Cream of tartar, also known as potassium bitartrate, is a fine white powder commonly used in cooking and baking. It is a byproduct of winemaking, specifically derived from the sediment that forms during the fermentation process. Apart from its role in the culinary world as a leavening agent, stabilizer, and thickener, the cream of tartar has some potential health benefits. It is a rich source of potassium and contains trace amounts of vitamins and minerals. However, caution is advised to avoid excessive intake, as it may lead to complications such as hyperkalemia (high potassium levels). Despite some anecdotal claims, scientific evidence supporting certain health benefits remains limited.
How Is Cream of Tartar Produced?
As many wine manufacturers know, winemaking yields the essential component known as cream of tartar or potassium bitartrate. This substance is, more precisely, the potassium acid salt of tartaric acid and is a natural byproduct of the fermentation process. Therefore, winemaking does not solely produce wine; it also results in the production of this fine white powder, commonly known culinarily as cream of tartar, once the sediment is used up or eliminated. Cream of tartar is a common and essential ingredient used in kitchens worldwide for baking. It functions as a leavening agent, a thickener, and can even stabilize egg whites during meringue preparation.
Is Cream of Tartar High in Potassium?
Cream of tartar also has some known benefits as a home remedy or home medicine amongst many individuals, such as relieving headaches or migraine pains and aiding in quitting or ceasing smoking habits. However, it is important to note that such uses lack scientific evidence, according to current nutrition research. Cream of tartar contains high amounts of potassium, which is where most of its purported and scientifically backed health benefits are derived. However, cream of tartar is typically used only in small quantities based on the baking recipe. Accidental ingestion of larger amounts or an overdose of cream of tartar in the recipes can easily lead to severe complications due to its high potassium content.
What Is the Nutritional Content of Cream of Tartar?
According to the information given by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), the nutrition facts for one teaspoon or approximately around 0.1058 ounces of cream of tartar are enlisted as follows:
One can gain approximately 0.0649 ounces of carbs per single teaspoon of cream of tartar. The carbohydrates present in cream of tartar come only from naturally derived starch.
Cream of tartar comprises trace amounts of vitamins and minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium, and zinc. Cream of tartar contains a whopping 0.0174 ounce of potassium for a single teaspoon used. This amount represents almost 14 % to 19 % of the daily recommended value needed for potassium intake in a day. There are only around eight calories in a single teaspoon serving of cream of tartar, most of which are derived only from its carbohydrate content.
What Are the Health Benefits of Cream of Tartar?
The following are the health benefits of cream of tartar:
A potassium-rich diet is deemed essential by nutritionists for the sustenance or maintenance of cellular health, as well as for the proper functioning of nerve and muscle cells. Patients suffering from hypokalemia would be at an increased risk of periodic paralysis or neuromuscular symptoms if their clinical symptoms are not addressed or managed in time by a physician. Cream of tartar, hence, is a good potassium source that can be used according to the amount that one’s culinary recipe demands.
According to a preliminary research study, cream of tartar can possibly relieve constipation by softening the stools and also by reducing the intestinal transit time. It is interesting to note that potassium bitartrate is, in fact, a common over-the-counter laxative medication (that has been used in suppositories) for many decades. However, using cream of tartar at home as a laxative to relieve constipation (instead of over-the-counter medications) may be a bad idea, as the high potassium content in this additive could cause the life-threatening condition of high potassium levels or hyperkalemia.
Potassium also helps lower blood pressure by removing excess sodium content from the body. Hence, potassium-rich diets are considered good for hypertensive patients.
Individuals suffering from renal issues such as kidney stones may benefit from consuming a potassium-rich diet regularly. The formation of kidney stones occurs through increased calcium deposition, and several research studies show that potassium can easily aid in the absorption of calcium, thereby preventing the individual risk of kidney stone formation. Additionally, because potassium helps eliminate sodium content as a result of excess salt or dietary sodium intake in individuals, it can also possibly prevent water retention and aid in fluid balance.
What Is the Best Way to Use Cream of Tartar?
Cream of tartar can be used as per the requirements of the recipes and is not limited only to the baking arena. People can use it for their main courses, side dishes, or soups while cooking. Usually employed as a food additive, cream of tartar can serve as an anticaking agent, leavening agent, stabilizer, or thickener. In baking, cream of tartar can be used in small to moderate amounts for meringues, pies, jams, jellies, baked goods, frosting and icing on cakes, gelatin recipes, and puddings, as well as for preparing soft or hard candies, among other uses.
The best way, recommended by culinary chefs, to stabilize or substitute cream of tartar for the recipe requiring baking powder is as follows: combine around half a teaspoon of cream of tartar with a quarter teaspoon of baking soda. This can be the alternative equivalent to approximately one teaspoon of baking powder needed for the recipe.
The amount of cream of tartar typically found in commercial food products or baked goods is extremely safe. Caution should be exercised only to prevent an overdose or avoid extreme ingestion of cream of tartar, which can lead to the life-threatening medical condition of hyperkalemia (high or excessive potassium levels in the blood). Many of the claims surrounding cream of tartar that one may find on the internet are not backed by scientific evidence. For instance, the purported health benefits for acne, migraines, home remedies, or smoking cessation have absolutely no scientific evidence supporting these claims. Instead, these may, in fact, aggravate existing systemic health issues. It would be wise to consult a registered healthcare professional regarding the effects of cream of tartar on one’s systemic health.