We’ve seen some crazy (read: lip-smackingly awesome) ice cream trends emerge over the past few years. But the latest flavour making headlines is coconut ash. Um, coco what?
This inky black concoction is the brainchild of Morgenstern’s Finest Ice Cream (an ice-cream hot spot in New York City), and is made with a form of activated charcoal from the charred remains of a coconut shell.
“I had been monkeying around with coconut ash for a while and then I had this fancy chocolate bar that used coconut ash,” Nick Morgenstern, the store’s owner, tells Mic. “I knew I had to use it. We wanted to put a coconut ice cream on the menu and it all came together.”
Charcoal isn’t necessarily a new concept. In fact, it has been making waves on the wellness scene for quite a while, with devotees singing its praises for detoxifying, whitening teeth, alleviating skin problems and digestive woes.
According to Morgenstern, activated charcoal is “just something organic that has been charred and processed with high heat so that it behaves like a filter.”
A photo posted by Morgenstern’s Finest Ice Cream (@morgensternsnyc) on
“Activated charcoal traps chemicals and toxins and draws them outside the body to prevent reabsorption,” she explains. Basically, it traps toxins inside its pores by binding them to its surface, which then gets drawn out of the body. It’s traditonally used with drug overdoses and poisons, she says.
But experts aren’t so sure that it does as much as people claim. “There are many health claims, such as heart healthy, lower cholesterol, digestive benefits, anti-aging, and improving skin ailments,” registered dietitian Keri Gans, author of The Small Change Diet, tells SELF. “However, there is no conclusive scientific evidence to back up any.”
New York City registered dietitian Jessica Cording concurs, telling SELF that charcoal isn’t selective about what it binds to in your body. “You could actually run the risk of blocking absorption of nutrients you actually need,” she says.
If you’re interested in trying activated charcoals, Warren recommends doing so sparingly, citing “concerning side effects” of prolonged use of them. For example, if you don’t drink enough water with activated charcoal—about 12 to 16 cups—you can get dehydrated and constipated, she says. And, while it’s not necessarily bad for your health, activated charcoal can temporarily dye your mouth black – eek!
“Because of the potential side effects and the lack of evidence to support a lot of the health claims, it’s not advised to use activated charcoals as a daily cleansing ritual,” Warren says.
However, she adds, it’s fine to try it “once in a while.”