Tartaric acid is a naturally occurring organic acid which appears as a white crystalline solid at room temperature. Foods such as grapes, apricots, avocados, apples and sunflower seeds have all been known to have high concentrations of the acid. Alternatively, it has also been found in tamarinds which are a type of tree indigenous to tropical Africa and other warms parts of the world.
While tartaric acid is commonly found in foods such as grapes and apricots, it wasn’t until later that this was discovered. Originally, it was commonly extracted from tamarinds in areas including Nigeria and Sudan to be used for its health benefits and as a food ingredient. However, around the 16th century this acid made its way to Mexico by way of foreign colonists from areas like Spain and Portugal. Ever since, the acid has heavily embedded itself into Mexican cuisine appearing in a vast array of dishes. Today, the Mexican culture has become so fond of the acid that it has become one of the world’s premiere producers and consumers of tartaric acid and the tamarinds from which is it extracted.
As mentioned above, Mexican cuisine relies heavily on the use of tartaric acid which, when combined with baking soda, acts as a leavening agent. The acid also plays a major role in wine-making where it is used during the fermentation process for acidity adjustments to make for a more palate pleasing taste. The acid can also be used as a natural preservative for things like soft drinks, fruit juices, candies and certain types of jams.
Outside of the human body, it has its uses as well. The acid is used in the preparation of cement where it is believed to slow the cement from setting and allow for a larger window in which to work. Much like the construction industry, the cosmetic industry makes use of the acid as well where it is used as the base for many different types of topical products including body creams and other lotions.
While it is readily used by many different industries for a plethora of reasons, it is also lauded for its health benefits. The acid is said to act as both an antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory which can help bolster the immune system and promote overall wellness. More specified uses of the acid include improving glucose tolerance and lowering overall glucose levels proving itself useful for individuals sensitive to glucose. Finally, it is said to aid digestion as it helps to improve intestinal absorption. This is said to dramatically increase the rate at which quality nutrients are absorbed into the bloodstream from consumed foods.
As is the case with many naturally occurring acids, over-consumption can result in unpleasant side effects. While it’s unlikely that overeating foods that contain the acid will cause such side effects, those supplementing the acid in its crystalline form are at risk. Such side effects of over-consumption include increased thirst, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and gastrointestinal inflammation. People looking to lower or cease consumption of it will want to steer clear of wine, unripened fruit and any product that contains the ingredient tartrate which is a sweetener derived from tartaric acid.
In conclusion tartaric acid is a double edged blade. While it has found its uses in many different industries including culinary, construction and cosmetics it can be harmful if over consumed. Due to this, it’s been said that those looking to benefit from it are better off eating foods that naturally contain the acid as opposed to supplementing with it in its crystalline form.