What’s The Hype Over The Gums in Non-Dairy Milks?

If you’ve ever actually taken the time to read the ingredients list on any of your favorite non-dairy milk, you’ve probably noticed how they all contain various “gums.” And we don’t mean the chewing type of gums — we mean the artificial gums, the kinds that are in so many foods, but no one really knows what their purpose is.

Gums are often found in a lot of processed but still generally healthy foods. Foods such as dairy-free milk, vegan ice cream, and pasta often contain gums. So what exactly do these gums do?

The most common are xanthan gum, guar gum, and locust bean gum, and they all serve different purposes. Most gums are used for thickening or binding purposes. If you were to make oat milk at home — the only ingredients you would need are oats and water, so when you buy oat milk in the store, why are there all these gums? That’s because the oat milk sold in stores needs to stay thick; that’s where the gums come in.

Different Types of Gums

Xanthan gum is a polysaccharide and a soluble fiber, which means it isn’t harmful or good for you. Xanthan gum is typically used in such small amounts that it doesn’t have much of an effect on the body. Xanthan gum is used in many different ways, from being added to spices to help keep the volume to creating desired texture in ice cream.

Agar-agar, another popular gum used in foods, comes from a specific type of algae, and it is also used in tiny amounts. Agar-agar is healthier than xanthan gum.

Guar gum is commonly used for its thickening properties and is made from legumes, which makes it high in fiber. The FDA considers it to be safe for consumption, it is low in calories and high in soluble fiber, which means it’s a pretty healthy thickening agent.

Locust bean gum comes from carob tree seeds and is a thickener commonly found in dairy-free products. Locust bean gum is also often used in small amounts, so it doesn’t have much of an impact on the body.

Overall, these gums aren’t bad for you. They don’t provide any astounding health benefits, but when consumed in such small amounts like they are in foods, they don’t make much of a difference in the body. So you’re all clear to keep on buying your favorite dairy-free milk.

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