One needs to follow few basic rules to live by when one is trying to eat a clean, nutritious diet: avoid sugar, always opt for whole grains instead of refined carbs, and also try to limit as many food additives as possible by reducing one’s intake of processed foods. But when it comes to whether to ban citric acid or not, things do get a little more complicated.
What is citric acid?
Citric acid is indeed an organic acid found in citric fruits, but it is commonly used as a preservative in packaged foods and drinks, including hummus, wine, and salsa.
The acid is found naturally in vegetables as well as fruits—most notably citrus fruits such as lemons and limes. However, most of the citric acid that is used as a food additive is not derived naturally from produce. Instead, it’s produced in a lab. The citric acid in packaged food has indeed been added for a variety of reasons. It may be added to increase acidity, act as a preservative, or perform as an antioxidant.
Is citric acid bad for you?
The lab-made citric acid has indeed a bad rap because it does come from an unlikely source: black mold, the stuff that does show up in areas where there is a lot of moisture, such as one’s bathroom. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma symptoms, and Immunology, the black mold, in this case, is actually filtered from the final product, thus making it rare that any of it is left in the citric acid that is rather added to food.
Medical experts have indeed responded to these concerns and have also acknowledged that rare reports of citric sensitivity do exist in medical literature, but it is also unlikely that the sensitivity is caused by mold.
So, at least mold allergies from eating artificial citric acid does not seem like anything to really worry about—but are there any other health issues that do to take note of? Surprisingly, researchers have rather found proof that it will negatively impact one’s health.
As far as the citric acid that comes from fruits and veggies, it can actually be quite beneficial due to its antioxidant status. Citric acid that happens to be found naturally can act as an antioxidant, which does help fight disease.
In fact, some research suggests that citric acid, which can be found in tea, can indeed kill harmful bacteria and may be made use to treat body surface infections, which are rather common in older people, people with diabetes, and smokers.
One needs to watch the intake of citric acid. In fact, consuming citric acid in excess can put one at risk for tooth erosion. As of now citric acid—even the kind made from mold—does not seem to be anything one should go to extreme measures to avoid. Until there is definitive proof it should be kept off one’s plate, and one can keep enjoying one’s hummus as well as carrots but maybe also try to focus on keeping some of the most well-known harmful additives such as high fructose corn syrup as well as MSG—out of one’s diet instead.