Answer: It depends.
Gellan gum is a nature-based ingredient that is used in various food products. It provides stabilization, suspension, texturization, and thickening for the products.
The answer to the question, “Is gellan gum vegan?” is not so simple. It is so because gellan gum is a vegetarian ingredient. All vegan ingredients are vegetarian, but vice versa is not always true.
However, gellan gum is available in vegan versions as well. Therefore, the answer entirely depends on the version of gellan gum.
The usage of gellan gum has been on the rise for quite some time now. Therefore, more vegans are questioning if it is vegan or not.
In this article, we shall discuss more on the topic of gellan gum. So, please keep reading to find out how beneficial or harmful gellan gum can be for the vegan community.
What Is Gellan Gum?
In 1978, scientists first discovered gellan gum in a lily pond in Pennsylvania, USA. Gellan gum grows naturally in water lilies, although it can be artificially manufactured as well. Initially, it was used as a substitute for gelatin and agar-agar.
However, it is currently used in a wide range of processed food products. Some of them include candies, jam, and fortified plant milk.
Generally, it is used to stabilize or texturize processed foods by binding the components. It is similar to gelling agents such as carrageenan, agar-agar, and guar gum.
Moreover, it is more popular than other gelling agents. It has replaced many gelling agents in recent years due to its effective results with smaller quantities of gum.
Additionally, it is a plant-based alternative for gelatin that is derived from animal cartilage or skin. You can find various vegan versions of gellan gum as well that are produced via bacterial fermentation.
Vegan Community’s Concerns And Challenges
The vegan community is growing bigger with every passing day. Therefore, the number of people questioning the accuracy of food levels are also increasing. This change has led to an increase in awareness among brands about the way they label their products.
As a result, companies have avoided adding misleading tags to their products. Moreover, many companies are avoiding labeling themselves as vegan companies to avoid any negative attention.
However, with an increasing number of vegans entering the food industry, there is a substantial change in the manufacturing end. Also, numerous non-profit vegan and vegetarian community-driven organizations are addressing the issues as well.
Gellan gum is a vegetarian ingredient used as a plant-based substitute for gelatin. Moreover, it is approved by the USDA, European Union, and the World Health Organization’s Joint Council on Food Additives.
Also, it has been proven safe for usage in the food industry for over thirty years. Hence, it is studied and researched extensively.
However, gellan gum is not always a vegan option, although it is plant-based. It is so because gellan gum is produced from the fermentation of lactose. Also, some manufacturers use gellan gum in fortified plant drinks such as almond milk and fruit juice to stabilize the supplements.
Several manufacturers add gellan gum to their list of ingredients and vaguely describe it as vegan. On the other hand, many brands ensure to use organic and lactose-free fermentation process of gellan gum.
Gellan gum is plant-based, so it does not contain any gelatin. However, it has minimal amounts of vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin B. Also, it has a minimal amount of minerals such as calcium or iron.
The nutritional content of gellan gum per 100 grams:
- Potassium – 500mg
- Total Carbohydrate – 93.5g
- Dietary Fiber -8.5g
- Sugars – 0g
- Protein – 0g
Benefits Of Gellan Gum
Gellan gum is technically a type of exopolysaccharide that is produced by certain kinds of fermentation.
Exopolysaccharides are sugar-based polysaccharides secreted by microorganisms into their environment. Specifically, they are produced using a culture called Sphingomonas elodea. There are also small amounts of gellan gum found in lily pads.
It is similar to other products generally used to bind ingredients together. Some of them include starch and flour.
Gellan gum is known for its several health benefits. However, there is not much scientific evidence backing the claimed benefits.
Let us discuss some of these benefits as you read on. Gellan gum can relieve constipation by adding mass and bulk to the stool.
Therefore, it helps the stool move smoothly out of your gut. Moreover, this has some evidence to prove the claim. However, some of the studies are outdated and found in minimal numbers.
Gellan gum is also linked to weight loss and appetite control. However, there is not enough evidence it proves it strongly.
Additionally, it is said to lower blood sugar levels and cholesterol levels. Nonetheless, even this claim does not have substantial evidence.
However, to this ingredient’s credit, there have been very few studies on these specific claims. Furthermore, numerous studies and research are backing its safety to use an ingredient in food and beverages.
Is Gellan Gum A Safe Ingredient?
According to the USDA and European Food Safety Authority, gellan gum is entirely safe to use. It is also one of the widely used ingredients for stabilization in recent times.
Also, gellan gum is generally the last ingredient listed on labels of food products. It means that this ingredient is used in tiny quantities. Nonetheless, it is vital to mention gellan gum if used in manufacturing food and beverage products. Also, it can cause side effects in some people. It can be an excellent ingredient to help people with constipation, but it can slow digestion in some people.
However, it is highly unlikely for users to experience this as it is used in minute quantities. Thus, the side effects are almost zero from this ingredient.
Special Groups Precaution
No evidence suggests that gellan gum can have any adverse effects on particular groups. These groups include newborns, children, pregnant people, and other vulnerable people.
However, it is still better to consult professionals before consuming large quantities or for a more extended period.
Is Gellan Gum Gluten Free?
Yes, gellan gum is gluten free. Therefore, it is widely used in gluten-free recipes and commercial food. It provides a better texture to food such as biscuits, cookies, and candies without making them intolerant to gluten-sensitive people.
Why is gellan gum gluten-free? It is gluten-free since it contains no proteins. Gellan gum is a polysaccharide that is significantly different from protein.
Moreover, the raw materials used in making gellan gum are derived from corn and not wheat or grain. Hence, it does not contain any gluten impurity.
Uses Of Gellan Gum
Gellan gum is available under various brand names. Some of them include Nanogel-TC, Gelrich, Grovgel, GELRITE, Phytagel, and AppliedGel.
Usually, you can find them in any of the local stores. However, if you do not see them anywhere in the stores, you can order them online.
You will only need a small amount of gellan gum. since it can do the job. Also, since it is a thickening agent, it is not recommended to consume them directly like carrageen.
You can look for vegan gellan gums manufactured using bacteria fermentation for all your vegan recipes. It will add texture, create fluid bonding, and stabilize the dishes.
Also, you will have to use it with liquids to dissolve it. The temperature of the liquid does not matter.
If you use it in recipes, find products with a concentration range of 0.2 percent to 1.0 percent gellan gum. Moreover, it works very quickly, and your recipes will gel very fast. Hence, it is better to use it in a lesser amount.
As you are now aware, it is safe and widely used; there is no limit on the dosage. However, it is still recommended to use it in smaller quantities. Also, if you want to use it in large amounts, you can contact professionals before doing so.
You can store it in a cool, dry, and ventilated place away from sources of moisture and heat. Also, it has a shelf life of about 24 months when stored in the right conditions.
Most gellan gums are vegan. However, some of them are not.
To be on the safer side, it is essential to know that the food you consume is 100% vegan. So, is gellan gum vegan?
Gellan gum is a plant-based gelling agent alternative to animal-based gelatin. However, whether it is vegan or not entirely depends on the manufacturing process.
Hence, if you find that the gellan gum in your food or beverage is cultured without lactose, it is vegan. On the other hand, it is only vegetarian and not vegan if it is fermented using lactose. Although, in most cases, manufacturers avoid using lactose.
Therefore, research and the Vegan Certified symbols are the best way to know if vegan gellan gum goes into manufacturing or not.