- What is Kanten? -
Latin Name: Gracilaria
Also Known As: Agar Agar, Red Seaweed, Vegan Gelatin
Kanten, or better known in western countries as agar agar (or just agar) is a gelatinous substance that is derived from the cell walls of red seaweed
– most notably Tengusa (Gelidiaceae) and Ogonori (Gracilaria).

Agar Agar, Red Seaweed, Vegan Gelatin

Thought to have been discovered accidentally by a Japanese innkeeper in the 17th century,
kanten is a mixture of two components
– the linear polysaccharide agarose, and a heterogeneous mixture of smaller molecules known as agaropectin.
It forms the supporting structure in the cell walls of certain species of red algae, and is released on boiling.
Since its discovery, kanten has been extensively used as an alternative to animal derived gelatin, and most famously in petri dishes to culture bacteria. 
Firmer and stronger than gelatin, kanten replaced gelatin as the preferable medium used in laboratories to grow bacteria as it was found that kanten isn’t degraded (eaten) by the bacteria.
kanten dessert

-The Health Benefits of Kanten-

1. Weight Loss
Kanten is considered a healthy addition to weight loss plans due to it being low in calories, fat, sugar and carbohydrates.
An appetite suppressant, Kanten is chiefly made up of water-soluble, indigestible fibre and is known as a “hydrophilic colloid”.
It attracts and absorbs water, increasing bulk with very few calories which gives a feeling of fullness that allows people to reduce their food intake.
As Kanten travels through the body it also absorbs glucose in the stomach, passing it through the digestive system quickly thus inhibiting its storage as fat.
Consuming Kanten as part of a natural weight loss plan is known as the “Kanten Diet” in Japan.
This entails adding a teaspoon of the powder to tea or hot water and drinking before meals.
Promoting a feeling of satiety, it can also help to stabilise blood sugar and block the storage of fat and is a diet that many Japanese women swear by.

healthy image
2. Bone Health
Kanten is high in calcium and magnesium, and whilst calcium is famous for its contribution to strong and healthy bones, a lesser known fact is that it must be in balance with magnesium to increase bone density.
A common problem in western diets is too much calcium and not enough magnesium which can lead to painful calcification of joints and the formation of kidney and gallstones.
Luckily Kanten contains a healthy balance of these two important minerals, alongside manganese – a nutrient that is vital to the metabolism and formation of bones.

kanten bubble tea
3. Digestive Health
The fibre found in Kanten has many digestive benefits.
It absorbs toxins from the gut and gastrointestinal tract, carrying the toxic waste safely out of the body.
Often used as a remedy for constipation, the soluble fibre found in Kanten absorbs water in the gut and forms bulk which acts as a natural laxative. Regulating and cleansing the bowel is one of the cornerstones of digestive health.

kanten wreath

4. Brain Health
Kanten is a polymer made up of sub-units of the simple sugar molecule galactose which is commonly referred to as “brain sugar”.
It is vital for the development of the brain in babies and children, and can be produced endogenously by the body as well as supplemented from foods such as Kanten.
When synthesised by the body, galactose forms a part of glycolipids and glycoproteins in several tissues.
It is an important component of the myelin sheath protecting the brain, spinal cord and central nervous system.
With regards to degenerative conditions of the brain, a recent study concluded that: “galactose plays a potentially useful role in removing neurotoxic compounds from the brain in patients suffering from Alzheimer's disease”.

baby smiling