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Can I Have Guar Gum on a Whole30? Everything You Need to Know

Updated: Oct 31, 2023

What is guar gum?

Guar gum is a common food additive derived from guar beans (also called cluster beans).

It is mostly used as a thickener or binder and is found in all sorts of things from ice cream to salad dressing to organic coconut milk and all sorts of coconut milk products. It is also used in non-food products like medicine and cosmetics.

What is a Whole30?

Whole30 is a 30-day elimination diet designed to help people take control of their wellness. It focuses on consuming whole foods, healthy fat and quality protein, and eliminating foods that may be disruptive to health.

Whole30 is similar to a paleo diet in that it eliminates grains (yes, even whole grains), legumes (with exceptions for the plant-based Whole 30), and dairy products.

However, Whole30 takes things a step further to eliminate all alcohol and added sugar as well. This includes both artificial sweeteners and natural sugars, except for those in fruits and fruit juice--those are not considered "added" because the sugars have not been completely extracted and isolated away from the whole food.

Can I have guar gum on my Whole30?

Because it is a funny-sounding additive, and especially because it is derived from a type of legume (a food group that is eliminated on a traditional Whole30), many people wonder if it is considered Whole30 compliant.

The Answer is yes.

Guar gum, along with other gums such as xanthan gum, gellan gum, organic locust bean gum, and acacia gum, and even other food additives like "natural flavors," ascorbic acid, sunflower lecithin, dipotassium phosphate, calcium carbonate, and citric acid, vitamin a palmitate, potassium citrate, or magnesium phosphate, are all Whole30 approved.

When the Whole30 was originally introduced, there were a few more items that would be considered off limits on an ingredients list, such as monosodium glutamate (MSG). After further consideration, however, the rules were revised to ban only carrageenan and sulfites.

Soy lecithin is also banned, but that is because it is derived from soy, which is already eliminated on a Whole30 diet (soy sauce is banned as well). The Plant-Based Whole30 does allow for some soy, but only less-processed versions like tempeh and miso.

Why is carrageenan banned if guar gum and other thickening additives are allowed?

Carrageenan, derived from a type of seaweed, is another commonly used food additive often added to things like lunch meat, heavy cream, and almond milk as a thickener or binder.

Also called Irish moss, carrageenan is a bit of a controversial topic in the health world. Some studies have shown that it causes stomach upset and promotes inflammation, while many in the fields of dietary and pharmaceutical sciences feel the evidence is unsubstantial for making concrete conclusions.

The author of one study presented on Pub Med says, "Our results suggest that κ-CGN [carrageenan] may not be directly inflammatory, but it creates an environment that favors inflammation by perturbation of gut microbiota composition and then facilitates expansion of pathogens, and this effect may be partially reversed by the introduction of probiotics."

Another article on Pub Med says, "Although the International Agency for Research on Cancer in 1982 identified sufficient evidence for the carcinogenicity of degraded carrageenan in animals to regard it as posing a carcinogenic risk to humans, carrageenan is still used widely as a thickener, stabilizer, and texturizer in a variety of processed foods prevalent in the Western diet."

It goes on to say, "Review of these data demonstrated that exposure to undegraded as well as to degraded carrageenan was associated with the occurrence of intestinal ulcerations and neoplasms."

According to Dr. Andrew Weil, a popular health and wellness advocate, Dr. Joanne Tobacman, who has published multiple peer-reviewed studies on the biological effects of carrageenan, believes that all forms of it are harmful," and says that in studies designed to test the efficacy of anti-inflammatory drugs, carrageenan has actually been used to induce inflammation.

Some people do report sensitivities to guar and other gums, but so far, it seems that they do not elicit the same degree of controversy.

​Does guar gum have any affects on health?

In small does, guar gum may actually have some slight health benefits. It is high in fiber and, when partially hydrolyzed, may help relieve constipation and improve IBS symptoms, according to this Pub Med article.

​Guar gum may also improve blood sugar regulation. Pub Med reports that in a study in which patients with insulin-dependent diabetes were given guar gum, "Fasting blood glucose and hemoglobin A1c decreased significantly during the guar-gum diet."

​Guar gum has also been shown to be somewhat helpful in weight loss and has even been an important ingredient in diet pills.

​Don't consume in large doses!

The weight-loss product Cal-Ban 3,000 relied on guar gum and looked at first like a promising solution for weight loss. However, many people got severe bowel obstruction from taking it, and some even died. As a result, this product was deemed unsafe and pulled from the market.

Just to reiterate, these effects were seen only when guar gum was consumed in very large doses. Small doses, like those in organic coconut cream or baked goods, have not been shown to produce this effect.

In summation . . .

Guar gum and many other additives are technically allowed on a Whole30.

Guar gum may even have marginal health benefits in small doses but may be disruptive to some.

​Everyone should avoid consuming guar gum in extremely large doses.

While many additives are acceptable on a Whole30, the true spirit of a Whole30 is what the name suggests, whole. Therefore, the focus should mostly be on whole, real food to the extent possible. In general, the shorter the ingredient list the better, and no ingredient list (like on fresh produce) is best of all.

Plenty of options like sweet potato, olive oil, sesame seeds, and more have no additional ingredients at all!

For great Whole30 recipes and inspiration, check out our Whole30 Page!

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Hey Y'all!

I'm the Monster Momma.

I'm a Christ-follower, wife, mother to five sweet paleo monsters, writer, and

paleo food fiend.

Join me and my family on our paleo journey!

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