Carrageenan comes up in many different products and it’s always on the question list whether it is vegan or not.
The good news is, it is vegan. Carrageenan, though it has a funny, chemical sounding name, comes from seaweed. It’s used as a thickening and gelling agent and also a stabilizer and is used as an alternative to gelatin. And we all know the evils of gelatin. Anyone taking B12 supplements really has to watch to make sure their capsules are not made from animal gelatin.
Carrageenan can be found in products such as:
- ice cream
- dairy and non dairy cheeses
- soy milks, almond milks and other non-dairy milks
- protein drinks
- jellies and jams
- pet foods
- diet sodas
- air freshner gels
About 80% of what we get in our food and products come from industrial farms in the Phillipines. 3/4 of the world’s supply comes from here.
To extract it from the seaweed it has to undergo a chemical process. Just as in the gelatin process, the seaweed is cleaned, boiled, filtered, processed with alcohol or potassium chloride or potassium hydroxide, then milled, blended and dried to eventually render it a usable form. It is not exactly a whole food by the time it’s used in various food and items.
Of course, we can make it at home like people did a very long time ago. Take 5oz rinsed Irish moss and cook with 8 quarts of water for 10 minutes, stirring as it boils. Hard water should be mixed with 1/2 oz of borax. Two quarts of cold water are rapidly added to the hot brew, then after the mixture has cooled, it is strained through a cloth. It is then cooled for 24 hours and becomes gelatinous.
Although vegan, there are still some health concerns attached to carrageenan. Carrageenan and any food that has been tampered with and that has changed chemical composition can potentially have health risks that normally, in an unchanged chemical state, may not be present. In carrageenan some of the health risks would include:
- irritable bowel syndrome
- gastointestinal inflammation
- intestinal lesions
- malignant tumors
These symptoms can be mild to severe depending on the individual. Basically, the chemical structure of carrageenan signals an immune response in the body; the body interprets this is an invader and this immune response comes to us as inflammation.
As with any processed foods, additives and preservatives, if we must consume them it should be done in very little amounts. We should be striving towards total elimination of chemicals and man-made foods and giving our bodies the whole, perfect foods that nature intended us to have.by