Why Are We All Supposed To Be Excited To Eat Charcoal?

There are two kinds of black foods: Those that admit they are full of charcoal, as if that's a thing you are supposed to want, and those that don't. (There is a third category, foods made with other ingredients such as black sesame, but this is rarer.)

Stuart Chalmers / Flickr

I get it. Weird coloured things are so much more Instagrammable than their beige brethren. But can we take a minute to question this trend?

Black Drinks Won't 'Detox' You

Charcoal lemonade enthusiasts claim the drink can detox you, but your body does not ever need to be detoxed, so this idea is a non-starter. We have perfectly fine organ systems that do all our necessary detox work without our thinking about it. But there's a grain of truth to the detox claim: Charcoal really is used in emergency rooms as an antidote to certain kinds of poisoning.

An emergency dose of activated charcoal is pretty large: 25g to 100g, or if your doctor knows how much poison you ingested, she might dose you with 10 times that amount of charcoal. Physician information site UpToDate notes that flavourings such as juice or chocolate syrup can make the charcoal easier to stomach, but they reduce its effectiveness.

Typical DIY recipes for black lemonade use anywhere from a quarter teaspoon to a full teaspoon of activated charcoal. That's 3g or less. A standard drink has 10g of alcohol, so there's no way this is a plausible antidote to a night of heavy drinking -- one of the "detox" properties attributed to black drinks. (Never mind that charcoal doesn't bind well to alcohol, and that the whole point of drinking is to get the alcohol into your bloodstream where your brain can enjoy it.)

Black Food Can Inactivate the Medication You Just Took

Pills, on the other hand, have tiny amounts of active ingredients. If you wash down medication with a black drink, or eat some black ice cream before or after you take your meds, the charcoal in the food could absorb the medication. Most of us don't eat black food every day, so it's unlikely this is a huge problem, but consider asking your doctor or pharmacist about the situation if you're a fan of charcoal-containing food.

Coconut Ash Is Still Charcoal

Sometimes "activated charcoal" doesn't appear in an ingredients list, but instead there's a term like "coconut ash". Charcoal is just burnt stuff, and activated charcoal is burnt stuff that's been heated so it becomes more porous (the better to absorb chemicals it comes into contact with).

So coconut ash, or coconut charcoal, is still just charcoal. But it sounds healthier, right? Coconut oil is so hot right now. Coconut charcoal borrows that cachet. But... it's still just burnt carbon.

So black food won't detox you, and could even be a problem if you're taking medication. But if you aren't on any important meds and you just want to try a photogenic oddball food, enjoy. But, fair warning: It will give you black poop.

WATCH MORE: Healthy Living News & Ideas

Comments

    Haven't we been warned for years not to burn our BBQs because charcoal is cancerous? I'm not saying I believe that but isn't it funny hope health fads swing back and forth.

    Charcoal removes toxins, and other elements. It's very useful when used at the right time. When you have alot of toxins in your system. Like when you drink alcohol which creates formaldehydes and other nasties. So it isn't like a vitamin pill, it does a certain thing pretty well, it removes toxins, accidental poisonings or purposeful alcoholic poisonings. But it aint no vitamin. Now a burnt BBQ is bad, because burning oils creates Trans fats, and they are cancer causing and not very yummy. Charcoal has no trans fats it should just be carbon, which will bind with nasty toxins and go through you to the other darker side.

      trans fats aren't created by heat, they're created by a process called hydrogenation which modifies the fat to have a lower melting point and longer shelf life which is desirable in margarines and other commercial products

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now