Xanthan gum is an ingredient that has increased its presence in products on the shelves of the food industry .
Although it is not usual that when we buy a product we check the labels carefully to read each of the ingredients that make it up, we usually check the taste and perhaps the data on the nutritional value, but if we take a look we can see that xanthan gum is already present in many products.
But… what is xanthan gum? What are its uses and why has it become popular?
Xanthan gum: its uses and properties
Xanthan gum is a high molecular weight polysaccharide obtained by the fermentation of carbohydrates . Its high capacity for solubility and stability in the presence of salts and its resistance to enzymes have made this substance one of the main polymers used in the food industry.
1. Properties of Xanthan gum
The molecular structural rigidity of this rubber provides unusual properties such as heat stability, tolerance to acid, sour and basic solutions. It presents stable viscosity in wide temperature ranges and resistance to enzymatic degradation.
Not soluble in organic solvents. It is easily soluble in high and low temperatures. It must first be completely dissolved in water and then the chosen solvent must be added under continuous agitation.
Aqueous solutions of xanthan gum are highly viscous . This viscosity is not affected by temperature either at freezing or at boiling point.
This is why it is chosen by the food industry as the properties of the end products where they are used remain stable regardless of whether they are in refrigeration, at room temperature or even in hot areas.
Xanthan gum solutions are pseudo-plastic, an important feature in the stabilization of suspensions and emulsions .
This pseudo-plastic property improves the sensory characteristics of the final product (mouthfeel, flavour release) and also ensures a high degree of mixing, pumping and pouring.
All these properties make xanthan gum a highly sought-after ingredient in the food industry as it provides many advantages, and make it an excellent alternative for coeliacs in the preparation of pastries, allowing the bread to sponge, enhancing the taste and allowing for cold or hot storage.
2. Applications of this ingredient in food
The applications of xanthan gum in the food industry and in home food preparation are many and varied.
This is because thanks to its nature and its properties it allows to add texture, flavor, viscosity and to replace ingredients such as some additives, preservatives or gluten that are harmful to health taken in excess or to which some people are allergic.
Xanthan gum is mainly used in bakery products because it makes them fluffier by replacing the gluten in recipes , but its use is just as effective in other types of food.
It is efficient in the elaboration of ice cream, because delays the formation of crystals in freezing , resulting in a much creamier product.
Industrialized and packaged flavored drinks
For drinks that include fruit pulp, xanthan gum is used to keep the fruit pieces suspended, giving them a better appearance .
Because of this ability to keep solids that are not soluble in liquids in suspension, xanthan gum is widely used in industrialized beverages, because it is also compatible with the rest of the ingredients.
Low fat light products
An incredible use of xanthan gum, or xanthan, is that it is applied to low-calorie foods to replace the pleasant sensation produced by fatty foods.
In light coconut milk, this gum is added to compensate for the lack of fat , and this causes the sensation when drinking it to be similar to that of fatty coconut milk.
The gum improves the fluidity and adhesion of the syrups to the fruits and ice cream or pancakes, so controls the runoff and penetration .
Pharmaceutical and cosmetic applications
Xanthan gum is used as a thickener in syrups or as a stabilizer in emulsions for the pharmaceutical industry. For cosmetics it is useful for the stability it provides to pH temperature, salts and acids, as well as to changes in forces such as agitation, so in make-up removal products, creams and masks it is widely used.
Recommendations for home use of Xanthan gum
Side effects are minimal. However, it may cause gas and abdominal bloating for people with severe stomach tenderness. In addition, contains no fat or protein; it is mainly composed of dietary fibre , so it can be useful for sportsmen and women or people who want to take care of their figure.
Some recommendations for home use on breads are to be careful with the amounts you add, because if you use too little, the bread can become brittle and hard, and if you use too much the bread will look shrunken when you take it out of the oven and will continue to reduce its size even days later.
It must also be taken into account what type of liquid flours, flavors and other ingredients are added, as each alters or enhances the properties of xanthan gum.
Xanthan gum is non-toxic and was approved by the US FDA as a food additive in 1969 without any restriction or quantity limit.
- Barré, G.C., Barber, C.E. and Daniels, M.J. (1986) Intl. J. Biological Macromolecules, 8(6): pp. 372-374.