Do you actually know what carrageenan is or are you reading this to find out? *lol*
Carrageenan is one of those food additives that is currently being examined for its health properties – or lack of health properties as the case may be. You may remember that years ago, aspartame came out onto the market as the “miracle” substitute for sugar – only to be completely bashed a few years later. The same with sucralose. In fact, now, both of these substances are said to be horrible for your health and even to be appetite stimulants (as opposed to suppressants). The latest sugar substitutes are natural substitutes such as stevia or honey, for example.
In the same way, if you google carrageenan, you will find mixed messages bombarding your senses – some saying carrageenan is perfectly safe, others saying it’s basically devil spawn for your body. Who do we believe?
Well, according to the little research I’ve done, and admitting that I’m no expert in this at all, I’ve decided to avoid carrageenan for the most part. I’m trying to following the “what won’t kill you will make you fatter” line of thought while trying to follow the “everything in moderation” line of thought. No, I’m not contradicting myself. Well…maybe a little bit, but you’ll see what I mean when I tell you what I’ve discovered about carrageenan.
Carrageenan is a substance derived from seaweed that is used in several foods as a thickener. There are two types, one that is food safe and one that is not. The one that is not is not used as a thickener in food due to food and drug regulations all over the world – not to mention the fact that it’s sorta poisonous. Carrageenan (the edible one), is used to thicken many of the non-dairy milks such as soy, almond, rice, hazelnut and hemp milks. It’s also used to thicken many milk-based products such as condensed milk. I’m sure if I looked a bit longer we would find carrageenan in a lot of other products as well – puddings, dairy free cheeses, dairy free yogurts etc. etc.
That was the gist of it actually…but I’ll tell you the reason I started looking into it – a few months ago, I was having severe stomach pains. I couldn’t understand it – I was completely dairy free and completely gluten free and could not figure out for the life of me why I was getting daily burning in my stomach and intestine followed by massive amounts of gas – I had done everything I needed to for my dietary requirements – what was the problem now?! Then I realized that I was getting these pains about half an hour after eating breakfast – and breakfast was a huge bowl of gluten free cereal with soy milk. So I originally thought it was oats and cut even gluten free oats out of my diet – it improved slightly but did not work in relieving the problem.
I searched for my answer online, thinking it was a soy allergy that my body would have decided to take on in addition to all the rest of my allergies. God knows I’ve just been waiting for it! Anyways, I googled burning gut sensations and soy milk and found out that it is a common reaction to carrageenan – and decided to look for dairy free milks that do not include that ingredient.
MUCH harder than it sounds – why? Because most of the grocery store brands utilize carageenan, and worse, most list carrageenan within the first 4 – 6 products in their ingredient list. I did find a few brands that do not use it, but all of the soy milks I looked at had it listed and most of the rice and almond milks. Coconut milks seemed pretty safe – I assume because the coconut milk has a little bit of coconut cream in it to thicken it? (no I’m not 100% sure on that).
So since that time I’ve cut carageenan out of my diet and my stomach has stopped burning – that was the bottom line of this entire blog – for you to know that I reacted to it and maybe, just maybe you are too?
Here’s a list of dairy-free brands that make milk alternatives that HAVE carrageenan: Earth’s Own (Ryza & Almond Fresh), So Nice, Silk, PC Organics, So Delicious, Blue Diamond Almond Breeze, Almond Dream, Soy Dream
And here are the ones that seem to not have carrageenan: Natura, Yu, Oat Dream
If you’re having stomach or gut problems and are not sure what else you could do to relieve your pain, maybe try to cut carrageenan out of your diet to see if helps you. (If you cannot find any without carrageenan in your grocery, I would advise you to try to choose ones with the carrageenan to the end of the ingredient list rather than the beginning).
And yes, I will be trying gluten free oats again – because now that I’ve written this, I wonder if it was the carrageenan I was reacting to instead of the oats?
*sigh* the food allergy world is never simple is it?
Good luck and please let me know if you’ve had similar reactions to carrageenan!