But the cons seem to outweight the pros.
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Reasons To Avoid Carrageenan
Carrageenan has been used by the food industry for nearly 50 years. Although researchers have proven in mice and lab studies that dietary doses of carrageenan can lead to harmful inflammation, the additive is still approved for use in foods. Carrageenan so reliably causes inflammation that scientists actually use it to induce inflammation in biological experiments, explains Joanne Tobacman, MD, a physician-scientist at the University of Illinois College of Medicine, who has been studying the effects of carrageenan in human cells and lab animals for nearly 20 years.
Related: How To Make Your Own Almond Milk
In a statement to the National Organic Standards Board, Dr. Tobacman explained that carrageenan itself and its breakdown product both create dangerous inflammation, a condition that serves as the backbone of more than 100 human diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and arteriosclerosis.
Carrageenan is also banned from infant formula in Europe on recommendation of both the World Health Organization and the United Nations; and harvesting the seaweed for carrageenan has been shown to damage coral reefs.
Related: The 5 Most Alarming Ingredients Found In Baby Formula
Finding Carrageenan-Free Packaged Foods
Currently, carrageenan is most abundant in conventional products, but it can be found in several organic ones too. The good news: that may be changing. The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) voted in November 2016 to remove carrageenan from the National List for use in organics, but it's still unclear if and when all organic products are free of this contraversial ingredient. The decision is an interim recommendation which must be reviewed by the USDA before becoming official, and that review isn't slated until November 2018.
Related: 7 Scary Food Additives To Avoid
In the meantime, read your labels and try to seek out products that are free of carrageenan. The Cornucopia Institute has a Shopping Guide to Avoiding Organic Foods with Carrageenan, which is helpful. Or, you can choose from some of these carrageenan-free organic picks below.
Organic Foods Free Of Carrageenan
Chocolate Milk: Horizon, Organic Valley
Cottage Cheese: Good Culture, Nancy's, Organic Valley
Cream: Horizon, Organic Valley (pasteurized only...ultrapasteurized may contain carrageenan), Butterworks Farm, and Straus Family Creamery
Ice Cream: Stonyfield, Green And Black's Organic, Publix, Julie's, Alden's
Yogurt: Maple Hill Creamery, Stonyfield, Trimona, Horizon, Wallaby, Smari, Redwood Hill Farms, Nancy's, Green Mountain Creamery, 365 Everyday
Soy Milk: EdenSoy, Westsoy, Pacific Foods, 365 Whole Foods, Trader Joe's (unsweetened in aseptic package), Soy Dream (classic original and classic vanilla)
Almond Milk: 365 Whole Foods, Wegman's, Trader Joe's (refrigerated), Silk