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Foods With Citric Acid

author image Valerie Liles
Based in Atlanta, Valerie Liles has been writing about landscape and garden design since 1980. As a registered respiratory therapist, she also has experience in family health, nutrition and pediatric and adult asthma managment. Liles holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Colorado State University and a Master of Science in technical communication from the University of Colorado.
Foods With Citric Acid
Oranges, lemons, and limes have the highest concentration of citric acid. Photo Credit: Дарья Петренко/iStock/Getty Images

Citric acid occurs naturally in fruits and vegetables, and serves as a natural preservative and flavoring in foods and drinks. Citric acid is also crucial in the Krebs cycle of human metabolism, involving the oxidation of fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Foods with citric acid can be found in the orchard, garden, and in your local grocery store. It is also widely used in cleaning products, air fresheners, candles, hand sanitizers, and personal-care products.

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Naturally Containing Citric Acid

Lemons Photo Credit: Andy Sotiriou/Photodisc/Getty Images

Foods naturally containing citric acid include citrus fruits; lemons, oranges, and limes have particularly high concentrations, at up to 8% citric acid by weight. Berries, except for blueberries, also contain citric acid, particularly strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries, and cranberries. Pineapples, cherries, tomatoes, some varieties of peppers, artichokes, and certain varieties of lettuce also contain citric acid.

As an Additive

Ice cream
Ice cream Photo Credit: OlgaMiltsova/iStock/Getty Images

As an additive, citric acid preserves processed foods, giving them a longer shelf life. In the making of cheese, citric acid helps to ferment the milk faster, making it an essential part of large-scale cheese production. Traditionally, cheese is made by adding a bacterial culture to milk, allowing it to ferment slowly. Commercially produced cheese uses citric acid to speed up this process. Soft drinks, particularly fruit-flavored varieties, contain citric acid added as a preservative and as a flavoring.

Less-expensive frozen treats use citric acid as a fat emulsifier, to keep the added vegetable fats from separating in ice cream, sherbet, and sorbet. When added to sodium bicarbonate, it prompts an effervescent action in candy and powdered drinks, as well as powders and tablets for indigestion.

Ripening Agent

Grapes Photo Credit: Peter Ginter/Photodisc/Getty Images

Acids found in grapes used for wine include tartaric, malic, and citric acid. These add to a vintage's total acidity, and influence the color, balance, and taste of the wine. These acids also influence the growth of yeasts during the fermentation process, and limiting bacterial growth. Most of the citric acid found in inexpensive, commercially distributed wine is the result of fermenting sucrose solutions added after the fermentation process.

Dining Out

Asian food
Asian food Photo Credit: Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images

Asian foods often contain lemon and lime juice, which contains citric acid. Indian foods often have tamarind, a fruit which contains citric acid. Chinese recipes usually do not use citrus fruits and citric acid additives, except for lemon chicken and various sweet-and-sour recipes containing pineapple, orange, and lemon. Mediterranean food may include tomatoes, lemon juice, lime juice, pineapple, and other more exotic fruits. Middle Eastern food usually does not contain citrus fruits; however, hummus can be made with or without lemon juice. American food abounds with naturally occurring citric acid, and citric acid as an additive in relishes, ketchup, mayonnaise, desserts, and main courses.

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