A widely used ingredient in many recipes, gluten-free baked goods, and even some medications, xanthan gum is considered to be a safe food additive. If you do the keto diet, you’ll likely come across this additive and wonder, is xanthan gum keto?
Here’s everything you need to know about xanthan gum — how it’s produced, whether it’s allowed for low-carbohydrate lifestyles, possible risks, uses, and alternatives.
Xanthan gum is an FDA-approved food additive that’s made through the process of fermentation. Basically, it involves fermenting a carbohydrate (e.g. glucose syrup, starch, or sucrose) with Xanthomonas campestris bacteria (*). Commonly used as a thickener or stabilizer, xanthan gum easily dissolves in hot or cold water and produces a viscous solution. It has a neutral taste, making it work quite well for nearly all recipes!
Foods and drinks containing xanthan gum include:
- Salad dressings
- Baked goods
- Gluten-free products
- Frozen cocktails
- Coffee (to thicken it up)
- Ice cream
- Is Xanthan Gum
Xanthan gum has zero net carbs, which makes it a keto-friendly option. It’s also very low in calories — a 9-gram (2 tablespoons) serving contains only 30 calories. Moreover, it has no fat or protein (*). As a keto-friendly product, xanthan gum can make cooking or baking low-carb recipes easier without having to resort to cornstarch (which isn’t keto).
You might be asking how xanthan gum can help someone following a low-carb lifestyle. While xanthan gum serves as an effective thickener and stabilizer, you’ll be surprised that it helps relieve constipation and supports weight loss.
Here are some of the advantages of incorporating xanthan gum into your keto diet:
- Keeps your daily carbs low: Xanthan gum does not add carbs to your meals since it has zero net carbs. This means you can create keto-friendly versions of almost anything, from sauces to muffins and other recipes that typically use high-carb ingredients.
- Increases your fiber intake: 2 tablespoons of xanthan gum provides 7 grams of fiber. While you can get fiber from avocado, broccoli, and chia seeds, xanthan gum in your recipes helps to meet your fiber intake on keto.
- May lower blood sugar: A study involving subjects who had diabetes found that eating muffins that contained xanthan gum led to lower fasting and after-meal blood glucose levels (*).
- May lower cholesterol: An older study notes that daily consumption of xanthan gum resulted in a 10% reduction (which is considered moderate) in serum cholesterol (*). Keep in mind that more evidence is needed to support this idea.
- A gluten-free alternative to conventional thickeners: The keto diet consists of mostly gluten-free foods, and xanthan gum is one of the baking products to use if you need something that mimics the properties of gluten!
Xanthan gum may cause digestive issues when consumed in large doses — for instance, 15 grams of xanthan gum. These potential problems include gas, bloating, more frequent bowel movements, softer stools, and diarrhea. If you’re prone to having digestive problems, it may be best to avoid it.
You’ve learned earlier that xanthan gum can help control blood sugar levels. That said, those who are taking diabetes medication should be careful to consume only small amounts of xanthan gum. This is to avoid causing a significant drop in their blood sugar.
Another important thing to note is that individuals who are allergic to corn, soy, and dairy (all of which are sources of glucose) might want to avoid xanthan gum — unless they’re sure where the xanthan gum was sourced.
Thanks to xanthan gum’s practical uses and potential benefits, anyone embracing a low-carb and gluten-free lifestyle can take advantage of it. Below, we’ll explore the different ways to maximize xanthan gum in your kitchen.
As a thickening agent
Choose the liquid you would like to thicken up (such as sauces, condiments, soups, creams). Sprinkle just a small amount and blend the liquid until it is completely mixed. Alternatively, combine ¼ teaspoon of xanthan gum with 1 tablespoon of hot water before mixing it into a cup of your preferred liquid.
To improve the texture of no-bake foods
Keto sugar-free cheesecakes and energy balls or bars are some examples of recipes that call for xanthan gum. How xanthan gum works is that it holds your ingredients together, providing a glue-like consistency similar to gluten. The result is that your no-bake desserts stay moist and they keep their shape!
To create a crispy coating for fried foods
Make gluten-free fried chicken by coating the chicken using a combination of low-carb flours (such as almond flour and coconut flour), paprika, and of course — xanthan gum. Similar to regular breadcrumbs or flour, adding xanthan gum can produce a crispy and crunchy texture.
To make beverages smoother and creamier
Improve the mouthfeel of your drinks to make them thicker and creamier. This includes protein shakes, smoothies, coffee, and cocktails. Just keep in mind that too much xanthan gum will result in a drink that’s too thick, which you wouldn’t want.
In case you have trouble finding xanthan gum, it’s possible to replace it with other ingredients that have similar functions. Below are examples of xanthan gum keto-friendly alternatives:
- Egg whites
- Konjac powder
- Psyllium husk
- Chia seeds
- Ground flax seeds
- Guar gum
As a food additive that’s found in low-carb products and recipes, xanthan gum has many uses. Besides its ability to thicken liquids and improve the texture of gluten-free foods, xanthan gum may offer some health benefits.
Remember to use xanthan gum sparingly since it has a high viscosity. Consuming small amounts will also prevent digestive issues. If xanthan gum isn’t an option, you can always go for the alternatives recommended above!
Ruales‐Salcedo, A. V., Grisales-Díaz, V. H., Morales-Rodríguez, R., Fontalvo, J., & Prado‐Rubio, O. A. (2022). Production of high-added value compounds from biomass. In Elsevier eBooks (pp. 381–445). https://doi.org/10.1016/b978-0-12-824116-5.00001-5
Osilesi O, Trout DL, Glover EE, Harper SM, Koh ET, Behall KM, O’Dorisio TM, Tartt J. Use of xanthan gum in dietary management of diabetes mellitus. Am J Clin Nutr. 1985 Oct;42(4):597-603. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/42.4.597. PMID: 4050722.