The Most Common Gum Thickeners Found in Nut Milk

Gum thickeners are very popular in our food supply today, especially in nut milk. Gums are primarily made of indigestible plant fiber. Food manufacturers love gums because they have unique properties that add desirable texture, thickening, and emulsifying qualities to nut milk. 

Natural Gum Additives vs Carrageenan 

One positive about gums such as guar, gellan, and locust bean is their superiority to carrageenan. Commonly used in a variety of processed foods, carrageenan is a suspected carcinogen that should be avoided!   

Guar Gum

The guar bean is a plant that is primarily grown in India and Pakistan. India alone produces three million tons of guar beans annually. Guar gum is a fiber from the seed of the guar plant. It is commonly used in coconut milk for its excellent thickening power. Compared to cornstarch, guar has eight times the thickening potency. 

Guar gum has been studied in scientific research at approximately 5-20 grams daily for treatment of various maladies. The amount of guar gum in nut milk is minimal compared to the doses used in research studies. Unless you are a sensitive individual, there is little reason to be concerned about guar gum in nut milk.

Gellan Gum

Gellen gum is made from a natural bacterial fermentation process. The gellan-producing bacterium was first discovered in 1978 from a water lily plant growing in Pennsylvania. It is added to nut milk as an emulsifier so that when you pour your glass, you’re not getting a bunch of water on top with solids at the bottom. Gellan gum is widely considered safe. A typical carton of nut milk has small amounts of this additive. Another research study showed gellan gum consumed at a high level for 23 days caused no adverse dietary or physiological effects for the individuals. 

Locust Bean Gum

Locust bean gum is a vegetable gum extracted from the seeds of the carob tree. The carob tree or locust bean tree (Ceratonia siliqua) is a member of the pea family and native to the eastern Mediterranean region. The flavor of locust bean gum is mildly sweet and subtly similar to chocolate. It is added to nut milk as a thickening agent. 

A study published in the International Journal of Biological Macromolecules found that locust bean gum can be beneficial for health problems such as diabetes and colon cancer due to its dietary fiber action. Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that locust bean gum has cholesterol-lowering effects.  


Are Gum Additives Safe?

Research studies indicate that gum additives in nut milk are safe to eat as they are only present in small amounts. A 64 oz carton of nut milk contains approximately 1/2 tsp – 1 tsp of gum additive. As a comparison, individuals have consumed gum additives at 1 tsp – 4 tsp daily as part of a treatment or research study. If you are a sensitive individual with gastrointestinal concerns, there are nut milks on the market today that do not contain gum additives. If you are ambitious, you can even make nut milk at home! Check out this simple recipe

 

 

 

References

Alam NH, Meier R, Schneider H, Sarker SA, Bardhan PK, Mahalanabis D, Fuchs GJ, Gyr N. Partially hydrolyzed guar gum-supplemented oral rehydration solution in the treatment of acute diarrhea in children. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2000 Nov;31(5):503-7. doi: 10.1097/00005176-200011000-00010. PMID: 11144434.

Anderson DM, Brydon WG, Eastwood MA. The dietary effects of gellan gum in humans. Food Addit Contam. 1988 Jul-Sep;5(3):237-49. doi: 10.1080/02652038809373701. PMID: 3294053.

Barak S, Mudgil D. Locust bean gum: Processing, properties and food applications—A review. International Journal of Biological Macromolecules, Volume 66, 2014, pages 74-80, ISSN 0141-8130.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijbiomac.2014.02.017

J H Zavoral, P Hannan, D J Fields, M N Hanson, I D Frantz, K Kuba, P Elmer, D R Jacobs, Jr, The hypolipidemic effect of locust bean gum food products in familial hypercholesterolemic adults and children, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 38, Issue 2, August 1983, Pages 285–294, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/38.2.285

Younes, M., Aggett, P., Aguilar, F., Crebelli, R., Filipic, M., Frutos, M., Galtier, P., Gott, D., Gundert‐Remy, U., Kuhnle, G., Lambré, C., Leblanc, J., Lillegaard, I., Moldeus, P., Mortensen, A., Oskarsson, A., Stankovic, I., Waalkens‐Berendsen, I., Woutersen, R., Wright, M., Brimer, L., Mosesso, P., Christodoulidou, A., Cascio, C., Tard, A., Lodi, F. and Dusemund, B., 2018. Re‐evaluation of gellan gum (E 418) as food additive. [online] Available at: https://efsa.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.2903/j.efsa.2018.5296

 

Authored by Inspire Your Journey