If you usually look at food labels before making purchases, the chances are that you have seen the ingredient carrageenan. For starters, carrageenan is extracted from seaweed, and it is divided into three parts namely: lambda, kappa, and iota. Lambda lacks thickening properties. On the other hand, Iota, as well as Kappa, have thickening properties. Therefore, they have many uses in the foods we consume daily. You can find it in baby formula, bakery foods yogurt, sauces, and tofu. Apart from being used in food, it is also used in conventional medicine to treat coughs as well as intestinal problems.
It is mostly fiber thus it is indigestible in your body. Therefore, it enhances your food without negatively affecting your diet. Although it does not contain minerals, it has other less known benefits to your body. Here are some of the lesser carrageenan health benefits to your body.
Improved gut health
There are some pre-biotic effects associated with consumption of carrageenan. This means that it may help in the development of critical microbial communities in the gut. This can result in better gut health. It has also been linked to prevention of stomach ulcers by protecting the intestinal lining from corrosion by things such as alcohol.
Carrageenan is believed to possess antioxidant properties. This means that it neutralizes free radicals which if left unchecked can cause damage to the body. Free radicals have been associated with health problems such as diabetes, cancer, and age-related eye diseases. This makes carrageenan’s antioxidant properties very important.
Reduced cholesterol levels
High cholesterol levels increase the chances of stroke or even a heart attack. Having a diet that regularly comprises of carrageenan leads to lower blood cholesterol level. For this reason, carrageenan can be used to treat atherosclerosis that results from high cholesterol levels, as well as cardiovascular diseases such as heart failure, stroke, and renal disease.
Treatment for flu & common cold
Carrageenan has some antiviral properties crucial in treating flu and the common cold. The properties that make it a thickener in foods are the still the ones that make it an ingredient in nasal sprays. It adheres directly to viruses and thus prevents them from attaching themselves to the nasal wall. This limits their ability to multiply. It also makes it useful in treating influenza.
A healthy alternative to unhealthy foods
The most common use of Carrageenan is a food additive. Food additives usually add something to the particular food item. However, in some cases, they replace an ingredient in the food item. Carrageenan is organic. This means that besides keeping food fresh for a more extended period, carrageenan also acts as a healthier food additive that still tastes great without some unhealthy processes of other additives.