Without realizing it, you likely ate or used products that contain seaweed today. That is because algin and carrageenan — two common additives — come from seaweed.
We add seaweed to products to:
- thicken them
- transform them into gels
- keep their ingredients from separating
Good to Know . . .
Algin comes from brown seaweeds such as kelp, while carrageenan comes from red seaweeds such as Irish moss.
Salad dressing, chocolate milk, almond milk, pet food, toothpaste, shampoo, lipstick, cosmetic creams, paint, and many other familiar products are thickened with seaweed.
That is because both algin and carrageenan can absorb large quantities of liquid. Add them to a product, and they will affect its thickness and texture.
For example, carrageenan gives chocolate milk its velvety texture.
Half of the world’s algin is used by the textile industry. When added to dye, algin prevents colours from bleeding, which results in a clearer print.
Algin gives paint a thicker texture, which stops it from running when applied.
Many personal care products — such as toothpaste, shampoo, lipstick, and cosmetic creams — get their thick texture from either algin or carrageenan.
Transforming into Gels
Lipstick, cosmetic creams, face masks, soft gel capsules, heartburn medication, throat lozenges, air fresheners, shoe polish, pet food, chicken nuggets, ice cream, and many other food and home products get their gelled texture from seaweed.
The gels formed from carrageenan tend to be firm, and will not melt when heated. This makes them ideal for foods that need to hold their shape when cooked, such as chicken nuggets.
Gels from algin are more flexible. This gives them a gravy-like texture, which is ideal for products such as dog food. Some algin gels will even melt slowly at room temperature, allowing them to release their ingredients, as in solid gel air fresheners.
Medications that contain algin help relieve heartburn by forming a gel that keeps stomach contents from travelling up the throat.
Some types of throat lozenges contain algin. When swallowed, the algin gel coats and soothes the throat.
When algin is used in lipstick, it forms a gel over the lips, which helps to keep the colour from rubbing off.
Keeps Ingredients from Separating
Seaweed keeps the ingredients in salad dressing, paint, infant formula, toothpaste, almond milk, and ice cream from separating.
Algin and carrageenan can be used in salad dressings to keep ingredients such as vinegar, oil, and spices from separating.
Algin makes ice cream smoother. It helps to stop ice crystals from forming during freezing, which would give ice cream a rough texture.
In dairy products, such as ice cream and chocolate milk, carrageenan keeps milk components, such as fat and protein, from separating. It does the same thing in almond milk and infant formula.
Algin stops water and abrasives from separating in toothpaste.