Xanthan gum is a water-soluble, high-molecular-weight polysaccharide, produced by a pure culture fermentation process of carbohydrate by the naturally occurring bacterium, Xanthomonas campestris. It was discovered in the 1950s at the Northern Regional Research Laboratories (NRRL) of the United States Department of Agriculture. This food additive is made from fermented corn sugar broken down by some plant-bacteria called Xanthomonas campestris. The remaining residue is dried and turned into a powder.
As the term “gum” implies, xanthan gum gives items such as gluten free bread some of the texture and consistency that we’re all familiar with from our non-gluten free days. It provides some of that natural gumminess inherent to gluten in products without it. This ingredient becomes even more important when you remove other binders, such as eggs, when making gluten free products vegan. When mixed with some of the other gums, such as locust or guar gum, the result is an even better binder which explains why they are often used together in products. Similar to baking powder and baking soda, a small amount of xanthan gum is typically enough to do the trick. Many recipes won’t call for more than a tablespoon of the powder total. Outside of baking, xanthan gum is also used to thicken sauces, gravies, dressings, and ice cream. Xanthan gum is generally used as a thickener, stabilizer, emulsifier and foaming agent. In manufacturing, Xanthan gum is used as a thickening and stabilizing agent in foods, toothpastes, and medicines. Xanthan gum is also an ingredient in some sustained-release pills.
You should consult with a qualified healthcare practitioner before using any herbal products, particularly if you are pregnant, nursing, or on any medications.
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