Dirty Is The New Clean - Should You Consume Activated Charcoal?

It resembles the final day before cleaning the fish tank. So what is all the hype about this dingy looking yet "healthy" detox water that has everyone rushing to his or her local juice bar to stalk up? 

Charcoal. The black cubes you light on fire to BBQ your summer goods? No, no, no! Wait! Do not start crushing up briquettes and adding them to your drinking water that is not the kind of consumption.

Activated charcoal the medicinal form is what you might find in an emergency room to treat patients who have ingested something poisonous. If you munched on a "charcoal briquette" I guarantee you would be one of those patients. NOTE: Do not take an at home remedy of activated charcoal to treat an overdose, always consult doctor or hospital.  So, now that as a responsible nutritionist I got that piece of slightly pertinent piece of information out of the way let's get to why this murky drink is so popular today. 

If somebody handed you a tall refreshing glass of gray water and said, "drink up, it tastes like lemonade," why would you be so quick to chug it down? Well, that is what is happening in most juice bars. However, this is where some of my journey into nutrition got tricky because this is a "let food be your medicine" moment that involves science. Throwing together a jug of black water and drinking it every day to cleanse just to write a blog post is not that simple.  The Food Athlete Cliffs Notes version can hopefully clear up some confusion if you are not a science nerd. "Activated" means it is a medical grade charcoal so the icky particles we want to rid our body of, will stick to the charcoal be absorbed and voila, bye bye toxins.

You can find activated charcoal in many forms, the capsules (I use below in my lemonade,) sticks that can be used to purify water and even the air you breathe.  Beauty bars and masks are all the rage and charcoal is making a big splash in the face cleanse department. 

Besides flushing out the bad juju that could plague our system, charcoal helps brighten out smile aka our teeth bones, so some toothpaste has added it to their product. 


DIY Charcoal Lemonade

1 Activated Charcoal Capsule

1 Whole Lemon

10-12 oz Water

1/4 Cup Coconut Water

Maple Syrup to sweeten if you are into sweet. 

Squeeze a whole lemon into a glass of water and coconut water. Take the capsule and carefully separate. Do this over the glass of water/coconut glass, (as you can see from the photos this can be messy if you are not careful). I keep mine in a mason jar, of course, haha! However, I do this because I do not drink it all in one sitting and I also add water to cut the charcoal. The water will turn very black or a lighter gray. You can always add less charcoal.  Add a teaspoon of maple syrup if you want a sweeter lemonade. 

It is easy to be swept away by the optimism of new information especially when it comes with the promise of making us feel better. My goal as your health teacher is to help you avoid a hasty decision and use your reading material wisely to come to your conclusions.  I can give you this slice of advice, too much of a good thing is not always a good thing. I have poured gallons of toxic stuff into my body over decades, and by some miracle, I am still here. We did not have any activated charcoal beverages or shots of grass or fresh pressed roots of ginger to calm what ailed us after nights of partying. A burger and Coke-a-cola usually did the trick. I cannot speak to what works for you and what used to work for me. This is why I have taken it upon myself to acquire the knowledge and certifications so that I can accurately qualify my opinions and facts. 

Here is something to consider when making "medicinal food" such as a detox drink. Multiple medications do not always reinforce a cure. For example, drinking charcoal lemonade with two aspirin will not lessen your hangover. Alternatively drinking a green juice that has added the black dust means you are not going to reap the benefits of all the yummy vitamins and minerals that come with the fruit and veggies.   Remember when I was talking science at the beginning of this chat? Well, the binding and purification process can counter act if you introduce too many potential helpers, doing the exact opposite of what you are probably drinking it for in the first place.  So why do lots of these detox solutions promote this supplement in conjunction with other healthy products? I can not speak to that honestly. I even went so far as to ask the girl at one of my favorite juice cleanse shops ( which I will leave anonymous)  why they mixed the A.C. with the pressed juice and she did not have an answer. The deal with charcoal like lots of nutrition supplements nowadays is that the jury is still out on the actual benefits. Some of the stuff is harmless but if you are unsure yet interested in embarking down the dark water stream (or any health movement that is foreign to you) always consult a nutritionist (hint hint) or your medical doctor for guidance. 

Trends are always going to ebb and flow that's why they are called a trend. They are not guarantees. Our body isn't a trend. Although the human system does go through changes, so the importance of awareness is significant, now more than ever. It's my pleasure to bring to light or even reinforce topics and studies that surround wellness. I learn and grow along with all of you when I write, research, and experiment in this magical world I call nutrition. 

Let me ask you this Food athlete, are you partaking in a food trend that is currently the talk of the town? What do you think about Activated Charcoal? Would you try it? I would love to hear your thoughts. Please share with me in comments. 


Be Happy, Be Healthy, Love Your Body,

xo Jessi (Your Food Athlete Coach) xo