We sure do love eating candies, ice cream, and a lot of sweet stuff when we were kids. Actually, even adults these days still love sweets. But have you ever thought about how these foods are made? Especially the candies and gums that are solid and compact in state? Well, you’re in for a treat because in this article we will discuss the mystery ingredient; where it came from, what it does, and how does it affect our bodies.
Introduction to Gum Arabic
Gum arabic also called with other names such as arabic gum, gum acacia, acacia, Senegal gum, Indian gum, or simply acacia, is responsible for holding food molecules together.
The gum arabic is made from the toughened sap that belongs to most species of the acacia tree. The hardened sap is made into a gum-like substance and then it is added mostly to food for solidity. Thus, the gum is known for its use as a thickener.
As the gum is made edible, it is commonly used for food processing. However, there are instances wherein gum arabic may be used for the production of other products like paint, cosmetics, glue, and even textile products. Also, gum arabic plays a major role as a key player of the traditional printing method called lithography.
Where did it come from?
The gum arabic is derived from the sap of acacia trees. The gums are most of the time abundantly harvested from the acacia of species Acacia senegal and Vachellia seyal.
The wild trees that contain the ingredients for the production of the gum is mostly from the African country Sudan in which almost 80 percent of the plants are sufficient. They are also available all around the Sahel area which is within the countries Senegal and Somalia.
Fortunately, the abundance of the trees that produce gum arabic in the Sahel area did not cause any inconvenience for the same harvesting to be done in Middle East.
Major Uses of Gum Arabic
The gum arabic contains molecules made from the combination of polysaccharides and glycoproteins. When mixed, those molecules get the same properties of thick glue, plus they are edible and safe to eat. The thickness of the gum makes it an important ingredient in the production of most soft drink syrups and gummy candies like marshmallows, gumdrops, gummy bear, gummy worms, sour tape candies, some jellies, and chocolate candies.
Gum Arabic for Food Use
The complex polysaccharides that make up the gum is a soluble dietary fiber. This main content of the gum is non-toxic and is consumable to both humans and animals.
Being tagged as an edible resource, the gum is then used for the processing of different foods; most of these are sweets and candies. The main purpose of the gum in terms of food processing is it acts as a thickening agent to food products like soft candies, chewing gums, and baking necessities such as icings and bread fillings, among others. Also, they serve as a binding agent in charge of holding together the sweeteners and other flavorings in soft drinks.
Gum Arabic for Painting and Art Use
Most artists use gum arabic powder which is combined together with watercolor paint in order to produce a thick consistency. Also, with the use of the gum, the artist can achieve a more alive and fuller effect on their paintings because as the gum thickens the paint, the color does not lighten but instead retains its full color.
Gum Arabic for Ceramic Use
The use of the gum for ceramics has long been practiced. The gum is added to ceramic glazes for them to be better bound to the clay. The process of adding the gum to the glaze helps the ceramic pieces retain their color and luminosity even after getting baked.
Gum Arabic for Photography Use
The gum can also be used in traditional photography. It works in the process called gum bichromate photography in which the gum is mixed together with the chemicals ammonium or potassium dichromate to produce a photographic emulsion that becomes insoluble in water when exposed to UV light. The finished product is then made of pigments that are bound well against the paper, this is thanks to the gum.
Gum Arabic for Printmaking Use
The use of gum in printmaking is through the process of lithography printing. Lithography is a method of printing or painting that requires the use of oil and water. The gum works as protection and is also able to wonders in the etching of images.
Gum Arabic for Pyrotechnic Use
The binding ability of the acacia gum is also effective in the production of pyrotechnics such as fireworks.
Gum Arabic: Is it safe?
As gum arabic is edible and safe to eat, it also possesses quite a number of benefits:
- The fiber content of the gum is enough to provide the body with prebiotics (compounds that are responsible for growth of essential microorganisms) and soluble fiber.
- The gum has the ability to provide for the feeding of the probiotics in the stomach.
- It promotes sufficiency and fullness in order to avoid immediate hunger.
- The gum may contribute to losing weight and may also be able to prevent obesity.
- The gum can also help in the regulation of cholesterol levels in the body.
- It can help in the treatment of digestive conditions like irritable bowel syndrome and constipation.
- The gum can also provide antibacterial and anti-inflammatory help in removing dental plaque found on the gums and teeth and even in fighting off gingivitis.
- The gum is helpful to patients with type 2 diabetes by battling insulin resistance.
- It can contribute in reducing skin inflammation and redness.
- The gum has properties that are anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic, plus it has antioxidants to boot.
The impressive profile of gum arabic, however, when only focused on, leads to overseeing the possible side effects of the gum. The consumption of gum arabic may cause one or more of the following side effects that commonly take place in the digestive system such as: gas accumulation or flatulence, the feeling of bloatedness, sticky and unfavorable feeling in the mouth, mild diarrhea, indigestion, and even nausea in the early morning.