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  1. Are Gums natural? Where do they come from?
  2. Are Gums harmful?
  3. What is the caloric impact of gums?
  4. Can I use gums without water?
  5. What causes lumping when I put the gums into water?
  6. Do I need to heat the gums or can I use them in cold applications?
  7. Can I use gums with starches or instead of starches?
  8. Why would I use one gum vs. another? Aren't they all the same?

Questions and Answers

  1. Are Gums Natural? Where do they come from?
    Most gums come from natural sources and are processed to ensure that they remain all natural.  Gums such as Guar Gum, Fenugreek Gum and Locust Bean (Carob Bean) Gum come from seeds.  Others such as Gum Arabic, Karaya, Gum Tragacanth are tree exudates or sap.  Many also are seaweeds, such as Carrageenans and Agar Agar and Alginates.  Konjac comes from the Elephant Yam which is a tuber.  Xanthan Gum results from the fermentation of sugars by the bacteria Xanthamonas Campestris.  Although it is bio-manufactured, it is considered all natural.

    There are a few gums which are not considered natural since they are reacted with various chemicals.  These would be Methylcellulose, Hydroxypropal Cellulose, Carboxymethylcellulose and Propylene Glycol Alginate.

  2. Are Gums Harmful?
    No. Most gums are actually considered good sources of soluble and insoluble fiber.  Guar gum, Oat Fiber, Konjac, and Psyllium  are found as products sold in health food stores.

  3. What is the caloric impact of gums?
    Since gums are used at very low levels such as .01-1% of the total formulation, their impact is considered to be negligible.  They do follow the 4:9:4 rule.  4 calories per gm of protein, 9 calories per gm of fat and 4 calories per gm of carbohydrate.

  4. Can I use gums without water?
    Gums are hydrocolloids.   They are hydrophilic or “water loving”.  They are made of long chain molecules with high molecular weight which sweep through existing water molecules upon dispersion in an aqueous system.  As they do, they take on the water or hydrate which accounts for their functionality as either thickeners or gels.  Therefore, there must be some water in the formulation for gums to function. 

  5. What causes lumping when I put the gums into water?
    In order for gums to function properly, they must be dispersed so that each individual gum grain has the ability to hydrate completely.  Each grain needs to go into solution as an independent entity.  Otherwise the grains will collide with each other and cause lumping or “fish eyes”.  Lumping or fish eyes would be indicative that the gums have not hydrated completely.  In fact, if you look closely at the lumps you will see some of the dry gum powder which has not taken on water. There are a number of different ways to ensure proper dispersion. Contact us for additional methods.

  6. Do I need to heat the gums or can I use them in cold applications?
    Many gums are effective when used in non-heated products.  Guar Gum, Xanthan Gum, Tara Gum, Gum Arabic, Lambda Carrageenan, Konjac and Sodium Alginate, Cellulose Gel and Cellulose Gum can hydrate in cold water.  Other gums such as Locust Bean Gum, Kappa Carrageenans and Iota Carrageenans need the additional energy of heat to activate the long chain molecules and get them to hydrate and become effective.  Furthermore, when two or more hydrocolloids are blended in order to promote synergistic reactions and enhanced functionality, heating is often required to allow for the cross linking of molecules from each of the gums.

  7. Can I use gums with starches or instead of starches?
    Starches are also hydrocolloids and are effective in many applications.  However, typical usage levels for starches are much higher than gum usage levels.  Starches are used typically in the range of 4 to 10% while gums are used from 0.1 to 1%.   Gum usage is often more cost efficient than starch.  Many starches tend to mask flavor and affect the flavor profile of a formulation.  Therefore in product development, compensating for this flavor masking by adding greater amounts of flavor can be quite costly.

    Much of the starch in a system can be replaced in order to avoid flavor masking, and the remaining level of starch may serve well as it interacts with the gum which has been incorporated into the system.

  8. Why would I use one gum vs. another?  Aren’t they all the same?
    Fortunately there are many different hydrocolloids to choose from.   Each functions differently in terms of viscosity or thickness, or how gels set – whether it is a soft, elastic gel or a more brittle gel.  Some gums are more effective at suspending particulates while others are better at emulsifying.  Some are good at controlling syneresis and some are better at controlling freeze-thaw stability.

    Further, many gums can be combined to react synergistically to yield many new functions which the individual components by themselves could not.  For example, Locust Bean Gum by itself will form a pseudo gel and Xanthan Gum by itself will not gel, but together they will create a true, smooth elastic gel.

    Gums react differently to a number of variables during processing.  Low pH, or variance in temperatures might cause some gums to break down while others are more tolerant to these variations.   Gums may also react with other ingredients in a formulation. Sodium Alginate reacts with calcium, and Iota Carrageenan reacts with milk proteins -both reactions promoting gel formation.

    The good news is that there are a wide range of gums and gum combinations which  are available for a wide range of functionalities.  For this reason  gums are found in so many different products from salad dressings, shelf stable gel desserts, puddings, baked goods, icings, meats, meat and fish analogs, batters, sauces, gravies, frozen entrees, beverages and much, much more.

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