Thickeners – What You Need to Know

Thickeners are one of many ingredients added to processed foods. And they do just that: thicken. They absorb water and form a gel-like consistency. They’re often used to make foods thick and creamy, without having to add a lot of fat.

Thickeners also tend to emulsify and stabilize foods they’re added to. Emulsification allows fats and water to mix better and prevents them from separating (i.e., oil/vinegar salad dressing versus a thicker or creamier emulsified dressing). And “stabilizing” helps the product have a longer shelf-life before the “best before” date.

Thickeners are often found in canned dairy-free milk and any milk that comes in a carton, baked goods, soups/sauces/gravies, puddings/ice cream, etc. Some are even added to dietary supplements!

These thickeners are polysaccharides, which means they’re long chains of many (poly) saccharides (sugars). They’re typically difficult to digest, which makes them similar to dietary fibre. And this also means they can help you feel fuller longer without providing many calories or any nutrients.

They’re naturally-derived but are heavily processed to extract the compound. (Did I say “heavily?”)

 

FUN FACT: food additives are considered anti-nutrients because they reduce the absorption of dietary minerals like calcium.

 

Overall, for the general healthy population, in small doses, these thickeners don’t seem to create massive health concerns. But, even though they’re extracted from whole foods, they’re far from it. Plus, there are lots of reasons to avoid them altogether.

Let’s briefly dive into five of the common ones.

 

XANTHAN GUM

 

Xanthan gum is made by a bacteria called Xanthomonas campestris. This bacteria can cause diseases in plants (e.g., leaf spot). The xanthan gum is created when the bacteria ferment sugar. Xanthan gum is extracted from the liquid, dried, and ground.

Because it’s like dietary fibre, xanthan gum has been shown to help reduce blood sugar spikes. Its thickening properties can help slow the absorption of sugar, therefore slowing the speed sugar can get into the bloodstream.

In high doses, xanthan gum can act as a laxative and can cause bloating, gas, and diarrhea. It also may act as a prebiotic (food for our friendly gut microbes), but more research is needed.

Xanthan gum should be avoided by infants and people with severe wheat, corn, soy, or dairy allergies.

 

GUAR GUM

 

Guar gum is made from legumes called guar beans. These beans are split, and the endosperm is ground to get the guar gum.

Like xanthan gum, guar gum may reduce blood sugar spikes, act as a laxative, and possibly a prebiotic.

In rodents, guar gum has been shown to increase intestinal permeability (i.e., leaky gut).

 

CELLULOSE GUM

 

Cellulose gum is made from wood pulp and cotton. To extract the cellulose gum, the pulp is processed with several chemicals, which are then removed.

Cellulose gum can cause bacterial overgrowth and inflammation in animals who eat large amounts of it. It’s been suspected to be linked with IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease).

 

CARRAGEENAN

 

Carrageenan is made from red seaweed that’s dried, ground, chemically treated, filtered, and dehydrated.

Carrageenan can increase intestinal permeability (i.e., leaky gut). It has been linked to gastrointestinal inflammation, ulcers, and colitis-like conditions in animals. It has also been used in high doses to cause tumors in animals for cancer research.

Unlike other thickeners, some rodent studies have shown that carrageenan can worsen blood sugar control issues.

 

LECITHIN

 

Lecithin most often comes from soybeans, but can also come from eggs, canola, or sunflower seeds. It’s heavily processed with chemicals and then purified.

Lecithin also contains phospholipids, triglycerides, sterols, free fatty acids, and carotenoids.

One of lecithin’s metabolites (what your body metabolizes lecithin into once it’s absorbed) is linked to heart disease. On the other hand, it does lower serum cholesterol. Overall, the jury seems to be out on its heart health effects.

 

CONCLUSION

 

Thickeners are highly processed food additives derived from nature. They are found in many processed foods because they thicken, reducing the amount of fat needed.

In the body, they can act as a dietary fibre, and may have some of the health benefits of that. But, they can also contribute to gastrointestinal issues, especially in higher doses. They can also be allergenic in small doses.

Do you read your labels to see which thickeners are in your foods? Are you going to look out for these additives? Let me know in the comments below.

 

Recipe (Thickener-free): Creamy Salad Dressing
Serves 8-12

INGREDIENTS

1 avocado, ripe
½ cup coconut milk – use one without added thickeners or make your own like I did here (you may need more to thin)
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp dill, dried
1 tsp chives, dried
1 tsp parsley, dried
½ tsp basil, dried
4 dashes salt
4 dashes pepper

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender. Blend until creamy.
  2. Add more coconut milk or herbs/spices to reach desired consistency and flavour.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Add cilantro for additional flavour.

 

References:

https://www.thepaleomom.com/is-it-paleo-guar-gum-xanthan-gum-and-lecithin-oh-my/

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/xanthan-gum

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/guar-gum

https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/cellulose-gum

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/carrageenan

About Me


Hi, I’m Tracy! I create food solutions to feed your life goals. I’m a Nutritionist, chocoholic + superhero fan. Mom to three, wife to one, crazy about all four, and food! When you work with me you’ll learn to savour life and nourish all that it has to offer.

The Culinary Nutrition Expert Program

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Having dessert on-hand is a regular thing in my house and I can teach you how to have it too without all the unnecessary sugar spikes, inflammation, hormonal imbalance, mood swings, and weight gain that go along with the wrong kind of sugar. 

For starters, try using dates as your form of sugar. Its far healthier than the addictive white processed sugar that is one of the leading contributors of chronic disease.

Dates provide a slow-releasing form of sugar and are heart healthy with their generous amount of potassium. Their soluble fibre help to lower bad Cholesterol and they basically defy the dogma that all sugar is bad.

Theyve also been used as a traditional remedy for sore throats, colds, and bronchial issues. 

Of course, if youre trying to avoid sugar completely for a period of time, then these wont do. But, were nearing the holidays so whos doing that...!?!

Contact me to learn how we can work together to conquer your cravings without giving up dessert through the #linkinbio

#cravings #moodswings #chronicdisease #wholefoods #rightsugar #sugar #processed #cleaneats #chocolate #dessert #foodforthought #getclean #nutritionist #goals #feelbetter #newyou #2020 #snack #snacktime #wellness #brainhealth #hormones #hormonehealth #happy #nutrients #fruit

Having dessert on-hand is a regular thing in my house and I can teach you how to have it too without all the unnecessary sugar spikes, inflammation, hormonal imbalance, mood swings, and weight gain that go along with the wrong kind of sugar.

For starters, try using dates as your form of sugar. It's far healthier than the addictive white processed sugar that is one of the leading contributors of chronic disease.

Dates provide a slow-releasing form of sugar and are heart healthy with their generous amount of potassium. Their soluble fibre help to lower bad Cholesterol and they basically defy the dogma that all sugar is bad.

They've also been used as a traditional remedy for sore throats, colds, and bronchial issues.

Of course, if you're trying to avoid sugar completely for a period of time, then these won't do. But, we're nearing the holidays so who's doing that...!?!

Contact me to learn how we can work together to conquer your cravings without giving up dessert through the #linkinbio

#cravings #moodswings #chronicdisease #wholefoods #rightsugar #sugar #processed #cleaneats #chocolate #dessert #foodforthought #getclean #nutritionist #goals #feelbetter #newyou #2020 #snack #snacktime #wellness #brainhealth #hormones #hormonehealth #happy #nutrients #fruit
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Wow those look tasty. Also, people are very seldom allergic to dates ☺ I love them with raw natural almonds. Or as a syrup or paste to sweeten things naturally

Love my dates!

Im OVER-THE-MOON to be speaking @blendcateringco s first cooking class of 2020 called New Year, New You!

Well be covering meal planning and how to incorporate the best quality ingredients for you or your family for 2020! Knowing Chef Erica, your meals will probably look beautiful too.

Check out her beautifully styled food over at her page and if youre planning a party, corporate event, or even a wedding, then youll want to check out her elevated style of cooking and website.

https://www.blendcateringco.com/ 

#local #food #cookingclass #learntocook #2020goals #goals #foodgoals #mealplan #nutritionist #chef #bossbabe #chef #passion #cookwithpassion #hamiltonevents #entrepreneur #goodeats #cleaneats #foodofinstagram #beautifulcuisine

I'm OVER-THE-MOON to be speaking @blendcateringco 's first cooking class of 2020 called New Year, New You!

We'll be covering meal planning and how to incorporate the best quality ingredients for you or your family for 2020! Knowing Chef Erica, your meals will probably look beautiful too.

Check out her beautifully styled food over at her page and if you're planning a party, corporate event, or even a wedding, then you'll want to check out her elevated style of cooking and website.

www.blendcateringco.com/

#local #food #cookingclass #learntocook #2020goals #goals #foodgoals #mealplan #nutritionist #chef #bossbabe #chef #passion #cookwithpassion #hamiltonevents #entrepreneur #goodeats #cleaneats #foodofinstagram #beautifulcuisine
... See MoreSee Less

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