Are stabilizers bad for you?

 Ingredients in a well-known dairy-free ice cream 

Ingredients in a well-known dairy-free ice cream 

From the start of Izza Pops, we decided to not use any stabilizers. But what does that mean and why should you even care?

Not a lot of people are familiar with stabilizers and I admit that two years ago I had no idea what they were or what they did. 

Early last year I started eating gluten-free, and it was the first time I really read ingredient labels carefully.  I noticed that even though snacks were labeled as gluten-free, a lot of them were still upsetting my stomach. I was surprised at how many ingredients were included that I didn’t recognize. I finally figured out that these weird sounding ingredients were stabilizers and my body did not like them at all! 

Stabilizers are added to foods for a couple reasons. In gluten-free baking, it helps thicken and give structure to baked goods that normally would have come from gluten. In dairy-free alternatives, it improves mouth-feel to simulate a smooth and fatty product. It also helps liquids to not separate so they don’t need to be shaken or stirred before consuming. 

Customers often want substitutes to look and feel just like the dairy-based original. Unfortunately, many don’t realize that the process typically involves adding stabilizers that can be hard to digest.

Because I was having my own struggles finding quality gluten-free and stabilizer-free foods, when Alexia said she wanted to make a dairy-free ice cream without stabilizers I was totally on board! 

When we started making Izza Pops, there were a few common stabilizers we saw other brands using:

Guar Gum

Probably the most common stabilizer used with coconut milk. While some studies show that guar gum has been proven to improve blood sugar levels among people with diabetes and hypoglycemia, one study showed that 2 out of 9 participants had to drop out due to significant abdominal discomfort and gas. I don’t know about you, but to me significant abdominal pain is not worth the slight benefit it might have for diabetic management! (1)

Xantham Gum

Another common stabilizer found in many big name ice creams. In several studies it was shown to be a “highly efficient laxative.”  As gluten-free and dairy-free foods become more common, so do these stabilizers. I’m afraid more people will eat these “healthy” products but not understand why they are still having digestion issues. (2)

Carrageenan

A stabilizer derived from seaweed and often used in “natural” products. I’ve seen it in many dairy alternative milks like almond or soy milk because it prevents the product from separating. This is another stabilizer that has been documented to cause gastrointestinal inflammation. However, what’s scarier to me is that it’s been recognized to be a carcinogen.  The National Organic Standards Board is even trying to have the USDA ban it from being used in certified organic products due to its negative side effects.  (3) (4)

Many people switch to eating dairy-free products because of digestion issues. So why are we still eating food with all these stabilizers if they can be just as difficult to digest? 

We didn’t want to give up our favorite treats like ice-cream or milk, but wanted to make better choices when it came to ingredients. That’s why we decided from the start that Izza Pops would be made using only real, simple ingredients - and that means no stabilizers. We wanted to create a treat that tastes good AND makes you feel great too!