Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Have I Been Too Hard?

Today I am asking, have I been too hard on highly processed food additives like Guar Gum and Xanthan Gum and Modified Food Starch?

Bob's Red Mill is an excellent manufacturer of all manner of wonderful flours and grains. I buy a couple different things from them, flaxseed meal, organic polenta, etc. If my miller at the farmer's market doesn't have something that I am looking for I like to buy Bob's products.

The other day though I was looking for almond flour or coconut flour (yes, to my friend who lives abroad--I was attempting to make the recipes you sent me) and I noticed in the corner a couple of small bags of guar gum and xanthan gum and textured vegetable protein. I have to say that I was surprised to see a fine purveyor making wonderful healthful goods along with items I also considered highly processed and bordering on non-food. These highly processed food stuffs all help fake food look and act more real. But they also, more innocently, help gluten free breads keep their shape, among other things.

I have read in several sources recently that being a vegetarian or flexitarian is really the best diet for your long term health. I have considered going vegetarian for health reasons. But I know I wouldn't eat enough protein and I need a good amount of protein to stay healthy and maintain my energy. If I could get 50-60g of protein a day from beans and veggies I probably would give up meat. But the kids don't really eat beans (not yet!!), nor does DH. If I went vegetarian I would probably have to turn to TVP and other highly processed soy products that come ready made in order to get the protein I need. I have known so many vegetarians that have gone down that route. But this I feel would be against the point of doing it in the first place.

A month or so ago I purchased Vital Wheat Gluten Flour from Bob's Red Mill so that my whole wheat muffins would hold together better. Two tablespoons of the Vital Gluten Flour to two cups of organic whole wheat flour certainly helped me to eat healthier but making 100% whole wheat muffins and get more of the muffin in my mouth, but did I cross the line by essentially adding a binder to my muffins?

What do you think? (I really don't know, so I am asking for your comments please...)


  1. The answer of course is that it is up to you. As a celiac, I've had to lighten up on my views towards the gums, as you mentioned, they hold my bread together. There are certainly folks out there (like calorie restrictors) who eat nothing that is not completely whole and packed with nutrition. To me that is not a life. If your food is super healthy but you're not enjoying it...i don't know. I want to enjoy my food as well. Everyone has to decide what they are comfortable with. Personally I feel it's important to look at your overall picture. Over all you make extremely healthy and wholesome choices. A few binders here and there...eh.

  2. I still feel very conflicted about this. I feel better about using binders in my own kitchen specifically to allow me to eat more whole grains and whole gluten free flours, rather than eating processed foods that may e using the binders to make the food feel like something other than it is. But still, in regards to last week's proclimation of what I will no longer eat, I do not know where to draw the line.

  3. I have to use xanthum gum in my breads because they are gluten free. If I don't it's one big crumbly mess. I try to stay away from as much processed foods as I can, but I figure one thing here and there is not going to kill me. My bread is no good if it doesn't hold together!

  4. It's a tough one. It's more than possible to make breads and muffins from almond and coconut flours that are void of gums, they just taste a little different. If you don't mind adjusting your image of "what" a bread, muffin, or cookie tastes and looks like, than I see no reason why you should have to lessen your commitment to whole, real foods. Also, there is the option of spelt flour if gluten is not a problem. Sprouted grains are the best way to eat your grains, and the bread is easy to make (or buy! Ezekial brand). I totally support you in making an effort to convert your eating to all real food and then after you do that if you find there is something you really miss, you add it back in. You've made incredible changes, keep it up!!!

    As for the vegetarian discussion. It's a big discussion, so I won't get too into it. But, if you think back to the primitive people, they were eating meats, fruits, veggies, and whole grains. Sure you can get protein from other sources but you're missing out on a host of essential fats and B-vitamins that can only be used by the body when eaten in it's pure source. Unless your heritage is, say Indian where they have been eating vegetarian for centuries, your system is most likely built to thrive on meats most similar to your ethnic heritage (Italian & Greek-seafood, Scandinavian- fish and game meats, etc...). Sorry, I even commented this topic because it can create quite the discussion, but I think it's a great one and I'm curious to see where you go with it.

  5. I had never thought of the evolutionary thing in regards to the issue of being vegetarian. So that is a good callout. You know that I am pretty pro meat, but I cannot refute the scientific evidence that studies have shown that a low meat diet tends to result in fewer western diseases like certain cancers, heart disease and diabetes.

    I clearly need to do more research. Perhaps eating fish only would bestow all the benefits of being meat free and all the goodness of eating animal protein. I am not sure where the balance is. I am putting that one in the 'parking lot' for the future.