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Everything You Need to Know About Gums in Your Food

Everything You Need to Know About GumsSo what about these GUMS?

They’re everywhere…

As I’m mid-way through my bowl, and really loving the dairy free ice cream, and I’m thinking, are all of these “gums” I keep finding in them good for me?

Gum Arabic, xantham gum, guar gum…. and the list goes on. I’ve heard some pretty scary stories from people eating these things, truthfully, so I wanted to do some digging and see what I found.

Firstly, what are these gums and what’re they used for? To be simple, they’re ingredients in many processed foods that act as stabilizers, thickeners, or emulsifiers; and like most things some are better for you than others.

So what about gums? Which ones are we talking about?

  • Xanthan gum:

It’s a byproduct of bacterial fermentation or created synthetically, and is used to prevent substances from separating— or as a thickening agent. It’s made from bacterial fermentation of wheat corn or soy (YUCK), and appears to be safe in quantities less than 15 g per day. For some this junk can contribute to major GI distress (gas etc).

  • Guar gum:

This one actually comes from food – a product of grinding up guar beans- a relative of the pea plant. It’s used as a thickener or binder and is more naturally derived- it for some may cause diarrhea – but some literature states it’s used for IBS.

  • Locust bean gum:

While not as common as xanthan and guar gum, locust bean gum is a type of gum is sourced from the carob seeds of the carob tree. As most of the other gums, it’s also used primarily as a thickening and stabilizing agent. Locust bean gum is also gluten-free and sometimes used in foods to provide a chocolaty flavor. Again, dealing with some GI or gut issues? Probably best to stay clear, but otherwise it likely won’t affect you too much.

  • Tara gum:

Tara gum is kind of like the new kid on the block right now – there isn’t too much information and research on it just yet. It’s derived from a legume and is known to be odorless and tasteless, while something like guar gum can have a funkier smell (not while mixed in food products though). Tara gum has yet to be tested on humans, so while the minimal research says it’s safe as of now, I might wait a little longer before coming to a concrete opinion.

Here’s the products that you can find them in:

  • Non-Dairy Products (milk, cheese, yogurts, etc.)
  • Cereals
  • Breads & Wraps
  • Baked Goods
  • Desserts (chocolate, candies, etc)
  •  Soups
  • Sauces
  • Gravies
  • Dressings

So what’s the consensus? Should we include them or should we avoid?

Generally, we recommend clients (especially those with GI distress or sensitivities) try to remove these from their eating because they can be really bothersome, but if you’re going to include one of them, one really isn’t better than the other, but less quantity is the key here. Less is more, and fresher foods will have less of them- so pick and choose.

As always, every person is different! What effects one person might have zero effect on another, but when in doubt, no shame in cutting it out.

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