Updated: Nov 3, 2019
Activated charcoal was all the rage this year, and has made plenty of appearances on popular foodie Instagram pages. But what are it's actual health benefits?
The 'unicorn food' trend has been around for a while now, but as influencers search for new ways to garner attention, they've moved into the opposite...an absence of color. While it does make for a very creative and eye catching picture, are there actual health benefits to activated charcoal? Or is it just another wellness marketing trend?
Let's first review...what is activated charcoal? AC is just burnt black powder made from substances like coconut shells, peat or sawdust, that is 'activated' by it being heated at high temperatures to give it that porous look.
Because of its porous nature, it's said to 'bind' with anything it comes in contact with (which is why it's in so many beauty products) thus ridding or cleaning the body from unwanted substances. hence why doctors use it for patients as a remedy for poisoning or drug overdoses, because it cleanses the body of unwanted material.
As activated charcoal was hailed as a trend in the 'detoxifying' category, people began putting it in like...every food. But here's the thing, its binding properties can also stick to the stuff you WANT in your body...like vitamins and minerals.
So eating it in large quantities, or if you already have digestive issues, is probably not smart. Not to mention, it will absorb any needed medications you've taken recently. And sense it really doesn't work with your digestive system, if those toxins were eaten and already absorbed into the body, drinking or eating activated charcoal after that won't do you much good, but it might just cleanse you of the stuff you do need.
So all in all, while AC isn't going to kill you, it is just another one of those mainstream fads that look better than they really are. Don't over do it if you do decide to eat it, as there sin't very any promising actual health studies out there showing its absorption or detoxing powers.
Even the giant NYC itself has banned the use of AC in food and drinks...because the FDA considers it a "food additive or food coloring agent". Sorry Big Apple-ers!
Side note, there's a reason why most people try getting flushed by charcoal when they have food poisoning.....
Anyway, while I call FAD on this whole trend, many Instagrammers are using it to spice up their feed's color palette. You can see it creatively used in:
1. Ice cream
2. Smoothies/smoothie bowls
4. Pizza crusts
5. Ice cream cones
So... despite the slight warnings, I tried it. Nektar Juice Bar in Phoenix, AZ offers an Activated Charcoal Vanilla Ice Cream, as well as an AC juice. And while it isn't as high of concentration as many other AC foods, I'll probably just stick to my occasional Acai Bowl or Juice. But hey, it never hurts to look not taste right?!
I'm a Phoenix local health and wellness product, brand, food and trend reviewer who's main goal is to improve people's health through informing them of all of their wellness options. Read up on the latest at www.nikkicohnbyrd.com or follow me on Instagram at www.instagram.com/nikkicohnbyrdhealth.