Food is medicine. Like drugs, different foods can have various profound effects on the body. For example, eating certain foods will create an anti-inflammatory effect on the body such as leafy greens, berries, nuts and fish oil. Ingesting foods with an anti-inflammatory effect can be beneficial for various conditions such as autoimmune disorders, depression and anxiety, as well as diseases associated with cognitive decline.
A bit of time ago I had decided to purchase fish oil to add to my diet as a means to further decrease inflammation in my body. I went to the health food store and asked to be shown the highest quality fish oil they had to offer. I purchased the large and expensive jar of capsules and brought them home, confident that I had just added another calculated missile to attack my autoimmune disease. I took the capsules for several days and then happen to read the ingredients. To my absolute shock I noticed that the ingredient carrageenan was included. So what is carrageenan you ask and why was this so shocking to me?
Carrageenan is extracted from some red seaweeds, and is used by the food industry as a thickening, gelling and stabilizing agent. It is often added to foods such as almond milks, energy bars and other foods as a thickening agent and to extend shelf life. It is also used by scientists to induce inflammation in mice during experiments, specifically ulcerative colitis, the exact disease I was trying to diminish!!! As a matter of fact, Europe has banned carrageenan in baby formula because it causes intestinal distress and upset stomach including diarrhea. Carrageenan has links to cancer and hundreds of people have come forward to report that their migraines and intestinal issues improved or were eliminated by removing carrageenan from their diet.
The irony, that this particular fish oil (not all fish oil brands have carrageenan), that I purchased to decrease my inflammation, actually contained a substance that could induce inflammation and create intestinal upset in my body, made me so angry! So the question I have is why would a company put carrageenan in any food (especially fish oil, a substance many people use to decrease inflammation) if there is evidence that it can induce these harmful symptoms? One answer can be that carrageenan is inexpensive and it extends shelf life. Therefore, if a company is going to include an inexpensive and potentially harmful substance in their food, their number one priority is a profit, which means their number one priority is NOT you the consumer. If your health were their number one priority over profit, then their products would contain high quality ingredients that are universally deemed safe. As a matter of fact, the National Organic Standards voted overwhelmingly to completely ban carrageenan in all organic foods. The USDA will order its final ruling on this matter in November 2018.
So what do I have to say about all this?….. “SOY VEY”! “Soy vey” is my catch all phrase, (derived from the yiddish term “OY VEY”) when food companies decide to throw an ingredient in food that serves no nutritional purpose, is low quality, highly processed or potentially harmful. So why am I picking on soy? As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, I personally DO eat modest amounts of soy as long as it has been fermented. Fermented soy such as tempeh, tofu, natto and miso are the traditional ways that soy was ingested in Asian countries; the form of soy that brings health benefits with links to longevity. However, the US food industry is infamous for taking a research study, such as “people who eat soy live longer” and going to the extreme with this information. Instead of delving into the specifics of the research on the type of soy linked to the health benefits, the food industry hears that soy is healthy and then decides to put it in EVERYTHING……… and then call it a health food! This can be especially problematic for those with soy allergies as soy is one of the “big eight” foods that can cause immediate hypersensitivity reactions. Not only is the soy that is placed in so many foods NOT the healthy fermented version, they are often highly chemically processed versions of soy or the waste products produced after soy processing. Some examples include soy lecithin, soy protein isolate, and textured soy protein (TVP). Last but not least 93% of the soy in the USA is GMO (genetically modified) which adds another layer to further diminish any health benefit soy could have to offer. Diets excessive in soy have been linked to hormonal disruption in men and women since soy has estrogen-like compounds, can cause decreased libido (soy was used to intentionally decrease libido in monks), and thyroid disease. If you are interested in reading further about this topic please take a look at a book called “The Whole Soy Story”, by Kayla T. Daniel, PhD, CCN. So after what the US food industry has done to soy, making it unrecognizable compared to its original healthy version, and putting it into food that was never, ever meant to have soy…….all I have to say is “SOY VEY”.
Carrageenan and processed soy are not the only inexpensive and potentially harmful ingredients that the food industry likes to put in food; many which are banned in other countries. Some others include, MSG, artificial colors like yellow 5, 6 and red 40, brominated vegetable oil (BVO), trans fat/hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and preservatives such as BHA and BHT. This is only a very short list of ingredients posing potential harm but unfortunately there are many more. Michael Pollan, known for his documentary on Netflix, “In Defense of Foods,” has several great tips to encourage us to eat real food. One is to “only eat foods that will eventually rot,” and another is “don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize.” If you don’t already read the ingredients of what you’re eating, start making a habit to do so. If you don’t know what an ingredient is, I challenge you to do some research and look it up. You may be very surprised at what is lurking within your food and YOU may start saying, “SOY VEY”!
Now Go Love You,
P.S. Not to worry, I have since found many fish oils without carrageenan!