Oh great, another food ingredient for us to worry about. Did you know that carrageenan is like poison ivy for your intestines -- supposedly? FAN-TA-STIC! Carrageenan is a thickener made from seaweed that you'll find in ice cream and -- dammit -- those yogurt tubes every single toddler ever just loves. So let's have it. How bad is carrageenan? How much damage does it do?
Numerous studies have shown carrageenan to cause everything from intestinal inflammation to colon cancer. Apparently the body considers it an invader. Concerned doctors have tried to get the FDA to ban it from foods, they're so freaked out over it, but so far no luck. Meanwhile, the European Union has banned it from baby formula. Wait -- it's in baby formula?!?
Yup. So that's ice cream, yogurt squeezers, formula, chocolate milk, almond milk, soy milk ... a lot of dairy products, in fact. It's used to give low-fat foods a "fattier" texture. These foods are supposed to be healthier for our kids, and even organic brands like Stonyfield Farms uses the stuff. Oh Stonyfield! I thought we could trust you.
So what's a parent to do?
More from The Stir: That Juice Box Could Be Killing Your Kid
Well, I know I'll be checking more labels from now on. But it just figures that a fat substitute would turn out to be a lot of trouble. I was already skeptical of low-fat foods. I choose whole-fat dairy every time because I think fear of fat is overblown. You need some fat to absorb vitamins, and if you're active and don't have any other health problems, it's fine, I think. Anyway, that's the strategy that's worked for me and my family.
But there are just certain foods your kids (and you?) love, and they all seem to have carrageenan. Maybe if we eat them only once in a while? We've never had any trouble digesting the stuff before, but ugh. Now that I've heard what carrageenan can do, I still think I'm going to avoid it, especially for my son.
Did you know that carrageenan could cause inflammation?
Image via Sean Benham/Flickr