Gums for Home Use…And More!
- What are Gums?
- Why The Name “Gums Per…”?
- Where Do Gums Come From?
- Nutritionally Speaking – Dietary Fiber
- Gums Are Food Products, Not Chemicals: Stabilizers Vs Preservatives
Gums are chewing gum, right? So Wrong! Actually, chewing gum isn’t gum, it is a resin -chicle. We like to think of gums as the flipside counterpart of starches. Basically, gums are thickening, gelling and suspending water soluble carbohydrates, similar to starches. Gums are also emulsifiers that prevent oil and water separation in products like salad dressings.
Within the food industry, because gums are typically all natural and of a plant source (of both land and sea plants), they are finding greater acceptance as gelatin replacements, which are of an animal protein source (mostly beef and pork hides and bones.) Unlike gelatin products, gum products do not “melt away” at room temperature. And when compared with starches, since gums are used at much lower levels – as low as one-tenth of the amount that a starch would be used – there is no flavor masking.
Gums uses are not limited to the kitchen. Their uses are many-fold and can be found within the food, pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries, as well as within the mining and oil industries. Additionally, their applications are found within the artesian crafts, within the printing and textile industries, as well as the ingredients listing of air freshener gels, etc. Gums make excellent adhesives. Yes, glue! Gum Arabic was the traditional adhesive on the backs of postage stamps and Gum Tragacanth is still “the glue” of cigar wrappers.
In a nutshell, gums have many applications. And not only within the food industry, but across the board within the varied industries; hence, the name, Gums Pers…
Gum comes from the grocery store, usually in packs of 5 or fifteen. “Now there you go again!” Sorry! But all kidding aside (if that is possible), as noted above, most gums are extracted from a plant source. Gums, such as Gum Tragacanth or Gum Arabic, among others, are basically saps (Exudates) that come from “Gum Trees.” Others, such as Guar Gum or Locust (Carob) Bean Gum, like wheat are seed extracts. Gums, such as Carrageenans and Alginates, are seaweed extracts. A few gums, the most popular being Xanthan Gum, are the byproducts of microbial fermentation. Xanthan Gum is basically the “brewed” product from natural ingredients. (Sound familiar?)
Do gums have a place in the average home! Do Fish Swim?! READ ON.
It seems that we just can’t eat enough dietary fiber to make health professionals happy, right!? So, what are gums? You guessed it! Gums are classified as dietary fiber. Roughage! And as a source of dietary fiber, gums contribute very little, if any, to calorie intake. But in addition to the well know benefits attributed to dietary fiber, gums have demonstrated healthy effects on cholesterol levels and research indicates that gums help to promote calcium absorption. Hey, they are dietary fiber! (Yes, we know this all sounds like an “Informercial”. And no, you won’t be seeing us hocking our gums on the boob tube at 3 AM.)
And although it is well known that gums are dietary fiber and therefore non-digestible, a noted food manufacturer’s findings are taking the benefits of gums to the next level:
Their research indicates that the action of gums in their food (pasta) significantly lowers the overall percentage of pasta that is actually digested and/or absorbed by the body.
What does this mean? Basically, your meal size and content would remain the same but the number of calories absorbed would be drastically lowered. WHOALA! DIET FOOD!
The terms Stabilizer and Preservative are often confused. (Unfortunately, sometimes even within the food industry.) In processed or manufactured foods, gums are called Stabilizers; they are basically, what?…. dietary fibers that bind and control moisture (water), thereby Stabilizing the product from drying out, or in the case of products like pudding or yogurt, from leaking out mini water pools. Gums form a sort of matrix, thereby preventing, or at least slowing down, the migration or the evaporation of water.
(So, just exactly what does all this mean? Basically, gums not only hold the moisture (water) within a food product, but also help the moisture stay in place. This plays a major role with frozen foods; by binding the moisture within food, not only does the food freeze better, but also thaws out better. More info on this on the “Charateristics” page, concerning ice crystal growth.)
Gums are not Preservatives. Within the food industry, salts such as Sodium Benzoate or Potassium Chloride and acids, such as Citric Acid, among other chemical products, are called Preservatives, and are added to foods to retard bacterial growth.