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What is Guar Gum? Benefits, Uses and Side Effects

Guar gum or guaran is a carbohydrate extracted from the legume Cyamopsis tetragonoloba, whose properties have expanded its use in the food industry. It’s obtained by roasting, grinding, and sieving its seeds until 80% of the polysaccharide galactomannan is concentrated.

Guar gum is one of the additives preferred by the industry as a stabilizer and thickener. It can be used to make sausages, cakes, cookies, cheeses, sauces, and dressings, among others.

In addition, as part of dietary fiber, it has health benefits, such as contributing to diabetes control and aiding intestinal health. However, high doses can have laxative effects.

Let’s take a closer look.

What is Guar Gum?

According to a group of food technologists, guar gum or guaran is a polysaccharide type carbohydrate formed by non-digestible glucomannan molecules. Chemically, it’s a linear chain of mannose branching through the sugar galactose.

It’s obtained from the ground endosperm of the seed of the Indian bean plant known as Cyamopsis tetragonoloba. It belongs to the legume family and is cultivated in India, Africa, Australia, Pakistan, and the United States.

In its commercial form, guar gum has no odor or taste and is a white powder that, when hydrated, forms a thick solution. It has the ability to form chemical bonds with water, which makes its transformation to gels possible at low concentrations. Because of this, it’s often used as a thickener and stabilizer.

On the other hand, it’s a non-digestible carbohydrate that’s included within the soluble dietary fiber. In this sense, an important property of guaran is its ability to delay gastric emptying and slow the absorption of nutrients.

It’s also used in cosmetics, textiles, pharmaceuticals, paper, explosives, and oil well drilling. In today’s article, we will comment on its wide variety of uses.

Uses of Guar gum

Guar gum has many applications in the food industry, in the health area, and in other types of manufacturing. Let’s take a look at the properties that have made it one of the preferred ingredients in these sectors.

1. Guar gum as a food additive

In the food industry, guar gum is used as an additive for a variety of food products, as a stabilizer, and as a source of fiber. Morris explains that guaran has the property of changing the behavior of water. In addition, it’s considered a GRAS or generally recognized as a safe additive.

2. Guar gum in beverages

In beverages, it’s used as a thickener to control viscosity. It’s resistant to the low pH present in these foods due to the addition of certain organic acids.

It’s also soluble in cold water, which facilitates its use in beverage processing plants. In addition, it improves the shelf life of these products.

3. Guar gum in dairy products

The stabilizing and water retention properties of guar gum allow its application in ice cream processing. In these dairy products, guar improves body, texture, chewiness, and resistance to thermal shock.

The case of yogurt occurs when hydrolyzed gum is used at between 2 and 6 %, which decreases water loss from the gel and improves other textural properties. In cheeses, the constant outflow of water from the curd is also a problem. However, the addition of guar gum prevents whey from escaping. The yield of this dairy derivative is also increased this way, especially in low-fat cheeses.

4. Processed meat products

Guar retains water at both low and high temperatures. In meat products, it’s effective as a binder and lubricant for sausages and stuffed derivatives.

In meat products, guar gum controls water loss, fat loss during storage, and maintains the viscosity of the liquid phase. Ham, sausages, bologna, and salami become more stable this way.

5. Salad dressings and sauces

The ideal amounts of guar gum for thickening dressings range from 0.2 to 0.8 %. In emulsions, it functions as a stabilizer, preventing the separation of water and oil. According to some researchers, this gum has become a novel thickener for tomato sauce.

6. Bakery products

Adding guar gum to cake and cookie dough allows these baked goods to be easily removed from the mold and sliced without crumbling. When combined with starch, it’s also effective in preventing dehydration, shrinkage, and cracking of frozen pie fillings.

In wheat bread dough, the addition of guaran increases the volume of the loaf when baked. By binding with other gums, such as xanthan, it maintains the freshness of rice cakes.

It also slows the hardening of other bakery products by being able to control the loss of water from the starch, known as retrogradation.

Health Benefits of Guar Gum

Previous studies have shown that guar gum has some health benefits. We’ll tell you about them.

1. Improves gut health

Partial hydrolysis of guar gum reduces its size and converts it into a novel soluble fiber with applications four our gut health. For example, Nutrition magazine comments that this type of gum can replace the use of laxatives.

Other experts also comment that it reduces the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, such as constipation and diarrhea.

2. Aids in weight loss

Thanks to the gelling capacity of guar gum, greater satiety is achieved with the reduction of gastric emptying. It therefore decreases appetite, hunger, and our desire to eat, which favors weight loss in people with obesity.

3. Reduces blood lipid levels

A group of experts points out that an adequate intake of guar gum not only helps to maintain intestinal regularity, but also to control blood lipid levels.

This gum acts as any soluble fiber by being able to improve the production of bile acids from cholesterol and increase its excretion through feces. This reduces total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol or “bad cholesterol”.

Dietary lipids are significantly reduced in the blood, as the absorption of triglycerides is slowed down. It also lowers the activity of an enzyme that helps release fatty acids from the liver.

4. Controls blood sugar levels

Finally, guar gum also causes slower gastric emptying by increasing the viscosity of ingested food and forming gels during digestion. Therefore, there’s a delay in the absorption of sugar from the small intestine and a decrease in the glycemic index.

In fact, Dartois and colleagues, found in a laboratory study that guar gum can slow the digestion of starch by acting as a barrier that prevents the activity of starch-degrading enzymes. This minimizes its caloric intake.

Side effects of Guaran

Guar gum can be considered safe when it’s present in below 0.5 to 1 % of a food. Above this concentration, it will cause negative effects, such as increased viscosity, decreased protein efficiency, and decreased lipid utilization. At this ratio, the sensory characteristics of the product are also affected.

Very high concentrations of guar gum can cause abdominal distension, nausea, and excessive gas production. When used orally, it should be diluted with about 250 milliliters of water.

Overall, guaran represents one of the few additives that not only improve the sensory and technological characteristics of food products, but also provide health benefits. However, we have to be careful not to abuse the quantities of this additive.

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