to ensure we’re not ingesting anything undesirable.

During the holidays, we were at a grocery store and idly looked at a bottle of heavy whipping cream while waiting for water bottles to fill. Guess what? Carrageenan. You know those single-serving half and half creamers you use in your coffee? They very well may contain carrageenan – ours did. When we purchase something called “half and half”, that’s what it should be – just half and half. If it’s a shelf-stable dairy (or non-dairy “milk”, like soy, rice, etc.) product, look at the label carefully. Carrageenan in there? Not welcome here.

The Cornucopia Institute’s report is here:

For those with pets, read the Cornucopia Institute’s report on harmful ingredients in pet food (including carrageenan, and you may be surprised at the brands):