Great question! The quick answer is… Yes! Guar gum is vegan.
But why am I seeing it in so many products?
Is it healthy or unhealthy?
Lets explore these questions in this Registered Dietitian Nutritionist written article!
Disclaimer: This post is not providing personal medical advice. Always talk to your doctor before adding a supplement or making major dietary changes. See our Disclaimers for more details.
What Is Guar Gum?
FYI: This article is focusing on guar gum used in the food industry. You may also be interested to know that it is has been used in the paper, pet food (yes, you may very well find guar gum in pet food too!) and other industries as well.
Guar gum is extracted from guar beans, making it a fully plant based substance (aka: vegan!). The domesticated species is typically grown in India and Pakistan.
Guar gum is type of fiber that is mainly composed of two polysaccharides (meaning many sugars), galactose and mannose. These sugars have the ability to react with water, forming a strong hydrogen bond, and producing a gum or gel like texture.
You may have observed this change in appearance when you combine the powder with a room temperature or cold liquid, and it becomes gel or gummy like -hence the name guar “gum!”
Where might you have seen guar gum?
Well, in the food industry, guar gum is often found as a food additive, for uses such as stabilizing or binding. For example, guar gum in almond milk may help prevent the separation of the other ingredients, so you aren’t just tasting almonds or water in each sip.
Here’s some examples of food items that may contain guar gum in the ingredients list:
- Certain dairy products (for example, in ice creams as well as vegan ice cream too!)
- Plant based milks
- Certain baked goods (such as those labeled gluten free)
- Salad dressings
- And many more food products
As you may have noticed, some of these products may or may not be vegan. So if that is important to you, make sure you double check the ingredients list!
Why Is Guar Gum Important for Vegan Food?
Perhaps you are noticing guar gum in certified vegan products, or you have a vegan cookbook that calls for it… What makes guar gum so special for vegans?
Well, there may be several reasons. For one, it can serve as a replacement for the popular thickener: gelatin, otherwise known as a non vegan product that comes from the protein found in animal parts (ie: bones, tendons), and then combined with water.
As in many things, there are many ways to get one thing done (in this case, add a thickening agent)!
Is cellulose gum vegan? Is xanthan gum vegan? Yes and yes!
And in certain instances, they (and the following) might be vegan substitutes for gelatin – depending on how it reacts with other ingredients. Here is a list (FYI: not a comprehensive list):
- Xanthan gum
- Cellulose gum
- Agar agar
- Gum Arabic
- Guar Gum
Is Guar Gum Safe?
First and foremost, if you are allergic to guar gum, avoid it!
Now that we got that out of the way, lets further discus its safety aside from a food allergy.
In the United States, Guar gum as an additive is listed as GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) in specific set amounts for use in foods, such as sauces, jam, and breakfast cereals.
However, when used in high doses, such as in specific diet pills that contained guar gum, severe adverse events could occur, such as small bowel and esophageal obstruction and even death.
Whoa, those are serious consequences. But what about using guar gum in amounts that are not harmfully high? Are there any concerns with that?
Lets discuss next.
Is Guar Gum Bad For You?
So we established that those with guar gum allergies shouldn’t eat guar gum, and weight loss pills that contain harmfully high amounts aren’t safe.
Anything else to keep in mind?
Well, you might be presently surprised to learn that guar gum may actually have beneficial health effects when used in appropriate (not high – as in certain banned weight loss pills for example) amounts!
As mentioned, guar gum is high in fiber, which may be where most of the health benefits lie.
However, some studies note that gastrointestinal symptoms such as gas may accompany certain amounts of guar gum intake, so keep that mind.
As with many other topics in food and nutrition, we are still learning about the research on the health benefits and potential downsides of guar gum use, so keep in the know!
Where can Can I Buy Guar Gum Powder?
Wanting to buy guar gum powder for use in recipes?
It could be tricky to find at your typical grocery store (although not impossible).
You might have better luck finding it at a health food store or on Amazon.
In Conclusion: Is Guar Gum Vegan?
Yes! Guar gum is derived from a plant, and does not involve animal products, making it vegan.
It is found in variety of food products as a stabilizer or thickener for example. However, some of these food products may have non vegan ingredients making them – well, not vegan! So look at the ingredients label if this is important to you.
Finally, guar gum should be avoided in unsafe high amounts. Talk to your doctor about any questions or concerns you may have.
We hope this post was informative! Let us know what you think in the comments below.
Are you new to or wanting to learn more about a vegan diet? Then you have to check out our article Vegan for Beginners! We discuss nutrients to have on your radar, supplements to discus with your doctor, tips, and more!
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May the fork be with you…