Wednesday, April 13, 2011

gums VS seeds

I have been reading alot of gluten and dairy free blogs online and I am just amazed at what I find. Many gluten free recipes call for xanathan or guar gum. Most people will tell you that you cannot make a gluten free recipe, especially bread, without them. Thankfully, one of the first blogs I came across, The Gluten Free Girl and The Chef, uses flax or chia seeds instead. I opted to use flaxseed, as it has great health benefits, and started googling why it worked just as well.

(**disclaimer** I use Wikipedia quite often for my researching as a starting point. Despite the negative image it sometimes has I for one find it very helpful.)

  • Xanathan gum as described by Wikipedia, "It is produced by fermentation of glucose, sucrose, or lactose by the Xanthomonas campestris bacterium. After a fermentation period, the polysaccharide is precipitated from a growth medium with isopropyl alcohol, dried, and ground into a fine powder. Later, it is added to a liquid medium to form the gum." There are a few things wrong with this. First off - it can be derived from lactose. Not good if you are dairy-free. Secondly, there are a few words in there I can not pronounce nor do I have any idea what they are. I would prefer not to put this in my body, thank you. (**I have noticed a HUGE difference lately in my body when I eat very clean and healthy foods. The first few weeks were definitely an adjustment period but now I crave foods that are much better for me.**)

  • Another website,, notes that xanathan gum comes from the same bacteria that makes leafy vegetables rot. Let me repeat this: the bacteria forms that nasty slimy gunk on rotting leafy vegetables. Ew. Sure it may be 'natural', but are we not told to throw lettuce away when it looks like that???

  • Guar Gum comes from guar beans. Thats definitely better than a sugar-y bacteria. Wikipedia explains that guar gum has a much higher water thickening potency than cornstarch so only a small amount is needed. Now that's pretty cool, right? Wrong. The medicinal effects? "Guar gum is a water-soluble fiber that acts as a bulk forming laxative, and as such, it is claimed to be effective in promoting regular bowel movements and relieve constipation and chronic related functional bowel ailments". That's right, it's used as a laxative.

Okay so guar gum honestly doesn't look to be all that bad, minus the laxative effect if too much is used. But where are the health benefits?? If you are looking to stay 'regular' in the bathroom flaxseeds are a much better option.

  • Flaxseeds contain high fiber, Omega-3's, lignan, and are low in carbs. They help regulate your digestive system, battle inflammation, and stabilize your blood sugar. There are so many healthy components to this tiny seed its almost unbelievable! Web MD has a great article on flaxseeds with all the health benefits. But how do these amazing little seeds act as a 'gluten'? Flaxseed is a lesser used hydrocolloid - which acts like a gelatin in water. Both xanathan and guar gums are also hydrocolloids. So why not use the one that has more health benefits?
    A recent article I came across on Food Navigator USA talks about mixing flaxseed with maize starch to form a gum. The part that I found interesting is that the mixture, especially with a higher content of flaxseed, acted better under cooler temperatures. That would be why the dough always becomes more pliable after sitting in the fridge for a bit.

  • Chia seeds (yes they are the same seeds as the infamous 'chia pets') are my most recent study and I would love to start using them in my baking. Chia seeds have similar benefits as flax and naturally curb hunger. They have high levels of Omega-3's, contain 20 percent protein, 34 percent oil, 25 percent dietary fiber, and lots of antioxidents. Just a tablespoon or two of chia will give you a huge boost of energy that lasts for almost 90 minutes! Many marathon runners eat chia seeds as they are great fuel for endurance. Google search chia seeds and you will find many health benefits.

The conclusion? Seeds have much better health benefits for you. Why use anything else?

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