Don’t Get Activated!

Activated charcoal—a form of charcoal that is carbon-processed to a porous state to absorb hydrophobic toxins—is an ingredient found in hundreds, if not thousands, of health and beauty products worldwide, from face washes to toothpastes. Hell, my daily skincare regimen includes two to four such different products. But for the past couple of years, activated charcoal has quietly made its way into our cultural consciousness as a healthy way to cleanse our toxic inner waste for a salubrious life. That it makes food jet-black? Total hipster bait.

The range of activated charcoal foods in Orange County abound: OC-based chain Nekter Juice Bar offers a Skinny Lemonade with probiotic powers, as well as a Charcoal Vanilla Skoop frozen treat; Fashion Island’s Juice Served Here has its own version of Charcoal Lemonade; Cauldron Ice Cream in Santa Ana served a black sesame-charcoal flavor called Black Skellington in October; and even the Farmhouse at Roger’s Gardens offers an activated-charcoal cocktail with Blinking Owl aquavit called the Can’t We All Just Get Along? (Wow, racist much?)

But is activated charcoal in foods actually good for you? The short answer is not really. Although activated charcoal has been ingested in medicinal forms to cure poisoning and in pills to help with digestion, as a detoxifier, it works too well, flushing crucial nutrients out of your body—even other prescribed medications you’re taking, including birth control. Inflammation of the intestines can also happen, so, if anything, a couple of sips after a meal is the most you should take per day. But, honestly, you’re much better off consuming fresh greens, flax seed, bananas and water for your detoxing needs.

We would do better to stay away from anything labeled a “miracle” or “superfood” or any diet trends in general. Take it from me; I once downed a shot of apple cider vinegar after hearing it was a great detoxifier and, minutes later, was doubled over a sink and throwing up. Just don’t do it!

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