Citric acid is an organic acid, but not an essential compound for the human body. The use of the term "citric acid" may refer to the source of the acid, as it is primarily found in citrus fruits such as lemons. The chemical name is citric acid. It is one of the most well-known and commonly used acids in the food industry. With its acidic taste, it contributes to the characteristic freshness and acidity in many foods. The above table shows which foods contain citric acid. A balanced diet with plenty of plant-based foods usually provides sufficient citric acid, which can have the following effects in the body.
Citric acid can stimulate the production of stomach acid. Furthermore, stomach acid can influence the activity of digestive enzymes, thereby supporting the process of nutrient breakdown and absorption.
As an antioxidant, citric acid can neutralize harmful free radicals in the body. Free radicals can cause cell damage and contribute to the development of diseases.
Citric acid has the ability to optimize the absorption of iron from plant sources (non-heme iron). It forms complex compounds with iron that facilitate enhanced absorption by the intestine. Consuming citric acid-containing foods together with iron-rich plant-based foods can increase the bioavailability of iron. Additionally, citric acid can improve iron levels in the body and prevent iron deficiency by stimulating stomach acid production. Simultaneous consumption of vitamin C-rich foods can also promote iron absorption. Synergistic effects with citric acid cannot be ruled out.
Citric acid is also involved in the formation of collagen. It supports the structure and strength of collagen, which is responsible for the elasticity and firmness of the skin, as well as the structural integrity of bones and cartilage. Collagen is an essential structural protein required for the health of the skin, bones, cartilage, and other tissues.
Furthermore, citric acid has an alkalizing effect on urine. Although it is acidic itself, it is metabolized into bicarbonate in the body, which can lead to an increase in urine pH. The alkalizing effect of urine can be helpful in preventing urinary tract infections and supporting the dissolution of certain types of kidney stones.
Citric acid can improve athletic performance
Athletes can benefit from citric acid foods as citric acid can enhance performance during training. It is believed to assist the body in efficiently utilizing carbohydrates, which are an important source of energy for physical activities.
In addition, citric acid can delay fatigue during exercise. During intense physical activity, the body produces lactate. If more lactate is produced during intense physical activity than the body can break down, it can lead to acidification of the muscles. Citric acid can help regulate the pH level in muscle tissue and slow down the formation of lactate, thereby improving endurance and delaying fatigue.
Citric acid foods
The following list shows some foods that have a high citric acid content:
- Lemons, limes, oranges, mandarins, and grapefruits are known for their high citric acid content. Berry fruits such as raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries also contain a lot of citric acid. Additional fruits with high citric acid content, according to the table, are pineapples, pomegranates, apricots, kiwis, mangoes, and bananas.
- Some vegetables contain a certain amount of citric acid. Tomatoes, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, parsnips, red cabbage, onions, asparagus, soybeans, and kidney beans are citric acid-containing vegetables. In some canned products, such as pickled vegetables or sour pickles, citric acid can be used as an acidifier to lower the pH level and extend the shelf life.
- In some baked goods, especially in cakes, pies, or cookies, citric acid can be used as an acidifier.
- Fruit juices can contain a significant amount of natural citric acid. Juices from citrus fruits such as lemon juice, lime juice, orange juice, and grapefruit juice are extremely rich in acid. Other juices that have a high citric acid content include pineapple juice, celery juice, pear nectar, black currant juice, and apple juice. Many commercial sodas and carbonated beverages contain citric acid to enhance the sour taste. These drinks are often supplemented with additional sugar and other additives. Therefore, they should be consumed in moderation.
- Citric acid is used in many candies to create or enhance a sour taste. Citric acid is a natural acid that can balance the flavor of candies and give them a certain freshness. It is often used in sour gummies, sour candies, sour fruit strips, and other sweet treats.
In the kitchen, citric acid, which is found in food, can also be used in other ways. Here are some ways you can still make use of citric acid:
- A few drops of lemon or lime juice can add a fresh and tangy flavor to many dishes. Add some juice to salads, soups, sauces, dressings, or marinades to enhance the taste.
- Citric acid can help preserve jams and jellies for a longer time. Add some citric acid to your recipes to extend their shelf life and ensure better preservation.
- Citric acid can help prevent browning of cut fruits or vegetables. Dip the cut pieces in a mixture of water and citric acid before placing them in the refrigerator. This will keep the fruits and vegetables fresh and appetizing for a longer period.
- To prevent browning of cut fruits or vegetables, you can use lemon juice. Lemon juice naturally contains citric acid. Spray or drizzle cut fruits with lemon juice to prevent oxidation and browning. The lemon juice forms a protective layer on the surface of the fruit or vegetable, preventing unwanted browning.