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What is Gellan Gum and Is It Healthy For You?

Jason Hughes
Published by Jason Hughes
Fact checked by Markus Oliver, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: June 7, 2022

Have you ever seen the ingredient gellan gum on a food label and wondered what it was? This mysterious-sounding additive is actually a type of carbohydrate that is derived from bacteria. It is used to thicken and stabilize processed foods, and it has become increasingly popular in recent years.

But what are the health implications of consuming gellan gum? Is it safe for human consumption? In this article, we will explore these questions and more.

What Is Gellan Gum?

Gellan gum was first invented in the 1970s by Japanese scientists who were looking for a way to create artificial algae (Yes, you read that correctly!). Eventually, they discovered that this substance could be used as a food additive because of its unique properties.

It is classified as a polysaccharide, which means that it is made up of long chains of sugar molecules. Gellan gum is produced by fermentation, and it is often used as a vegetarian or vegan alternative to gelatin.

In the culinary world, it's often added to help bind, texturize, or stabilize processed foods. You can compare gellan gum to a number of other similar additives, like agar agar, guar gum, xanthan gum, and carrageenan.

How Does Gellan Gum Work?

You can simply the gellan gum process by calling it an emulsifier. The way it works with processed foods is that it helps to bind together water and oil-based substances, preventing them from separating.

This is why you'll often find it in salad dressings, jams, jellies, and sauces. It's also often used as a thickener for pudding, ice cream, and yogurt.

Gellan gum does this by forming a gel-like substance when it comes into contact with water. This gel is then able to surround and suspend other ingredients in a food product, keeping the same consistency.

The gelling process also allows manufacturers to create products with the desired texture. For example, if they want to create a yogurt that is extra thick and creamy, they will add gellan gum to the recipe.

What Is Gellan Gum Used For?

Gellan gum has a number of uses that help other ingredients stand out in recipes.

For example, gellan gum is used in a lot of juices or plant milk to make them stronger and able to hold more nutrients. Calcium is a nutrient that has a hard time mixing thoroughly into plant milk and would pool at the bottom of the container if gellan gum were not added.

Adding a little bit of gellan gum to desserts is ideal because it creates a nice and creamy texture without adding any flavor of its own. If you've ever had a pudding or mousse that was too runny, it likely needed more gellan gum.

Gellan gum is also used in some savory applications like sauces, dressings, and soups to give them a thicker consistency.

Why Gellan Gum Is Added

The reason gellan gum is used over a variety of other additives that have been mentioned is the amount of gellan gum needed.

Instead of having to add a lot of the ingredients, only small amounts are used to achieve a similar effect as other additives that have been added in larger quantities.

Gellan gum is also a popular replacement for gelatin. The reason is that gelatin is made from pieces of an animal like the skin, cartilage, and bone. For people who are vegetarian or vegan, gellan gum is a plant-based alternative that works perfectly with both diets.

Another advantage of gellan gum is that it is more resistant to heat than the other additives so it can be used for cooking in high temps.

Is Gellan Gum Safe?

The short answer is yes, gellan gum is considered safe for human consumption. In fact, it has been approved for use in food by the FDA and other international organizations.

That said, there have been a few studies that have linked gellan gum to bloating and other digestive issues in some people.

It is also important to note that gellan gum is often used in processed foods, so it's always best to consume these foods in moderation.

If you are concerned about the health implications of consuming gellan gum, talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian.

FAQ

What are the side effects of gellan gum?

The potential side effects of gellan gum include bloating and other digestive issues. Gellan gum is only used in processed foods which should always be consumed in moderation.

Is gellan gum vegan?

Yes, gellan gum is vegan. It is a plant-based alternative to gelatin, which is made from pieces of an animal.

Why is gellan gum in almond milk?

Gellan gum is used as an emulsifier with almond milk and helps retain the consistency of nutrients throughout the milk.


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