Anna, a Fooducate community member asks:
My mother-in-law told me not to use Cream of Tartar, that her mother said it’s bad. Anyone know if she’s right???
What you need to know:
1. Cream of Tarter is actually a white, odorless powder. You can find it conveniently packaged in the spices section of your local supermarket.
2. The chemical name for cream of tartar is potassium bitartrate, or potassium hydrogen tartrate. We’ll get to the potassium in a minute.
3. Cream of tartar is natural, and is formed from the sediment left over in barrels after the winemaking process. They’ve found cream of tartar in ancient pottery dating back 7000 years!
4. Cream of tartar has multiple uses in food preparation including stabilizing egg whites by increasing their heat tolerance and volume, and preventing sugary syrups, chocolates and candies from crystallizing.
5. Homemade baking powder can be made by combining baking soda and cream of tartar as the active acid ingredient.
6. If you’re whipping cream and want to stabilize it, add some cream of tartar after whipping.
7. Health concern #1 - cream of tartar has an extremely high potassium content – 495 mg per teaspoon. Our daily requirement for potassium is 3500 mg. This poses a risk for people with kidney disease or folks that take medication that decreases the ability of their kidneys to excrete potassium. Keep in mind however that cream of tartar is usually used in tiny amounts.
8. Health concern #2 – Laxative effect. Again, a non-issue for most people due to the tiny amounts used in food. You’ll be more likely to experience laxative effects from a stick of gum sweetened with sugar alcohol, or eating an energy bar pumped with inulin for extra fiber.
So to answer your question Anna, if your kidneys are fine and if you use cream of tartar in the small quantities intended, there should be no problem.