Have you ever noticed ingredients such as cellulose gum, guar gum, and xanthan gum showing up in different packaged foods? Food gums are additives that help thicken liquids, keep foods and beverages stable so nutrients remain mixed, and help produce a consistent texture. You’ll frequently see them in nut milk, ice cream, and baked goods, among others. We’ll dive into which ones to watch out for, and which ones are likely fine in small quantities. In general, these gum additives are included in highly-processed foods. Therefore, we recommend seeking out some simple swaps that are minimally processed or whole foods to reduce the number of foods in your diet that contain gums.
Locust Bean Gum
Locust bean gum (also known as carob bean gum) is a vegetable-based thickener and stabilizer derived from the seeds of carob trees. It is a soluble fiber, which is a type of carbohydrate that your body doesn’t breakdown. Instead, they absorb water and turn into a gel-like substance in your digestive system, slowing digestion. Due to the nature of soluble fiber, studies have shown that locust bean gum can be beneficial in some ways. These include aiding digestion, maintaining blood sugar control, and lowering cholesterol levels. More human studies are needed to determine the level of benefit this additive could offer and potential side effects, but we don’t flag locust bean gum in the app.
This additive is made from a legume called the guar bean and is also classified as a soluble fiber. Similar to locust bean gum, it could come with many of the benefits that soluble fiber offers, and it is considered safe in very small amounts. However, even at the approved quantities, guar gum can cause side effects for some people including gas, bloating, and indigestion, so we flag it as Questionable in the app.
Xanthan gum is commonly found in foods made with gluten-free flours because it helps bind the food together. However, this gum has been known to cause gastrointestinal issues. Additionally, because it is made by bacterial fermentation, it can be difficult to know whether any common allergens such as soy, gluten, or corn were used to make it, so it’s wise to avoid it if you have any of those allergies. We flag Xanthan Gum as Questionable.
This ingredient is an additive used as an emulsifier, thickening agent, anti-caking agent, and fiber boost. It can also show up on labels as cellulose, MCC, carboxymethylcellulose, or microcrystalline cellulose. Cellulose gum comes from the cell walls of plants such as wood pulp and cottonseeds. You’ll notice that it’s flagged as Potentially Harmful in the Trash Panda app because it has been linked to weight gain, inflammation, and digestive issues. And although it’s rare, some people can have an allergy or sensitivity to it.
We hope this information about some commonly found gum additives helps you make informed decisions about the products you buy. We’d love to hear what products you found with gums, and whether you made any swaps!