Food gums are water-soluble or water-dispersable polysaccharides (glycans) and their derivatives (1-6) and gelatin (3) (see the article Carbohydrates: classification, chemistry, labeling). In general, they thicken or gel aqueous systems at low concentration. Although starches, flours, and modified food starches are polysaccharide materials and have similar properties, they are usually considered separately as they are in this encyclopedia (see the article Starch). Polysaccharide food gums can be classified by source (Table 1) or by structure (Table 2).

The usefulness of gums is based on their physical properties, in particular their capacity to thicken and/or gel aqueous systems and otherwise to control water. Because all gums modify the flow of aqueous solutions, dispersions, and suspensions, the choice of which gum to use for a particular application often depends on its other characteristics, characteristics that are responsible for their utilization as binders, bodying agents, bulking agents, crystallization inhibitors, clarifying agents, cloud agents, emulsifying agents, emulsion stabilizers, encapsulating agents, film formers, flocculating agents, foam stabilizers, gelling materials, mold release agents, protective colloids, suspending agents, suspension stabilizers, swelling

Table 1. Classification of Polysaccharide Food Gums by Source



Seed gums

Guar gum, locust bean gum, tara

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