Carrageenan is in whipped cream, and I’ve been enjoying that on my shakes lately!! But I get a lot of “Melissa McAllister is eating WHIPPED CREAM, omg! Isn’t that unhealthy??”
(Well first of all, keep in mind that whipped cream is largely seen as unhealthy because of the myth that saturated fat is bad for you and your heart. Read my article The Truth About Good Fats.
Plus, I don’t even eat all of it. I just love how pretty it looks, but I always leave some excess at the bottom of the cup…)
Now if your first thought is, “Carrageenan? Is she a movie star or something?” 😉 You’re not alone!!
Actually, “carrageenan” is a FIBER that’s used in food, beauty products, medicines etc.
It comes from red seaweed — I know, you’re grossed out by the idea that you probably eat a lot more seaweed than you realize, but it’s in most dairy products so you obviously do not taste it!! The red seaweed is harvested from the ocean, rinsed, and then the solids are filtered out and ground into powder. So it’s not gross — just think of it like coffee grinds since the harvesting/filtering/grinding process is so similar.
And what’s carrageenan’s purpose? TONS of super important ones! It’s in chocolate milk, so that the cocoa powder doesn’t settle to the bottom but is instead evenly mixed.
It’s also used to keep yogurt (and ice cream! 😉 ), soup, and sauce creamy and thick, or else it would be runny and gross!
Carrageenan is also added to LUNCHMEAT because this fiber attracts water, and this keeps the lunchmeat MOIST…Sorry, I know everybody hates that word for some reason.
But one thing you SHOULDN’T hate is carrageenan! It’s been recognized as safe and organic by the USDA and the World Health Organization — you could actually make it in your kitchen yourself if you wanted! But I think homemade ice cream is pretty good without going to all that trouble. 😉
Speaking of trouble…every once in a while the fear of carrageenan side effects comes up in conversation. Like when people ask me about whipped cream on my shakes!
First of all, I want to make the case that REGARDLESS of whether it’s 100% safe, it also preserves the nutritional value of PROTEIN in the foods it’s in (like yogurt, cottage cheese, and almond milk. These are all super high in protein, but you wouldn’t get it without carrageenan!).
So, is it safe??
Some people say that it isn’t, because “degraded carrageenan” is unsafe. Well, that’s not the kind that’s in food, but a 2017 study concluded that your stomach acid may be degrading it, which could cause gastrointestinal effects and even cancer — HOWEVER!!
These results were not duplicated in ANY OTHER STUDIES, and this study was found to be an example of “industry science.” The rats used in this study DID get cancer, but they had tons of carrageenan injected directly into their bloodstream: that’s an amount that a human being would NEVER possibly get.
It reminds me of how people used to think red M&Ms gave you cancer because of the red food coloring. There was a study done on rats where red food coloring gave them tumors. But as it turned out, a person would have to eat BUCKETFULLS of red M&Ms a day to get as much red food coloring as those rats were getting.
Obviously you know that I would not recommend you do that. 😉
(Or eat M&Ms in general — go for antioxidant-filled dark chocolate instead…I promise that even if you don’t like dark chocolate right now, you grow to LOVE it!)
So, “industry science.” “Unscientfiic studies.” What’s that mean?
Well in the case of carrageenan, it means that the guar gum and gelatin industries pay to have these fake studies done!! They want to spread misinformation so that their thickening agent is used instead. Thus, the lies about carrageenan side effects!
Everyone is welcome to their opinion, BUT…
I always rely on scientific studies when researching whether or not something is HEALTHY…but remember, you have to properly “research your research” to make sure it is legit, too!! So…I personally trust the USDA and the WHO (the organization, not the rock band), to say that my whipped cream is safe. I’m not too worried about carrageenan side effects!
I’m going to keep topping MY shakes with whipped cream as a reward after my workouts. Check out my shakes for yourself.
The whipped cream reward works for me, and c’mon, it’s way more Instagrammable that way!! 😉