Friday, May 3, 2013

Think Twice! Carrageenan

This is the first blog post in a new series I’m calling Think Twice, in which I’ll be writing about food ingredients that may be doing us more harm than good. I hope that this will give you the tools to help make better-informed choices. Let me know if there are any ingredients you’d like me to write about!

I’ve always been a do-it-yourself type of girl. Once, I showed up to a dance class only to find it cancelled due to the absence of a teacher. In my small town of Klamath Falls, there weren’t many places to take dance classes. So I decided to start my own dance school. And I was pretty successful at it, too. Twenty-five years later, my dance school is still a vital force in the community (though I did eventually sell it to my partner to focus on my other pursuits).

This hands-on attitude permeates every area of my life  -  I grow much of the produce my family eats, my sewing machine is always at the ready to make or repair clothes for my children, and hey, I even have my own company to harvest and bottle the fresh blue-green algae that we enjoy every day. Until recently, I also used to make my own nut milk. But, between running my company, relocating to a new state and keeping up with the ever more hectic schedules of three growing children, I decided that, once in a while, when travelling, or running very short on time, I could just go ahead and buy it pre-made from the store.

And now, I’m realizing that that may have been a bad choice. You see, I’ve started reading about carrageenan, which is added to many processed foods. I took a quick look at the ingredient list on my favorite brand of almond milk, and wouldn’t you know it? There it is.

What’s so bad about carrageenan? As it turns out, a lot.

Carrageenan, which is extracted from a red seaweed and has no nutritional value, is used as a thickener and emulsifier to improve the texture and “mouth feel” of ice cream, yogurt, cottage cheese, dairy substitutes like soy and almond milk, deli meats and other processed foods, including some that qualify as organic. Although it is natural and approved by the FDA, new studies are showing that this additive is harmful to human health.

Joanne Tobacman, MD, has been studying the effects of carrageenan for the last 20 years. In her recent presentation before the National Organic Standards Board, she stated that her research has shown that carrageenan produces inflammation in the human body, leading to inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis and arteriosclerosis.

We know that inflammation is the basis for other life-threatening diseases, including cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. In fact, the inflammation-causing property of carrageenan is so well-established that drug investigators have actually used it to cause inflammation in tissues in order to test the anti-inflammatory properties of new drugs. As if that weren’t enough, there is the possibility that carageenan can lead to glucose intolerance and impaired insulin action, both of which can lead to diabetes.

I don’t know about you, but these are chances I would rather not take. What can we do? For one thing, read labels and avoid foods that contain questionable additives. Here’s a listing of brands and companies that don’t use carageenan in their products.

More importantly, buy and grow fresh, organic produce and prepare your own foods at home. Here is a simple recipe for home made almond milk that tastes even better than the ready-made stuff you buy at the market. It’s easy to make and, more importantly, gives you the peace of mind of knowing exactly what ingredients are in it. You need a blender (I absolutely love my Vitamix and use it at least once a day, but any good blender will do) and a mesh strainer bag. If you don’t have a strainer, you can buy one here .  The strainers I sell on my website are super soft, which makes them easy on the hands, as well as made with a very fine and durable mesh. Just be sure to rinse them out and let them dry in between uses, and they will serve you well for a long time. There is also an informative how-to video on making nut milk on my website.

Really, once you see how simple it is to make your own almond (or hazelnut, or cashew, or any nut) milk, I’m pretty sure you won’t go back to buying store made. These strainers can also be used for sprouting! I’ve written about the benefits of sprouting, with a step-by-step tutorial.

One of the perks of having a blog and owning a company is that I can give my readers a gift whenever I like. Use code NUTMILK2013 when purchasing four E3Live Nut Milk Strainers,  and you get the fifth one for free! 

And now, on to the recipe. Remember that you can substitute any nut for the almonds.

      Delicious Homemade Raw Almond Milk
               1 Cup raw almonds
               3 Cups spring (or filtered) water, plus enough to soak almonds in overnight
               1 Teaspoon organic vanilla extract
               2 pitted dates (optional)

Soak almonds overnight in enough spring water to cover them. When ready to use, rinse the almonds under running water until the water runs clear.  Put the almonds, 3 cups of water, the vanilla and the dates in a high-speed blender. Start blending at low speed, then increase to high and blend for 1 minute. Put the mesh bag over a tall, wide container and strain the almond milk through it. Be sure to squeeze out all of the liquid.

If you want to run the pulp through the blender again to get a bit more milk, combine it with 1 more cup of spring water and blend, then strain again.

And that’s it! In a few minutes, you have fresh raw almond milk for you and your family to enjoy, knowing that it’s as pure as nature intended! Store the milk in the refrigerator and shake it up just before using.

Do you have a favorite nut milk recipe? Do share!


No comments:

Post a Comment