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Agar Agar, What It Is, What It Is Used For, Properties

A gelling agent of vegetable origin, agar is an ingredient that has been widespread in Japan, China, and Korea for more than 350 years and is becoming increasingly popular in our kitchens as a vegetarian substitute for isinglass. Known as kanten, it is a polysaccharide derived from red algae with a high content of mucilage and carrageenan. 

It is beneficial in the kitchen because it can transform liquids into jelly. In addition to helping make desserts, canapés, and jellies, agar is an excellent natural remedy for constipation, nervous hunger, inflammatory conditions, and much more. Let’s discover this interesting food together!

Agar Agar, Vegetable Gelling Agent: What Is It?

Agar agar, also called jealousy, is a polysaccharide formed mainly by molecules of D-galactose, one of the two components of lactose, the milk sugar. Thanks to its ability to bind and retain much water, it is a gelling agent and natural thickener. It is an excellent vegetarian alternative to isinglass, which, as you can imagine from the name, is instead a gelling agent of animal origin and which today is obtained from animal cartilage. It is not only an excellent vegetable substitute for isinglass but also, compared to it, it can resist higher temperatures, melting only around 80–90 °C.

How Is It Obtained?

The traditional production process requires the red algae to be chopped and blanched in boiling water with the addition of well-diluted acetic or sulfuric acid. Then, the hot liquid is filtered to eliminate red algae residues and treated with sodium bicarbonate. It is frozen, thawed, and dehydrated twice or thrice to eradicate the seaweed aftertaste and its slight color.

Agar Agar: What It Is For And How To Use It

Thanks to its ability not to alter other flavors and it’s almost zero calorie impact, it is used industrially to stabilize fruit jellies, sweet creams, milk-based products, ice cream, and sorbets. The reference code in the ingredient list is E406. Instead, to take advantage of the healing properties, it is recommended to use 1-2 g of powder to dissolve in plenty of water, at least 200 ml. Notes: Never use dry agar, but always in association with abundant liquids.

Differences Between Agar Agar And Is In Glass

It is commercially available in powder, flakes, bars, or filaments, which can be purchased in organic supermarkets, herbalist shops, online, or ethnic bazaars, especially Asian ones. It can be used as a vegan substitute in any recipe that calls for gelatin as a thickening agent, including:

  1. Sauces.
  2. A gelatin-based dessert.
  3. Creams and puddings

Furthermore, compared to isinglass, it resists high temperatures, melting only around 80–90 °C.

Benefits Of Agar Agar

It is composed of more than 80% fiber, and consequently, its properties are mainly linked to those of this food component. Let’s see the main ones:

  1. Increased feeling of satiety: adding 1-2 g of plenty of water before the meal can help improve the texture of satiety during the meal itself.
  2. Intestinal regularity: thanks to the high fiber content, it can absorb water, thus increasing the fecal mass and thus favoring intestinal transit. We consider it a natural laxative without side effects.
  3. In cases of severe constipation, it is advisable to gradually increase the quantity, starting at 1 g, to dissolve in plenty of water. An excess could lead to diarrhea.
  4. Protection of the gastric and intestinal mucosa: in cases of gastritis and irritable colon, it can help reduce inflammation.
  5. Being a gelling substance, it can create a protective film on the wall of the stomach and intestine.
  6. Reduced absorption of sugars: add 1-2 g of the powdered product to a glass of water. Thanks to fiber, it can slow down the absorption of sugars by the intestine.

Nutritional Values

Agar agar, compared to ordinary gelatin, has a significantly lower calorie content. Furthermore, it is a good source of mineral salts, in particular:

  1. Iron.
  2. Soccer.
  3. Potassium.
  4. Phosphorus.

The consumption portion is 5 g dissolved in 1 liter of water. This quantity provides only 0.85 kcal and covers 12% of the daily iron requirement.

Agar Agar Is Used In Cooking

Are you on a diet but don’t want to give up pleasure? Buy some fruit, such as red fruits – beneficial for their antioxidant properties and good for the intestine, and prepare some tasty jellies.

How To Prepare Gelatin Starting From Agar Powder

The quantity of powder to add to the liquid varies depending on its acidity. If the fluid to which you add the agar is water, bringing it to a boil and adding 5-8 g of powder is recommended. Mix well to dissolve the powder, and leave to rest at room temperature or in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or until the desired consistency is reached.



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