Sea moss has been a staple food in our family for many generations. Growing up we did not view sea moss as a "health food". It was something that we just knew was good for us. Most Caribbean people and their children consume sea moss in a sweet and hearty beverage known as Irish Moss (sea moss, milk, nutmeg, sugar, flax seed, vanilla, white rum, isinglass, gum arabic). It is also used to thicken soups and stews due to the gelatinous properties that make up over 50% of the sea moss known as Carrageenan.
Raw sea moss and carrageen are not synonymous with one another.
To simply sum it up, sea moss is a whole food and carrageenan is an extract, or sea moss derivative. However, when comparing the benefits and side effects, they seem to be polar opposites.
What is Carrageenan? Carrageenan is a food additive and emulsifier that has been chemically extracted from sea moss and other red algae. You can find this in a variety of vegan and non-vegan foods that require a texture enhancement such as ice-cream, dairy and non dairy milk, as well as yogurts. It is also found in many other products such as toothpastes, many processed foods, cosmetics, and even in pesticides.
Is carrageenan safe?
We have reached the point now where you must read carefully. Carrageenan is safe for human consumption ONLY when it is in its whole food state. This means once it is chemically extracted, by the use of potassium hydroxide, the carrageenan from the whole sea moss is no longer safe. In fact, the nutritional value is drastically diminished and has resulted in a product that has isolated gelling properties, but is now recognized by the human body as a poison. Due to this extraction, carrageenan has been directly linked to tumor growth and a host of gastrointestinal problems.
What is Potassium Hydroxide?
One of the main chemicals used to achieve the carrageenan extraction is Potassium Hydroxide. Potassium Hydroxide is a toxic poisonous chemical used in the process of removing a plant's cellulose (an important structural component of the primary cell wall of green plants and many forms of algae). This way of extraction produces the left over substance known as Food Grade Carrageenan.
Where would you find carrageenan?
Always flip to the back and read the details
If you consume a lot of commercial pre-packaged and heavily processed vegan and non-vegan foods, the likelihood of you finding carrageenan hiding in the ingredient list may be higher than you think. The next time you are in your local grocery store and happen to be in the frozen meal section, or near any vegan or non-vegan product that has a somewhat thick liquid base (consumable or non-consumable items), just turn to the back and see if you spot carrageenan in the ingredients list.
For our family, the main thing that we consumed regularly in the earlier part of our vegan journey that contained carrageenan was almond milk. Due to the presence of this poisonous extract, we discontinued consuming store bought almond milk, purchased a nut milk bag, and began to make our own at home.
Reasons to avoid Isolated Carrageenan extract
Drastically reduced nutritional value
Chemically treated with toxic poisonous chemical known as "Potassium Hydroxide"
Causes inflammatory bowel syndrome
Linked to Intestinal ulcerations
Promotes tumor growth
Although the processors of food grade carrageenan claim that the type of carrageenan sold to consumers is safe for consumption, many studies have determined the contrary to be true.
Whole Sea Moss (Irish Moss) Benefits
Soothes gastrointestinal inflammation
Contains 90+ minerals
Aids in athletic recovery
Great respiratory tonic
Nourishes and hydrates skin
High in sulphur
Strengthens joints, cartilage, and connective tissue
Soothes digestive track
Acts as a mild laxative
Great natural thickening agent for many food products and cosmetics
Highest concentration of iodine
Strengthens central nervous system and brain function
Great for thyroid issues
Summing it all up
Hopefully by now you have a better understanding of what carrageenan is, and why you should avoid foods containing this as an ingredient moving forward. We all need to realize that just because an ingredient has plant origins, and the original plant has many benefits, does not mean that the extract will retain the same benefits. In fact, the extract can turn out to be more harmful than the original plant. Comparing sea moss to food grade carrageenan is like comparing an organic apple to an apple pie, or comparing organic maple syrup to pancake syrup. Point being, whether two foods share similar origins, or are used in similar recipes, this does not mean that they are good for you. Our bodies deserve the best foods available in order for us to perform at an optimum level for the duration of our lives. The best thing that we all can do is to make recipes at home with foods like sea moss that you know are good for you, instead of prepackaged foods that may contain carrageenan, which is a derivative of sea moss that can cause a number of biological issues.
For more information on the benefits of sea moss please refer to our article below.