A Sticky Situation
Do you read ingredient labels of your food? I do. In fact, I do my best to eat as many foods as possible with NO labels, AKA whole foods. If you eat an apple, you will not find an ingredient label. It’s pretty obvious. It’s just an apple. However, even when it comes to foods marketed as ‘healthy’, the more processing that the food undergoes, the weirder and weirder the ingredients seem to get. I used to actually pretend I didn’t see certain ingredients such as ‘guar gum‘ and ‘carrageenan gum‘ and ‘xanthan gum‘ in my box of almond milk or vegan coconut ice cream. I mean, come on, it’s gotta be healthy, right? No gluten, no dairy, totally organic, yadda yadda yadda. But still, those awkward gums were lurking there on the ingredient list, and as hard as I tried to ignore them, I knew I needed to educate myself. I’m not talking about chewing gum, though most chewing gums actually contain these other gums. Gum in gum?! Not so yum!
Before I give you the scoop on these ingredients, I need to express something. When it comes to eating foods that do not support health, I have heard things like, ‘well, I only had one piece’ or, ‘I only have a little bit’. Though I trust you are accurate in your reasons for consuming certain foods that you know are not good for you, please consider that eating ‘just a little bit’ of cyanide will still kill you. I’m not necessarily saying that ingredients known to cause health issues will kill you if you have just a little bit of them, but I’m also not saying they won’t. Our culture is currently facing near-epidemic rates of chronic physical illness, which can be attributed to the industrialization and chemicalization of foods. This did not exist 100 years ago, and though people’s life spans were shorter, people were not dying of the same degenerative diseases that they are today.
Okay, enough morbid talk. Let’s talk about gums. Gums are added to processed foods, especially health foods, and are used as ‘binders’ and ‘fillers’ and ‘thickeners’ to add a certain texture to foods. For example, ice cream wouldn’t be as creamy without it. Almond milk wouldn’t have quite the same smooth texture without it. Gums help bind together ingredients to give the consumer a more pleasurable and palatable sensory experience. Unfortunately, as great as the food may feel in your mouth, you are still swallowing these chemicals. So what happens once the gum gets to your gut?
Here are some gums to look out for and what they have been linked to:
1. Guar gum: This gum has been linked to gastrointestinal issues, such as IBS.
2. Xanthan gum: This has been linked to intestinal issues, such as colitis, especially in infants. This ingredient is commonly found in gluten free baked goods, but beware: it is produced by bacterial fermentation of some sugar-containing source, which is usually a high allergen food such as corn, soy, or wheat. Many companies who use this ingredient do not disclose the medium they ferment in order to extract xanthan gum. So essentially, you can be eating a gluten free product made with xanthan gum that was originally fermented from a food containing gluten. Not cool. Plus, it begins with ‘x’. I don’t trust food that begins with the letter ‘x’. Sorry.
3. Carrageenan gum: Linked to colon cancer, inflammation (the root of all disease), and compromised immune system function.
Keep in mind, these ingredients are relatively new, so even though studies have been done, the long term effects of these food additives have yet to be discovered. I strongly encourage you to do your own research so you can make an educated choice as to what you consume and what you don’t. Knowledge is power.
Want milk without the yucky stuff? Make your own!
Is it ice cream you really want? Fine. Try this recipe:
CHOCOLATE BANANA BLISS ICE CREAM:
2 frozen ripe bananas, cut in chunks
1 tbsp almond butter
1/4 cup frozen blueberries
1/2 tbsp cacao powder
-optional vanilla extract
DIRECTIONS: Blend in food processor until creamy.
*Experiment with adding more or less superfood ingredients/toppings such as chopped walnuts, spirulina powder (I know, yum), goji berries, hemp seeds, bee pollen… the list goes on.. OR keep it simple by blending JUST frozen bananas. You will be pleasantly surprised. GUMS UP to that! Oops, I mean THUMBS UP!