Sunday, April 3, 2011

Xanthan gum vs. Guar gum

Xanthan gum or guar gum the common food additives known for its excellent binding properties, is not used in our daily cooking. Packaged and processed foods are common in many families throughout the day. They are convenient, portable and they stay fresh for a long time. Xanthan gum is a sugar-like compound made by mixing aged (fermented) sugars with a certain kind of bacteria. Its properties are not affected to the color and flavor of the food by heat, and also act as a wheat gluten substitute. It is a food and medical addtitive with bulk forming qualities.It is commonly used in bread, cake, baked products and pasta. Xanthan gum plays important role in smoothing texture to ice creams, helps prevent formation of ice crystals in ice creams. It acts as stabilizing agent in sauces, used for thickening of soups and commercially used as egg substitute. I was surprise to read that mixture of xanthan gum with water and other natural ingredients is used for acne, assuring the risks of side effect to minimal. Side effects of xanthan gum include excessive gas production and bloating.
 Guar gum is a natural food thickener. Compared to cornstarch, very small amount of guar gum is required when used as a thickening agent. It is used in ice-creams, puddings, soups, etc. Guar gum is a very good binder and plasticizer that is used to produce various processed foods that have characteristic creamy textures. It was also used to produce diet pills that were meant to create a sense of fullness. Guar gum is obtained from guar seeds. Guar belongs to the group of important 'cash crops' of Pakistan and north India. Both these additives tend to lower blood sugar and cholesterol in diabetic patients, according to Exposure to the powder may cause lung and breathing problems along with flu-like symptoms. It is also not recommended for patients with appendicitis, intestinal stenosis or blockage of the bowel. They act as a bulk laxative and requires additional water intake to prevent problems.
One of the differences between the two products is where they come from. Guar gum is made from a seed native to tropical Asia, while xanthan gum is made by bacteria that are fed a diet of corn or soy. Since it is unknown whether xanthan gum could cause a reaction in people severely allergic to corn and soy products, guar gum is normally used as a precaution for people with severe allergies to those foods. There are also important differences in using xanthan gum vs. guar gum. In general, guar gum is good for cold foods such as ice cream processed foods, or pastry fillings, while xanthan gum is better for baked goods. Xanthan gum is the right choice for yeast-used breads.
Though I don’t use these binding agents in my kitchen, I was fascinated to do some study on these additives as these are commonly found in the processed foods. 
The contents are for educational purpose, not a substitute for medical advice.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the information. I didn't know the difference between the two. I used to think xanthan gum was a plant derivative.


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