Irish Moss: Carrageen & Edible Seaweeds for Vegans
Have you heard of Irish moss? It’s a bit of a superfood and one of my regular readers suggested I might like to do an article on it as I was able to shift a few pounds recently with a seaweed diet. If you’d like to see how I went have a look I lost 4 pounds in 1 week, see the pics here.
What is Irish moss?
The plant chondrus crispus is what is most commonly called Irish moss. It’s a species of red algae or seaweed that can be found in Europe and North America. It has no taste (which is a good thing!) but still contains large amounts of fibre, protein, trace minerals and other nutrients. You can buy it as whole seaweed or pressed into seaweed flakes.
The word comes from the Irish term carraigín, meaning “little rock”. It’s also known as or carrageen moss. A plant called sagina subulata is also named “Irish moss” or “Scottish moss” but is a different thing – it’s more of a moss plant covering for between paving stones, or a sort of Irish moss ground cover that gardeners can grow from Irish moss seeds.
Why are algae and seaweed so good for vegans and vegetarians?
Irish moss, or all edible seaweeds in general are really good for vegans and vegetarians*. I first discovered the benefits of seaweed as a thickening agent with the product agar. Lots of vegans and vegetarians love things like jellies, custards, Jello and cakes – some of which contain gelatin, which is an animal product. Agar agar can be a substitute for gelatin.
Would going on an all seaweed diet help you to lose weight? I lost 4 pounds in 1 week, see the pics here.
But aside from being a very useful product to thicken and emulsify foods without animal products, Irish moss and seaweeds in general contain lots of essential vitamins and minerals which cannot be found elsewhere all together. Put simply, they are superfoods!
What vitamins and minerals are found in Irish moss?
Irish moss contains Vitamins A, B, C and D which will be essential for good skin, teeth and hair. Some people even use Irish moss for chapped lips and sunburn too!
The natural plant also contains a really interesting mix of essential vitamins and minerals, including sulphur compounds, protein, iodine, bromine, beta-carotene, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, zinc and pectin.
It has lots of ionic minerals, so is great for those suffering from problems with thyroid. Ionic minerals and electrolytes assist with the correct functioning of our bodies. Here’s a great article that explains how trace elements of metals can affect our health and wellbeing.
What are the health benefits of consuming sea moss?
Wow – there are simply so many. We have already talked about the vitamins and minerals but apparently Irish moss (or sea moss) can be helpful for mental support as well. Sea moss or Irish moss can help with providing the body with potassium which can assist with brain functioning and improving your mood.
It’s also wonderful for your immune system and for treating a sore throat or bronchitis. It may also assist with relieving the symptoms of cold and flu. It’s worth a shot, given it’s a natural product, full of goodness.
Can you use Irish moss on your body and face?
Yes, Irish moss can even be used as sunburn remedy (note: I have read this online but being from Australia with one of the highest skin cancer rates in the world, I urge you to take sun/skin care VERY seriously) and can be used as a moisturiser and even as a facial mask to refresh and rejuvenate your skin.
And what about carrageenan gum and its links with Irish moss?
There is a product called carrageenan gum that has had some bad publicity lately. “It is important to note that carrageenan is not digestible and has no nutritional value. It is often used because it thickens and emulsifies products and it is often found even in organic and “natural” products,” according to Wellness Mama.
Carrageenan is derived from Irish moss, however, carrageenan is heated and concentrated Irish moss that is then highly processed into chemical form. “Carrageenan has lost the nutritional value of Irish Moss and makes it a health hazard,” says Raw Bay Area.
So, where to buy Irish moss?
Start at your local health food store or purchase this product online. If you live in Australia like me, try Shokuiku Australia. In the USA try eBay. In the United Kingdom go straight to the source and head to the Irish Seaweeds website. In other countries, head to this website which delivers internationally.