If you have been paying attention to the labels of products, even a little, you have probably come across xanthan gum in the ingredient list. It is very confusing or even slightly intimidating to find out that there is something like gum in your food, so it does spark curiosity for many people.
In this article, you will discover what xanthan gum is and how it fits into a low-carb and ketogenic diet.
What is Xanthan Gum?
As a rule of thumb, they say to only consume products that have ingredients you know and you can pronounce, but also every rule has exceptions.
It is understandable that you would want to know more about a product in your food that has “gum” in its name, and try to get more information on what is xanthan gum exactly, what is its use and most importantly is it safe to consume it on the keto diet.
And, you are at the right place to find out everything you need to know about it.
Xanthan gum is a common food additive made of polysaccharides, that serve the purpose of a stabilizer, thickener or emulsifier to a product it is added to. It is used to prevent separation by increasing the thickness in many products such as sauces, dressings, gravy, and even some non-dairy milk alternatives and keto-friendly ice cream.
It is used mainly to substitute the sticky properties of gluten or to substitute common allergens like wheat or eggs. Xanthan gum acts the same as adding cornstarch, it increases the viscosity to the product, and along with its main purpose, it has quite a few health-related purposes as well.
What is Xanthan Gum Made Of?
Xanthan gum is made in a simple way by combining a chain of simple sugars- polysaccharides with specific micronutrients and a specific type of bacteria called Xanthomonas campestris, which is the origin of its name.
These bacteria aren’t only responsible for the name of the xanthan gum, but they are also responsible for fermenting the sugar, which creates an indigestible, soluble fiber gel-like substance.
Even though its name suggests that it might be a gum, it’s raw form is actually a powder. After the fermentation, the gel-like substance is dried, milled and ground into powder, which is the final form of the xanthan gum.
When this powder is added to a liquid product, it disperses very fast and it creates a viscous and very stable solution. This property is what makes xanthan gum a product that can be used in a variety of foods.
The chemical-like sounding name of xanthan gum gives it a reputation that it might not be safe for your health, and just by knowing that one of its three main compounds are simple carbohydrates may give you the impression that it is surely not keto-friendly.
But, on the contrary, the final product when processing xanthan gum powder is mainly soluble fiber. Fiber is a carbohydrate that your body can not break down and process correctly, so instead, the fiber absorbs water and then it turns into a gel-like substance in your digestive tract. This is what causes your digestion to happen at a slower pace.
Is Xanthan Gum Safe to Consume?
Despite the assumptions, xanthan is safe to consume, and not only that, but it also has many health benefits.
There is a study relating it to the management of diabetes mellitus by its mechanism of action which slows down digestion, and that affects the absorption of carbs. Carbs are absorbed slower into the bloodstream, which prevents blood sugar spikes after a meal. (*)
There are also studies that suggest that consuming xanthan gum can lower your cholesterol levels in your blood, and because of its laxative properties that help with digestive issues.
Xanthan gum can also greatly help with weight loss by enhancing the feeling of fullness after eating food and by slowing the gastric emptying. There is some evidence that it can even help fight some cancers. (*)(*)(*)(*)
Xanthan gum is only safe if taken up to 15 grams per day, so there can be some side effects when consuming more than the recommended dose.
The side effects are usually intestinal gas- flatulence, bloating, diarrhea, altered gut bacteria, and increased bowel movement. People who have had any intestinal issues should avoid them in high doses.
Xanthan gum is used in many keto products. Its thickening properties are used in some products such as juices, sauces, soups or smoothies where you have to limit or completely exclude foods that naturally thicken like bananas, tapioca, and apricot due to their high-carb content.
Xanthan gum also serves as an emulsifier and this can be a very helpful property when cooking keto dishes. An emulsifier helps combine fat-based ingredients and water-based ingredients, for example, that is how dressings are made.
Oil and vinegar naturally separate, but when you add xanthan gum, they combine. Another example of this property of xanthan gum is the keto ice cream.
Here is the table for the nutritional values of xanthan gum (*):
|Net Carbs||0 grams|
Can You Consume Xanthan Gum On The Keto Diet?
As said in the sections above, xanthan gum is made from chains of simple carbohydrates- polysaccharides. But, it is still a very keto-friendly substance and it is contained in many ketogenic products.
How, you ask? Well, this can be confusing to some, as you already know that the keto diet is all about avoiding carbs.
But, as you can see from the table above, the total carbs are 77.78, but the net carbs are at 0 grams.
This is because the bacteria that are used to ferment the sugar actually eat the net carbs, and turn them into fiber(xanthan gum). Fiber is not digested by the body and therefore it doesn’t count in the daily calorie or macronutrient intake. (*)
So, the short answer is yes, you can safely consume the recommended dose of xanthan gum up to 15 grams.
What Are The Best Xanthan Gum Substitutes?
If for some reason you don’t want to be using xanthan gum, you can use some of its substitutes like chia seeds, agar-agar, gelatin, flax seeds, guar gum, and psyllium fiber.
Where to Buy?
Since xanthan gum is rising in popularity among those who strive to eat a low-carb or gluten-free lifestyle, you can find it in common grocery stores like Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and Sprouts. You can also find it online on sites like amazon.com.
Yes, xanthan gum is very keto-friendly and it is used in many low-carb products.
Yes, xanthan gum is keto-friendly. It has a total of 77.78 grams of total carbs out of which 0 grams are net carbs.
When you are following the keto diet, sometimes you want to polish your keto cooking and try something new.
It seems that keto dieting and xanthan gum go hand in hand and xanthan gum is the secret weapon of many keto-friendly products, and it could be yours too. You can add it to thicken liquids, bind, emulsify or stabilize your ingredients. Also, xanthan gum is a great source of soluble fiber that can have many health benefits.
A little xanthan gum powder goes a pretty long way, so make sure that you check the expiration date. Xanthan gum typically has an expiration date of 3 years when stored in a cool and dry place. Make sure to also check the label for any indications that the manufacturer may use any ingredients that you are trying to avoid.
*Photo by IMelnyk/depositphotos