The Additive Hiding in Dairy-Free Foods

Is carrageenan listed as an ingredient in your almond milk, dairy-free cheese or coconut icecream?

Most people these days know there is controversy around the safety of the flavour enhancer MSG (additive #621 or monosodium glutamate). Although I had no idea back in my uni days until I had a flatmate who reacted to soy sauce one evening!

There is lots of anecdotal evidence of reactions including mood and behaviour changes such as hyperactivity (important when you have a child, especially one with with ADHD) plus headaches, heart palpitations, stomach aches and nausea…

“Generally recognized as safe” but enough to require it to be listed on the product label in Australia and NZ and to be not recommended for children. Hmmm.

BUT THERE’S SOMETHING ELSE – similar – lurking in foods deemed to be healthy!!!

Carrageenan is an additive – with no nutritional value – processed from red seaweed. It is commonly used as a thickening or gelling agent and stabiliser, and is often found in dairy-free products such as almond milk and coconut yoghurt.

Whilst not the same thing as MSG, carrageenan may cause the same MSG-type reactions; people that are more affected by MSG seem to also be sensitive to carrageenan.

But again, conflicting scientific evidence makes the safety of carrageenan controversial. It hasn’t been proven to be a carcinogen, and although some studies implicate carrageenan in inflammation (the underlying cause in many chronic and degenerative conditions), some show no adverse effects.

Although even the way it is manufactured makes me question it’s safety!!! The seaweed gets treated with a high alkali solution such as potassium hydroxide (caustic potash)!

And there’s power in people reporting negative reactions! They mean something!! Although it shouldn’t be up to consumers to prove that food they are consuming is harmful?

So – although not as concerning as some other additives – in my opinion carrageenan hasn’t been proven as definitely safe to consume. I recommend everyone – especially children and those with digestive issues – avoid it.

Besides, one thing that isn’t debatable about carrageenan is that there are no known health benefits to eating it. And you know I’m all about fueling your body with the right food.

Finally, in case you’re questioning it, GREEN seaweed is safe!

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