Thickening agents are substances that are added to food to improve its consistency. Most often, they are indifferent to our health, but among the thickeners used in the food industry, you can also find those whose long-term consumption in larger quantities can cause many diseases. Therefore, it is worth knowing something about thickeners that can be found on the labels of the most popular products and that we add to food ourselves - the more that natural, healthy alternatives are available in health food stores.
What are thickeners?
Thickening agents are macromolecular compounds, water-swellable (gelling) substances which, as a result of dissolution, give viscous and sticky solutions. Their main task is to provide the right consistency to food products. Although a large part of the thickeners is neutral for our health, it must not be forgotten that some of them have a negative effect on our body.
Where are thickeners used?
Thickening agents are mainly used in the food industry for the production of jellies, preserves, marmalades and jams, artificial honey, puddings, creams, sorbets and ice cream, jellies, candies, marshmallow, lollipops, margarines, yoghurts, cream, mayonnaise, sandwich sauces, ketchups and many more. Thickening agents are also used in the printing industry to prepare printing inks, as well as in the cosmetics industry.
We should also remember that we also use them in everyday cooking - for example in the preparation of desserts, ice cream, sauces, fruit preserves, etc. It is therefore worth knowing which of the thickeners available on the market are natural.
Types of thickeners
Food additives in this group (thickeners) have the symbols E 400-499 assigned by the European Union. There are currently sixty-nine emulsifiers and thickeners approved for use in Europe. Thickening agents can be divided into two main groups, namely natural and chemical.
Natural substances (and therefore those that we can use in the kitchen without worrying about health) include substances such as, for example:
- guar gum
- agave inulin
- millet flour
- rice flour
- almond flour
- the reed arrowroot
Chemical (i.e., those to be avoided) are, for example:
- xanthan gum,
- mono and diglycerides of fatty acids esterified with acetic (lactic) acid.
Agar-Agar and Reed Arrow - one of the best thickeners
Agar-agar is a thickener that is becoming more and more popular and more commonly available in our stores. On the packaging of some products, it is under the symbol E-406. Agar-Agar is a natural and healthy thickener and stabilizer produced by seaweed and naturally occurring marine algae of the Gelidiaceae Gracilariaceae family.
Its use is very similar to gelatin, but it is safer for health. Agar-Agar, being a product of plant origin, is an ideal solution for vegans and vegetarians - which is why it owes the lion's share of its popularity. This thickener is completely natural, ecological and has no taste and smell, so it does not change the taste of the dishes to which it is added. If you do not know what to thicken the soup, then know that agar-agar is also suitable for this. Agar-Agar is most often used in the preparation of fruit jellies, jams and preserves, creams and sorbets. On the basis of Agar and milk, you can get yoghurts, kefirs, puddings or ice cream.
The reed arrowroot (reed) also gained great popularity among thickeners, which also does not change the taste and smell of dishes, and perfectly thickens cakes, ice cream, sauces and, for example, soups. In addition, it is an excellent gluten-free flour and that is why it is so eagerly chosen - not only by people struggling with celiac disease, allergies or hypersensitivity to gluten.
Thickening agents play an important role in our daily nutrition. Therefore, it is worth choosing those that are of natural origin. After all, our health and the health of those closest to us are at stake. We invite you to our store, where you will find many natural, healthy thickeners.
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