Carrageenan. You’ve heard about it. You’ve also probably avoided it. Possibly even feared it, perhaps? If you haven’t heard of it, brace yourself: this food additive is linked to mild gastrointestinal problems and even permanent damage to the digestive tract. It’s found in non-dairy products and regular dairy products, along with many other processed foods on the market today.

Due to the booming rise of almond milk and other non-dairy milks, companies are using thick emulsifiers such as carrageenan to give their products a creamy, rich consistency. Even some organic or non-GMO companies include this additive in their products because of its unique emulsifying properties! But what exactly is carrageenan and where is it found?

What is Carrageenan?

Carrageenan is a type of algae (seaweed) that has bulking and even laxative-like properties. It’s been thought to be safe in the past since it is food-derived. However, carrageenan does contain chemicals that develop during the processing of the algae and has been linked to a host of health issues as a result. Because of its bulking properties, it can cause severe bloating, gas, stomach pain, and even chronic digestion problems.

What Food Items Have Carrageenan?

If you’re an avid non-dairy milk drinker or use non-dairy products like coffee creamer, cheese, sour cream, and ice cream, you could be consuming carrageenan and not even know it. Not all products contain the additive, but a large percentage of non-dairy products on the market today do. The additive may also found in regular milk, cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt, ice cream, or kefir, so be sure to check the label on these foods if you choose to eat them. If you’re looking to get more calcium in your diet, you don’t need dairy products to provide you with what you need. Be sure to check out all these awesome sources of plant-based calcium that don’t include an ounce of dairy whatsoever!

Do I Have to Give Up My Favorite Non-Dairy Milk Brand?

Carrageenan is used in most soy milks today, some almond milks, and many coconut milk products. Luckily, Silk, one of the leading producers of nondairy milks announced that many of its products will be made carrageenan-free within. So Delicious has also made this promise to it’s fans and will be removing the additive from their products as well. No other companies have announced the pledge to go completely carrageenan-free, even if some of their products are technically made without the additive.

I’ve Been Drinking This Stuff for a While Now. What Should I Do? 

If you find out that your favorite nondairy milk, ice cream, yogurt, etc.  is made with carrageenan, I would urge you to evaluate your digestive health to see if you’ve had any problems. If you notice digestive problems and have eliminated other possible causes from your diet, it may be worth removing products containing the additive to see if things improve.

Wondering what products are free from carrageenan? Check out The Cornicopia Institute’s website dedicated to providing consumers with an updated list of what products do and don’t contain carrageenan.

For the best alternative to processed milks, learn to make your own non-dairy milk at home! While these might not contain the same vitamins and minerals found in enriched non-dairy products, they are much more healthful and easy to make in your own kitchen. Plus, check out How to Choose the Right Plant-Based Milk for Different Purposes and these 7 Delicious Things to Make with Non-Dairy Milk You Haven’t Tried Yet!

Do you avoid carrageenan?

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