Despite its name, Irish moss (Chondrus crispus) isn’t really a moss: It’s a type of algae, or seaweed. This red, branching seaweed is found on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean in Britain, Europe, and North America. Irish moss plays an important role in a number of industries, but one of its most common uses is in food.
Irish moss is largely made of a jelly-like substance known as carrageenan, which makes Irish moss so broadly useful. Carrageenan can be used as a vegan substitute for gelatin, as well as a general emulsifier, so it can be found in everything from ice cream to infant formula. There is some significant controversy surrounding carrageenan and Irish moss, with studies on both sides showing that carrageenan may have both positive and negative health effects.
Here’s what you need to know about Irish moss’s effect on your health:
Irish moss and other seaweeds can provide important health benefits. For example, seaweed is rich in iodine, which is an important nutrient for your thyroid. Iodine helps your thyroid produce hormones that control your metabolism, nerves, and bone growth.
In addition, Irish moss and seaweed may provide health benefits like:
Seaweed, including Irish moss specifically, is one of the best plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids. These fats are critical for a healthy heart. In fact, getting enough omega-3 fatty acids is connected to a lower risk of heart disease, blood clots, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Eating seaweed and Irish moss can help you improve your heart health even if you’re not a fan of fish.
May Help Control Blood Sugar
One substance found in Irish moss that may be helpful is fucoxanthin. This is a carotenoid that gives Irish moss its rich red-brown color.