Charcoal on the plate?

Should we all be adding charcoal to our diet?

Daily Telegraph

Is charcoal doing us more harm than good?

It was only yesterday that charcoal was being touted as the new health phenomenon. Whether it was in the form of pills or mixed in a juice or with coconut water, it seemed that everyone from nutritionist to the stars Amelia Freer to goodness guru Gwyneth Paltrow was advocating it.

The reason? Well, no matter how healthy our diet is, we are all exposed to toxins in our day to day lives from things such as makeup, pollution and cleaning products. If there's anything the health-conscious like the idea of getting rid of, it's toxins - and health firms suggested that 'activated charcoal' was the answer.

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Charcoal for health?

There was a time when the presence of charcoal in a meal meant it was burnt. In the past two years, though, the world has begun to look at the black stuff with fresh eyes.

The type of charcoal that's grabbing everyone's attention is an activated form. That means it's made by heating common charcoal in the presence of a gas that causes the charcoal to develop lots of internal spaces or 'pores'. These pores help activated charcoal 'trap' chemicals.

Activated charcoal has actually been used by the NHS for decades to treat some cases of poisoning. The charcoal binds to the poison and stops it being further absorbed into the blood.

Recently, certain health bloggers and beauty writers have become evangelical about other potential health benefits associated with the substance.

There's been no shortage of celebrity endorsements, either, with Gwyneth Paltrow and Kim Kardashian both claiming that they consume charcoal as an essential part of their beauty regime.

Articles have appeared in the press that suggest the sooty stuff can help with bloating. The Daily Mail claims that it is "one of the quickest ways to beat the bloat".

InStyle suggests that charcoal can give you clearer skin: "The charcoal powder works to draw out deep-seated debris to purify pores. The mask felt good. Afterwards, my skin looked fresh, smooth, and my pores were noticeably more refined."

It's also been suggested that charcoal can have tooth whitening qualities, leading to an influx of charcoal-related teeth whitening products to the market.

It's not just toothpaste makers who have got in on the charcoal band wagon. Off the back of the hype, food manufacturers and retailers are adding charcoal as an ingredient to a whole range of products.

Waitrose already sells charcoal bagels that come with the seal of approval from Heston Blumenthal, and any day now the high end supermarket will start selling charcoal pizza, which will come with an eye-catching black pizza base.

Independent coffee shops are getting in on the act, too. Charcoal lattes are now widely available in big cities like London. The Farm Girl Cafe in Portobello, for example, serves a Latte Black with activated charcoal and date syrup.

But are we all buying in to another hollow health trend for health trend's sake?

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Five superfoods to know about for 2017 -

Activated charcoal is set to be a big ingredient for 2017 thanks to its detoxifying qualities. Activated charcoal can reduce bloating, whiten teeth and purify your skin, making it a multi-tasking ingredient that can benefit your whole body. Look out for activated charcoal tablets or powder if you're looking to detoxify, and keep an eye out for it in cleansers, masks and toothpastes to reap its beauty benefits.

2. Maca root

Maca root is a member of the cruciferous family, alongside broccoli and cabbage, and is available in powder form when it is harvested and ground down.

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