Is Carrageenan in Sea Moss Safe? Navigating the Controversy! – Organics Nature theme container image

Is Carrageenan in Sea Moss Safe? Navigating the Controversy!

Carrageenan in sea moss

 

Sea moss, also known as Irish moss or Chondrus Crispus, is the new favorite superfood for health and wellness. Boasting an exceptionally high content of minerals and vitamins, the red seaweed has shown incredible health benefits that support both physical and mental well-being, as well as supporting cognitive functions.

However, one of sea moss's key components, carrageenan, has recently sparked significant controversies and debates over its safety for health.

Let's dig in and learn why it's important to differentiate naturally occurring carrageenan found in sea moss from its chemically extracted counterpart used in various food products.

Related article: 18 Sea Moss Benefits for Your Health & Wellness.

 

Organic Sea Moss Gel in Individual Packaging, Organics Nature

 

What is Carrageenan?

Carrageenan is a natural polysaccharide, a type of carbohydrate extracted from various species of red seaweeds, including sea moss. It is prized in the food industry and beyond for its remarkable gelling, thickening, and stabilising properties.

Its ability to provide a firm texture and improve consistency makes it a very common additive found in a wide range of products, especially foods like chocolate milk, ice cream, plant-based milks, deli meats, sauces, syrups, frozen desserts, vegan cheeses, etc. Carrageenan is also commonly found in cosmetic and health products such as toothpaste, face creams, and more.

Carrageenan vs. sea moss

Now, carrageenan and sea moss are often confused, but it's important to understand that they are not the same thing. While sea moss naturally contains a high concentration of carrageenan, it is only one of many components found in this nutrient-rich seaweed.

Sea moss goes far beyond carrageenan. It is a whole food that boasts a plethora of nutrients, including a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that are essential for human health. It's celebrated for its powerful health benefits, from boosting the immune system and digestion to aiding in weight loss, reducing inflammation, supporting thyroid function, improving heart health, lowering blood pressure and blood sugar levels, and even promoting fertility and skin health.

On the other hand, carrageenan, as one of the specific substances derived from sea moss, does not contribute to any specific benefits for human health. It is essentially a functional but nutrient-deficient ingredient used in various processed foods for its thickening properties.

So, when comparing sea moss and carrageenan, the distinctions are clear. Sea moss is a nutritionally rich food that's a highly valuable addition to a healthy diet, while carrageenan is just one of its components, devoid of nutritional benefits when taken on its own.

Related article: The Right Way to Use Sea Moss for Weight Loss!

How much carrageenan does sea moss have?

Carrageenan makes up a substantial part of the dry weight of sea moss, often ranging from 30% to 70%.

But the exact content of carrageenan found in sea moss varies a lot depending on the type of sea moss, its growing conditions, and its harvesting and processing methods.

First, there are different species of sea moss, and each species has a different carrageenan composition.

Then, the environment where the sea moss grows impacts its carrageenan content. Generally, harsher growing conditions, like colder waters, can lead to higher carrageenan content as it acts as a protective agent for the seaweed.

The age of the sea moss at the time of harvest affects its carrageenan content too. Younger seaweeds tend to have less carrageenan compared to fully matured ones.

And last, the harvesting and processing methods can also affect the final carrageenan content of sea moss. For instance, if sea moss is extensively washed or boiled, some of the carrageenan might be lost in the process.

Therefore, estimating the exact amount of carrageenan in a specific batch of sea moss without laboratory tests can be challenging.

Related article: Wildcrafted vs. Pool-Grown Sea Moss: Real or Fake?

Is Carrageenan in Sea Moss Bad for You?

Now, onto the real question: is the carrageenan in sea moss bad for your health?

The answer is a clear no: despite its carrageenan content, sea moss isn't bad for you. While isolated carrageenan may raise safety concerns, natural carrageenan found in sea moss are safe for human consumption.

As mentioned above, carrageenan is at the center of a big controversy regarding its safety for human consumption.

Criticisms focus on its potential inflammatory responses and digestive issues. Particularly, the degraded form of carrageenan, also called poligeenan[1], which should not be present in food products but can occur due to improper processing, has been identified as a potentially carcinogenic agent in animals.

As of today, there is insufficient study on the impacts of carrageenan on human health. And despite the controversies, food-grade carrageenan, which is the type approved for use in food products, undergoes rigorous testing and regulation. Health and safety agencies, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the World Health Organization (WHO), have deemed food-grade carrageenan safe for consumption in regulated amounts.

However, with these ongoing debates and emerging research, it is crucial for consumers to be aware of the type of carrageenan they are consuming. There's a big difference between natural carrageenan found in sea moss and the extracted carrageen used as a food additive.

Natural carrageenan vs. extracted carrageenan

The safety and impact on health of carrageenan varies significantly depending on whether it is consumed in its natural form as part of whole sea moss or as an isolated extract.

First and foremost, let's not forget that sea moss has been safely consumed as a natural ingredient for centuries in many cultures.

The carrageenan found in sea moss is part of this nutrient-rich seaweed. When carrageenan is consumed in its whole food form, it retains the synergy of all the beneficial nutrients found in sea moss, including vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. This form is not only safe but also beneficial, contributing to sea moss's reputation as a superfood. The presence of natural carrageenan within the matrix of other nutrients in sea moss mitigates any negative effects that isolated carrageenan might have when consumed alone.

On the other side, when carrageenan is chemically extracted to be used as a food additive, its form and function change significantly. The extraction often involves treating the seaweed with potassium hydroxide, a chemical that breaks down the plant's cellulose. Potassium hydroxide is recognized for its potential toxicity, and its use in the extraction process of carrageenan raises serious safety concerns.

For consumers seeking the holistic benefits of sea moss, it is recommended to choose whole sea moss products over those containing isolated carrageenan. Whole food products provide the complete array of nutrients found in sea moss and ensure that carrageenan is consumed in its most natural, safe, and beneficial form.

Related article: The Truth About Sea Moss Side Effects.

How to consume sea moss safely

Consuming sea moss safely involves several important considerations, ensuring that you benefit from its nutritional properties without risking adverse effects. Here are key tips to help you incorporate sea moss into your diet responsibly:

  • Ask for your doctor's advice. Sea moss is a natural product that's generally considered safe for use. However, if you have specific health conditions or take medications, we recommend talking to your doctor to evaluate the safety of sea moss for you.
  • Stick to the recommended daily dosage. Sea moss is very potent, so a little goes a long way. Start with smaller amount to let your body adjust to it and gradually increase until you reach the desired effects, not exceeding 1-2 tablespoons of sea moss gel per day.
  • Choose only high-quality, organic sea moss. Look for wildcrafted sea moss products rather than their pool-grown fake counterparts. Choose organic sea moss, from brands like Organics Nature, to make sure there are no harmful pesticides and chemicals
  • Read labels carefully. Avoid sea moss products that contain unnecessary additives or preservatives. The label should list sea moss or its scientific name (e.g., Chondrus crispus) as the primary ingredient.
  • Store sea moss properly. Always store sea moss gel in an airtight container in the refrigerator to avoid degradation. It typically lasts for up to three to four weeks when stored properly. For longer storage, it can be frozen in ice cube trays and then transferred to a freezer-safe container for use over several months.

Related article: How Long Does Sea Moss Last & How to Store it Properly?

We hope this guide helps you safely enjoy the wonderful benefits of sea moss! If you have any questions about sea moss or carrageenan, or if you'd like to share your own experiences, we'd love to hear from you.

Please drop a comment below-your stories and queries help us all learn and grow together. We're here to support each other in our journey towards natural health and wellness!

 

[1] McKim JM, Willoughby JA Sr, Blakemore WR, Weiner ML. Clarifying the confusion between poligeenan, degraded carrageenan, and carrageenan: A review of the chemistry, nomenclature, and in vivo toxicology by the oral route. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2019;59(19):3054-3073. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2018.1481822. Epub 2018 Nov 16. PMID: 29902080. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29902080/

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