Is guar gum gluten-free? When reading the food label of gluten-free foods, you might see a lot of xanthan gum and guar gum listed in the ingredients.
With many people saying they get sick from guar gum, and with it being in so many foods, is it safe for people with celiac disease? In this post, we will explore all things guar gum in gluten-free food to determine if it’s actually gluten-free and safe.
But first, were you ever taught how to identify gluten properly on a food label? If not, sign up for my FREE USA Food Label-Reading Class where I show you EXACTLY what you need to look for on a food label to stay celiac-safe in the USA. Stop stressing over grocery shopping in just 4-simple steps with this FREE training!
When talking about if guar gum is gluten-free, we need to first know what it is. Guar gum, also called guaran, is a galactomannan polysaccharide extracted from guar beans. Guar beans are not a wheat, barley, or rye derivative, and thus, guar beans and their derivatives are gluten-free.
Guar gum has thickening and stabilizing properties useful in food, feed, and industrial applications. It is most typically added to cold foods such as non-dairy milk, ice cream, or pastry filling. However, it is also used in gluten-free cooking and in nondairy milk, bread, waffles, and bread mix.
Guar gum is low in calories and mainly composed of soluble fiber. One teaspoon has 3 grams of fiber. However, when you split that up into multiple servings of baked goods, it is in such tiny amounts that the fiber barely registers. Its protein content may range from 5–6% but again, used in tiny amounts.
When talking about the gluten-free status of guar gum, you might wonder if it’s even safe to have in food. According to an FDA report and articles, a weight loss supplement in the 90’s with a high amount of guar gum caused an obstruction of the esophagus and small bowel and, in some cases, even death.
These dangerous side effects ultimately led the FDA to ban the use of guar gum in weight loss products. However, keep in mind that these side effects were caused by doses of guar gum that are considerably higher than the amount found in most food products. Though the occurrence is rare, guar gum may trigger an allergic reaction in some people.
So as long as you’re not eating large quantities, the small amount of guar gum used as a thickener in many food products is generally considered safe, unless you have an allergy or intolerance.
So we know what guar gum is, when it’s safe, and that it’s used in many gluten-free foods – so is it the same thing as xanthan gum? Xanthan gum and guar gum are not the same thing.
Guar gum, also called guaran, is a galactomannan polysaccharide extracted from guar beans. Xanthan gum is grown as an outer protective layer by bacteria. To make it grow in large quantities for harvesting, companies feed this bacteria glucose (from corn, soy or wheat).
So in short: xanthan gum is made from bacteria-fed glucose and guar gum is extracted from beans.
While they are not the same thing, they do have similarities. They are both thickeners, emulsifiers, and stabilizers. They also are both commonly used in gluten-free products to bind the product in place of gluten.
Guar gum is typically used in/works better in cold foods while xanthan gum works well in hot recipes or foods. 80% of the world’s guar gum is grown in India.
According to WebMD, guar gum absorbs excess liquid in those with diarrhea and softens the stool in those with constipation. Because of its high soluble fiber content, people use guar gum for constipation, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.
So guar gum is made from beans, it’s different from xanthan gum, and it’s helpful in gluten-free foods as a binger… but does it have any side effects?
While possible, it is unlikely to experience the side effects when ingesting guar gum in food. First of all, little is added such as a teaspoon to a recipe. Then you will divide that up by servings so you are eating a fraction of a teaspoon.
Because of this, guar gum is actually usually well-tolerated. Side effects might include bloating and gas. These side effects usually decrease or disappear after several days of consumption. This is because your body may need time to get used to the soluble fiber within it.
Because guar gum is found in various gluten-free foods, if someone experiences gas and bloating after eating a food containing guar gum, they might think they have been glutened which can also cause gas and bloating. This is when understanding what foods are gluten-free is so important because then you can know if it was gluten or something else (like a gum in the foods that you may be reacting poorly to).
I also want to say, just because you poorly react to a gluten-free food with guar gum in it, that doesn’t mean you’re reacting to the guar gum either. There could be a lot at play, the gum is just one part of the picture to consider.
Partly confirmed in the paragraphs above, guar gum is gluten-free. It is made by harvesting the guar bean pods, roasting them, de-husking them, grinding them, and sieving the resulting powder. No part of guar gum makes it unsafe unless it’s in a product that actually contains gluten.
As discussed earlier, many gluten-free foods contain guar gum. It is used as a stabilizer, emulsifier, and thickener. This just means it helps the texture stay consistent in certain foods. According to some sources, its thickening ability is 8x stronger than cornstarch.
Adding guar gum to gluten-free flour can help add structure and rise in baked goods. This works as guar gum mimics the action of gluten by trapping air bubbles generated by leaveners.
Basically, guar gum is a way for manufacturers to create products that meet texture and mouth-feel expectations.
Now that we know guar gum is gluten-free, let’s talk about which gluten-free foods use it in their recipe.
Schar White Bread and Udi’s Delicious Soft White Sandwich Bread both have guar gum in them. Different people prefer the textures of the bread differently so try both!
If you want to bake your own bread you can use Bob’s Red Mill Hearty Whole Grain Bread Mix has guar gum. This mix also has nutrients from various seeds and even blackstrap molasses to provide a bit of iron.
Do you miss waffles? No need to miss them with Van’s Original Gluten-free Waffles which have guar gum. To me, they taste just like Eggo’s.
Do you miss drinking or cooking with milk? So Delicious Coconut Milk is nice and creamy – in part due to the guar gum in it. Use it anywhere you would use regular milk and in the same amounts.
So guar gum does not contain gluten, how do you use it in baking? While guar gum is recommended for cold items (milk, ice cream, etc.) It works well in gluten-free baking as well. It works as a stabilizer, thickener, and emulsifier. Guar gum prevents crumbling and mimics the stretch and elastic texture of gluten-containing products.
Bob’s Red Mill says for Cold Foods (salad dressing, ice creams, pudding) use 1-2 teaspoons per quart of liquid. Play around with the quantities. As with all things gluten-free, it can take some trial and error to get the amounts/consistency just right.
And remember, if you’re substituting it for xanthan gum, make sure you’re using 3 tablespoons of guar gum for every 2 tablespoons of xanthan gum that the recipe calls for.
In order to mix it into a liquid without causing lumps, do this: Create a vortex like a little tornado of liquid by stirring the liquid quickly. Slowly introduce the guar gum into the liquid. This is easiest done with a hand or stand mixer but can be done with a whisk.
Want to know if you can substitute guar gum for xanthan gum in gluten-free baking? While I personally haven’t tried it, my guess is that you’d need to modify how much you use. Other resources seem to agree.
Bob’s Red Mill says, “guar gum is good for cold foods such as ice cream or pastry fillings, while xanthan gum is better for baked goods.” Healthline.com says, “Guar gum is a binding agent that replaces xanthan gum in a 3:2 ratio.”
Based on that, I would approach it with caution. Gluten-free baking is a little finicky. Gluten is an important ingredient for the texture of products and gluten-free baking substitutes, including guar gum, can act a little differently depending on the recipe.
So it takes a little trial and error sometimes to perfect a recipe and get the ratio of ingredients, including guar gum, just right. And if you do try to substitute, make sure you’re using 3 tablespoons of guar gum for every 2 tablespoons of xanthan gum that the recipe calls for.
Guar gum is not the same as xanthan gum but both are gluten-free. Xanthan gum is made from bacteria-fed glucose and guar gum is extracted from beans.
Guar gum is found in many gluten-free foods as a stabilizer, thickener, and emulsifier. It is considered a safe ingredient to add to food, however, in large quantities, it may cause a reaction in some people.
If you’re not sure enjoying guar gum in your diet is a good fit, be sure to discuss your concerns with a dietitian.
And if you find yourself frequently confused about the gluten-free status of ingredients, check out my FREE USA Food Label-Reading Class where I show you EXACTLY what you need to look for on a food label to stay celiac-safe in the USA. Stop stressing over grocery shopping in just 4-simple steps with this FREE training!