Being a popular flavoring additive and a common preservative, citric acid has always been a popular ingredient found from nutritional supplements to cleaning agents. Having bountiful health benefits lined up on its sleeve, citric acid has already created a niche for itself in the nutritional, culinary, and medicinal world. But there are still more sides of this multifaceted citric acid that needs to be uncovered as many reports state that there are potential chances of citric acid being harmful to the body. Curious to know more? Then continue reading the article then as we delve further into the topic and gather more information about this popular preservative.
What is citric acid?
Citric acid is the acid found naturally in citrus fruits like lemons and limes. Moreover, this is the acid that provides a distinct tart taste to the fruits. The natural sources of citric acid, as mentioned above are citrus fruits like lemons, limes, grapefruits, tangerines, oranges and pomelos.
Citric acid is found in abundance in citrus fruits but apart from that, it is also found in much lesser amounts, in other food sources like
- Berries like strawberries, raspberries, and cranberries
Apart from being naturally found in citrus fruits, citric acid can also be synthetically manufactured which is then generally used as a food additive or cleaning agent. The odorless and colorless citric acid is usually derived from the black mold, Aspergillus niger, which feeds on sugar as its diet.
Also, did you know that citric acid is a byproduct of wine, cheese, and sourdough bread production?
Manufactured citric acid from the black mold is what you see in the ingredients lists of the foods and supplements as producing citric acid from citrus food is a very costly method and the demand exceeds the supply rate.
Use of citric acid
According to the reports collected from the manufactures of citric acid, the following statistics is the usage of citric acid in various industries
- Food and beverages- 70℅
- Pharmaceutical and dietary supplements-20℅
- Cleaning agents-10℅
The uses of citric acid in the following industries are
Considered as the most common food additive to be used, citric acid enhances flavors, preserves the ingredients and enhances the shelf life. Citric acid helps in thickening the consistency of the food product and also balances out the acid in them. The food products that generally use citric acid are soda, juice, candies, powdered beverages, some dairy products, canned fruits and vegetables, and frozen foods.
The wine industry also sometimes adds citric acid to their drinks to improve the taste. It has been reported that citric acid can protect canned food products from getting infected by Clostridium botulinum bacteria which causes botulism. Did you know a small amount of citric acid can boost the leavening power of baking powder? Also if you do not have salt when making sour bread recipes, then manufactured citric acid powder is the answer for you.
2.Medicines and dietary supplements
Citric acid is an industry staple that when added to medicines helps in preserving and stabilizing the active ingredients and also helps in making the syrup-based or chewable medications more consumable. Mineral supplements also contain citric acid to enhance absorption processes in the body.
3.Cleaning and disinfectants
Citric acid is considered a useful disinfectant that can combat a hoard of bacteria, viruses and other microbes. In the form of disinfectant and cleaning agents, citric acid removes soap scum, hard water stains, and rust.
Manufacturers usually mix citric acid with other compounds that help in forming alpha hydroxy acid which enhances the smoothness of the skin. Creams containing citric acid help you in combating skin infections. Citric acid is also used in various cosmetic and toiletries products to increase their shelf life.
Health benefits of citric acid for the body
Not only for industrial purposes, when consumed, but citric acid provides abundant health benefits for the body too.
Some of the most common health benefits provided by citric acid are
- Boosts metabolism of the body- Consumption of citric acid will help you to boost the metabolism and also helps in increasing the energy levels of the body. Citric acid helps you in transforming the food into usable energy faster.
- Enhances nutrient absorption- Citric acid helps in enhancing the absorption process of the nutrients making the digestion process easier and smoother. Citric acid does not require the stomach acids for absorption and also produces lesser side effects as compared to other preservatives like calcium carbonate. If you are someone who has a zinc deficiency and takes zinc supplements, consuming citric acid will help you to increase the absorption of the mineral.
- Prevention of kidney stones- Kidney stones are solid masses of crystals that get settled in the bottom of our kidney and citric acid helps you in ameliorating the condition. Citric acid helps in making the urine less acidic to prevent the formation of the kidney stones.
Is citric acid healthy for our body?
Citric acid is usually deemed safe for our health but there have been reports stating otherwise.
The potential side effects of citric acid on our body are
- Joint and muscle pain
- Swelling and stiffness of muscles and bones
- Abdominal pain
- Stomach cramps
- Shortness of breath
And one of the most common side effects noticed in people who consume citric acid is the development of allergic symptoms to it.
The common citric allergy symptoms noticed are
- Intense tingling and uncomfortable pain and itchiness in the lips, throat, and tongue
- Inflammation and mild swelling of gums and lips
- Development of symptoms of contact dermatitis when allergic prone people come in contact with peels of citrus fruits.
- In some extreme cases, allergic reactions can also lead to anaphylaxis.
Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening condition and needs immediate attention and treatment. If you notice symptoms like flushed skin, development of hives, extreme difficulty in breathing, dizziness and vomiting, take the affected person to the nearest hospital immediately.
Citric acid is usually labeled as ‘sour salt’ in the market and found in small pouches, canisters or tubs. Make sure to buy citric acid from a trusted source and once opened store it in a cool and dry place. It usually has a shelf life of three years so you do not have to worry about stalling the product.