Move over to make way for the newest trend on Instagram i.e. goth food, food as black as your soul. Black ice-cream, lattes, burgers, and other pitch black food items adorn my Insta feed, which makes me want to try out this fad. Although the taste was quite bland, I was curious as to what gives these foods a unique black pigment, and it was only later that I found out that it is activated charcoal that is responsible for this bizarre innovation. 

What Is Activated Charcoal?

Karan Kapoor

Charcoal is burnt organic matter or carbon, usually made using coconut shells or wood. This charcoal becomes activated after subjecting it to particular gases at high temperature, and this process insanely increases its surface area and makes it porous. Due to the increased surface area, activated charcoal performs a process known as adsorption, where it binds to the surface of various substances quickly.

So, what's the deal with activated charcoal? Is it good or bad?

Owing to its property of quickly binding to the surface of various substances, activated charcoal is used by doctors to treat poisoning and drug overdose in the body. It binds with the drug before it is absorbed by the body, and is later eradicated from the body. Activated charcoal is also used in a ton of cosmetic products, simply because, it is believed that it will squeeze out the dirt from our pores by binding with it. 

Thanks to such claims (which are probably true), activated charcoal has garnered a humble reputation as a detoxifying agent, which probably isn't correct.

What Does Activated Charcoal Do To Our Body?

Like I mentioned, the characteristic property of activated charcoal is to swiftly bind with other substances, only it can't differentiate between the good and the bad. While it may help you get rid of the bad stuff, it might just bind to nutrients you don't want to eliminate, such as vitamins and minerals.

It has also been studied that activated charcoal may reduce the effect of any medication you're currently consuming. Over-consumption may lead to intestinal blockage or malnutrition. Maybe it isn't worth having black food to update our Insta feeds, after all.

Does Activated Charcoal Detoxify?

Contrary to popular belief, it probably doesn't. The evidence is pretty skeptical when it comes to detoxifying properties of activated charcoal because it binds to substances in the stomach and small intestine rather than the toxins built up in the body. Therefore, the idea that activated charcoal will "cleanse" and "purify" your body is probably all jabberwocky.

People become obsessed with the idea of detox and cleansing their bodies that they end up using ingredients that do no good, let alone detoxify. Activated charcoal is not our savior, it does not know what to adsorb and what not to. It will outrightly cleanse your system of nutrients.

This goes out to say that we need to look beyond the aesthetics of food items in order to focus on the nutritional aspect, so that we make better, healthier choices. All that glitters is not gold!