As you may know by now, I am conscious about the amount of dairy I consume. Since I have a weakness for good cheese (with my wine, of course!) and occasionally crave greek yogurt, I either eliminate or make trade-offs with other dairy products whenever I can. One switch that I’ve made is with milk – you can always count on finding almond milk in my fridge. In the past, I haven’t exactly been picky when it came to the brand. If I was at Trader Joe’s, I bought TJ’s brand; if I was at a supermarket, I bought whatever was on sale. Then, I learned about something called carrageenan.
Carrageenans are made from red edible seaweeds. They are used mainly in dairy and dairy alternative products for their gelling, thickening, and stabilizing abilities. It is widely used in beverages to keep ingredients from separating, as well as in low-fat versions of foods to help thicken the consistency.
Doesn’t sound so bad, right?
Not only does carrageenan have no nutritional value, but it is also very hard on the digestive system, causing gut irritation, which could lead to ulcers and bleeding. Beyond that, carrageenan triggers an immune response in the body, which leads to inflammation. Chronic inflammation is the root cause of many diseases, like heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and cancer.
If you want to avoid carrageenan, be sure to look closely at ingredient labels. Legally, carrageenan must appear on the label. The misleading part, however, is that the product can still be labeled “Natural” (because, technically, carrageenan is derived from a natural source – seaweed) and also “Organic” (organic foods ban GMOs, chemical pesticides, and toxic synthetic additives, but carrageenan is still allowed). This just goes to show how important it is to always read ingredient lists!
PS – I just want to note that the Silk Almond Milk does NOT contain carrageenan.