I love Irish Moss and don't like seeing it shed those salty tears over the bad reputation it's getting across the internet
Last Spring I wrote about the report from the Cornucopia insitute that was outing Carrageenan and food manufacturers for the use of this ingredient in foods labelled 'organic'. This report, and the other studies referenced focus on the extract or concentration taken from Red Moss which they call degraded carrageenan. It all gets very confusing and I can see how the mix-up has come in.
Degraded carrageenan can be found in all kinds of “organic” foods like almond milk, soy yogurt, dairy free ice cream, and toxic canned meal replacements.
I have long argued in favour of the benefit of Irish Moss, and despite what's been written on other blogs, I continue to do so, and this is why: Irish Moss and carrageenan - as used in our almond milk, raw desserts or thickened soups and sauces - are not the same thing.
In some of the blogs written about this concern, they reference medical journal studies such as this one which looks at how exposure to carageenan can induce and sustain prolonged inflammation in the intestinal tracts of lab animals. The studies, however have all be done on carageenan- one active and concentrated component of the whole food that is Irish Moss. There is also no reference to where this carrageenan was derived from.
For this reason, I can easily understand how this gets confusing. When we are working on making better dietary choices, and then we read this kind of thing, we immediately take to the old "if in doubt- get it out" mantra. I am usually the first to push this too- but not with Irish Moss or most other whole foods. Allow me to explain.
We can take B-vitamin supplements that are derived from naturally occurring sources, or we can eat a cereal that contains synthetic thiamin hydrochloride (a synthetic version of vitamin B1 that is derived from coal tar). We will gain different benefits or have different effects from each. We can take Magnesium glycinate- a highly absorbable form of magnesium, or take magnesium oxide where we may get more benefit from just eating a chunk of cement. We could run the risk of having birth defects in our babies if we take too much vitamin A as a supplement while preggers, but eating Vitamin A rich foods is perfectly safe as there is no way we could eat a a great enough concentration of Vitamin A from whole foods to cause the harm that a single isolated component could have.
Nutritional research, for the most part, is not particularly helpful when it comes to the true benefits of whole foods. That's how we get ridiculously convoluted studies on organics, and confusion over whether coffee is good or bad for us, and that omega 6 oils are heart healthy when in fact they are the exact opposite.
When it comes to food, I sincerely believe that traditional diets is the best source of information. Irish Moss - and foods similar in structure and benefit - have been used for generations among seaside cultures as complete body nourishing tonics. I personally have been eating Irish Moss regularly for years as a preventative from a Crohn's flare up, thyroid health and to keep my internal tissues healthy, lending to healthy skin.
To declare that Irish Moss should be avoided due to the harmful effects of chemically processed carageenan is a bit like saying we must avoid organic corn on the cob because high fructose corn syrup is toxic to the liver and leads to obesity, or to avoid white willow bark as an herb because aspirin (of which it is derived) can cause gastric bleeding. We should definitely avoid coconuts because hydrogenated palm oil and sodium lauryl sulfate are bad for us, and throw in organic edamame, tempeh and sprouted tofu given that hyrdolyzed soy protein can have an excitotoxic effect similar to that of MSG.
You picking up what I'm putting down? We can not judge the health of a whole food based on unnatural processed concentrations of it's component parts.
Granted, some people may have personal and individualized sensitivities to Irish Moss, just like we can all have unique responses to any number of foods. All of the studies and articles relating to the Irish Moss worries however- have nothing to do with Irish Moss. They are about the concentration of the extracted and heavily processed carageenan. These are not the same thing.
We can not compare studies on isolated phytochemicals used in higher than natural or normal concentrations as the grounds for avoiding a whole, unprocessed, nature made food.
If you are in doubt, then please do keep it out. I only ask that you always do your own thorough research, read the papers yourself and make your own decisions. And if none of those reports make any sense, and you're still not convinced, eat something (or stop eating it) and decide for yourself how you feel. That will always be your best measure.
And if you want to keep on keeping on with the moss- these are my favourite uses: