November 6, 2016
Then about a week later, while I was still completely spaced out about my eating-foods-out-of-cans dilemma the week before, I noticed I was almost out of Goya coconut milk so I added it to my grocery list. Many of you might recall I like that brand so much I actually recommend it on the “Things I Like” list on my RESOURCES tab (click here to see the full list)…IN THE PAST, Goya was the least expensive almost completely unadulterated coconut milk on the market: pretty much just coconut and water! But when I pulled a can off the Grocery store shelf I noticed the label looked different…I didn’t think much about it because the difference wasn’t obvious to me so I threw it into my cart.
When I got home, however, and compared the can to a one I had on my pantry shelf the label change was obvious: in the past Goya had the words “No Gums, Thickeners or Stabilizers Added” prominently displayed, but now the little starburst was missing. I turned the new can over and was pretty shocked to see the ingredients list on the new can was very different than it had been in the past! It read: coconut milk, water, crystalline cellulose as stabilizer, guar gum as stabilizer and potassium metabisulfite as a preservative.
Now some of you may not be all that disturbed by guar gum. After all it’s derived from the guar bean – a whole food – and legumes aren’t “bad for you” per se. And although it’s true that I’m a HUGE advocate of the Paleo Diet (which is dairy, grain, and legume-free) I occasionally eat beans just because I think becoming too rigid or dogmatic about ANYTHING can negatively impact our health plus as long as we stick to foods that occur in nature as close to their “original packaging” as possible I believe we pretty much can’t go wrong.
But guar gum is part of a member of a group of food additives including xanthan gum, carrageenan, cellulose gum, and soy lecithin that are primarily used as emulsifiers, thickeners, and stabilizers. And in order to turn the guar bean into guar gum, the bean is split and dehusked, then the endosperm (or the middle of the bean…the starch that would normally give nutrition to the embryo of the bean) is ground down and screened to obtain the guar gum. FYI the byproducts of this process are usually shipped to some sort of industrial livestock facility or “factory farm” were they’re essentially force-fed to the animals (which is a whole other somewhat horrible conversation…to learn more about the BIZARRE and unhealthy practices commonly used in Industrial Livestock Production make sure to sign up for my next Paleo Made Practical class!)
Most of the time guar gum is used to emulsify foods, in other words it helps fat and water to mix and stay mixed. But mustard seeds and egg yolks are sometimes used as emulsifiers too, right? So a food having emulsifying qualities isn’t really the problem. But even though failing my only-eat-food-you-can-find-in-nature test is enough of a reason for me to avoid guar gum, there’s a lot more you need to know about this entire group of additives before making your own decision to eat or avoid them:
·They’re all very difficult to digest which TECHNICALLY makes them a fiber. But note that this is the primary reason food manufacturers have convinced many of us these additives aren’t just benign, they’re GOOD for us…REALLY???
·They’re all also “polysaccharides” which means they are complex sugar molecules…now I ask you do we REALLY need more ways to fit sugar into our diets???
·And just to add insult to injury, they all also have detergent-like properties…WHAT???
Now onto issues specific to guar gum I pulled from an article written by Dr. Sarah Ballantine, PhD, author, and founder of ThePaleoMom website:
·Guar gum has been shown to increase intestinal permeability (in other words change the integrity of the gut lining…ever hear of the term leaky gut?)
·Guar gum has also been shown to increase the growth of a toxic strain of E. coli (enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli) in the small intestine (SIBO, anyone?)
·In piglets fed a diet with added guar gum, this overgrowth of E. coli lead to increased large intestine weight and overall stunted growth
·Another study showed that the addition of guar gum to milk increased the survival of pathogenic bacteria in milk through high heat pasteurization. It remains unknown whether guar gum could increase survival of pathogens in your digestive tract, but the increased growth rate of enterotoxigenic E. coli would suggest that it does
But I digress…back to MY story!
All of a sudden I remembered the BPA that’s most likely lining the Goya can and thought “I can’t drink this stuff anymore unless I want to kiss my health goodbye!!!”
So with just a few moments of heavy-heartedness (because I REALLY did love Goya coconut milk!!!) but also a sense of determination and even excitement over the challenge of coming up with a yummy alternative, I headed off to the kitchen to come up with at least one new recipe. (SO DON’T FORGET TO TUNE BACK IN NEXT WEEK AND FIND OUT WHAT I CAME UP WITH!)
And for Dr Ballantine’s full article click here
Photo courtesy of Dr Axe