Xanthan gum is one of the most common food additives. It is widely used as a thickening and stabilizing agent in the production of cosmetics and food items. Xanthan gum is derived from corn sugar. It is known for its excellent binding properties. As a food additive, it does not affect the color and flavor of the food.
How is Xanthan Gum Made
Xanthan gum is made by mixing corn sugar and bacteria called Xanthomonas campestris. The name 'xanthan' is derived from the name of the bacteria 'Xanthomonas' that are used to bring about fermentation of corn syrup. Corn syrup is not obtained by just pressing corn kernels. The pulpy cornstarch has to be separated from corn kernels. Cornstarch is broken down into glucose when natural enzymes are added to it.
Corn syrup is obtained by heating the sugars. Xanthan gum is nothing but fermented corn sugar polysaccharide. The bacteria Xanthomonas campestris, used to ferment corn sugar, help transform the complex molecules of corn sugar into simple molecules. Then a colorless viscous matter finally obtained is known as xanthan gum. Properties of xanthan gum and that of cornstarch are quite similar. The colorless slime is used as a stabilizing or thickening agent in various food products or cosmetics.
Properties and Uses of Xanthan Gum
This gum comes in liquid or powder form. Its properties are not affected by heat and it gets easily dissolved in hot or cold water. It is mainly used in the production of gluten free food products. Bread, cake, pasta, which contain xanthan gum as an ingredient, give a nice feel while eating. Xanthan gum thus, acts as a wheat gluten substitute in various flour-based food products. People with gluten allergy, and those diagnosed with celiac disease can enjoy food products with xanthan gum.
Xanthan gum plays an important role in offering smooth texture to ice creams. It helps prevent formation of ice crystals in ice creams. In salad dressings, sauces and pastry fillings, it acts as a stabilizing agent. In food industry, it is mainly used as a substitute for egg yolk. It is commercially used to produce egg substitutes that contain egg white. It acts as a fat substitute. It keeps you satiated when added to no-fat, or low fat dairy products. It also exhibits emulsifying properties of egg yolk. Xanthan gum is also used for thickening of soups.
What is Guar Gum
Some people are allergic to corn and corn-based products like xanthan gum. They can enjoy food products that contain guar gum, gum arabic, locust bean gum, gum tragacanth or carrageenan. 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. It is used to produce various processed foods that have a characteristic creamy texture. It was also used to produce diet pills that were meant to create a sense of fullness. The FDA has banned the use of guar gum in diet pills or diet shakes, as this has led to stomach problems. Guar gum is obtained from guar seeds. Guar belongs to the group of important 'cash crops' of Pakistan and north India.
Those who are interested in baking and want to use xanthan gum as a binding agent, can order it online. Or they can buy it from a health food store or organic food store. You should look for it in gluten-free sections. You can always find xanthan gum in GNC and Whole Foods.