Calcium Ascorbate in Food
- What is calcium ascorbate
Mineral ascorbates are salts that come from ascorbic acid, commonly known as vitamin C. Ascorbates from vitamin C come in several iterations, including calcium ascorbate, sodium ascorbate, magnesium ascorbate, and potassium ascorbate.
Each type of vitamin C ascorbate contains a positively charged cation and a negatively charged ascorbate anion, so calcium ascorbate contains an ascorbate anion and a calcium ion. Because the ascorbate anion is the active part of each compound, mineral ascorbates exhibit many of the same beneficial properties as vitamin C. As an essential vitamin for humans, vitamin C plays an important role in maintaining healthy skin, teeth, bones, cartilage, and tissues. Vitamin C aids in immune system function, repairs tissues, and helps some enzymes work better. Because of its antioxidant properties, vitamin C also protects the cells against damage from free radicals.
- Calcium ascorbate uses
The stabilizing properties and various health benefits of calcium ascorbate make it a useful ingredient in many different products. Calcium ascorbate is primarily an additive in the food and beverage industry, but also has applications in cosmetics, skin care, pharmaceuticals, and as an ingredient in animal feed.
- Industries that use calcium ascorbate
Additive in the food and beverage industry
In the food and beverage industry, calcium ascorbate is a common food additive for its health benefits or as a stabilizing agent. Fortifying foods with calcium ascorbate boosts their vitamin C content, which can make up for vitamin C depletion that occurs during processing. Food manufacturers often add calcium ascorbate to orange juice or other fruit juices after they pasteurize them to replenish their vitamin C content. Calcium ascorbate can also increase the calcium content in products like ice cream or yogurt.
As a stabilizer, calcium ascorbate preserves the color and freshness of food and beverage products to extend their shelf life and stability. Because calcium ascorbate has a low pH, it helps prevent microbial growth which can lead to spoilage or cause food to become contaminated. Calcium ascorbate is popular as a food preservative because it is a natural alternative to harsher chemical preservatives.
The Food and Drug Administration lists calcium ascorbate as a generally-recognized-as-safe substance as a food additive, preservative, or nutrient supplement. Because it is safe for human consumption and does not harm the environment, calcium ascorbate can also be a safe additive in animal feed or water.
Antioxidant in the skin care and cosmetics industry
In the cosmetics industry, ascorbates play an essential role as antioxidants in many skin care products, including lotions, moisturizers, creams, cleansers, and sunscreen. Calcium ascorbate is also a skin conditioning agent that can slow the signs of aging and preserve the youthful appearance of the skin, which is why it is a common ingredient in anti-aging cosmetic lotions and eye cream. Calcium ascorbate also has lightening properties and is common in skin lightening spot treatments that reduce the appearance of discoloration.
Calcium ascorbate in skin care products offers many benefits to consumers, including:
- Protecting the skin against free radicals
- Slowing skin deterioration
- Reducing or healing inflammation
- Reducing the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines
- Lightening blemishes or discoloration
- Building collagen in the skin
Outside of the skin care segment of the cosmetics industry, calcium ascorbate is a common ingredient in some makeup products, mouthwash, and whitening toothpaste.
Nutritional supplement in the pharmaceutical industry
In the pharmaceutical industry, calcium ascorbate is a nutritional or dietary supplement for those with low vitamin C levels. Vitamin C is an essential vitamin for humans, and many fruits and vegetables are a natural source of it. Some animals produce vitamin C themselves, but humans must obtain all their vitamin C from the foods they eat or through vitamin C supplements.
Most people receive sufficient vitamin C from their diet, but those who lack vitamin C can develop scurvy — a condition whose symptoms include joint pain, fatigue, muscle weakness, rash, and tooth pain. Those who do not consume enough vitamin C in their diets can take calcium ascorbate supplements to boost their vitamin C intake and maintain healthy body functioning.
Calcium ascorbate also serves as a calcium supplement to maintain and build bone strength. Most people who eat a normal diet consume plenty of calcium, but those who are lactose-intolerant, have a dairy allergy, or follow a vegan diet may have low calcium levels. Those who have osteoporosis may also require additional calcium. Compared to other forms of calcium, calcium ascorbate is easier for the body to absorb, making it an excellent choice for calcium supplementation.
- Why calcium ascorbate is essential
Calcium ascorbate is an important ingredient in the food and beverage, nutraceutical, and cosmetics industries. By adding calcium ascorbate to products, manufacturers can increase shelf life, reduce waste, boost the health benefits of products, and keep up with rising consumer demand for natural and safe products.
Here are a few reasons calcium ascorbate is important as an additive in various products.
Improves food safety: Calcium ascorbate is a natural preservative that is safer than conventional chemicals used for food preservation. Products preserved with calcium ascorbate can meet consumer desire for clean and healthy products. As an effective preservative, calcium ascorbate also protects against microbial growth, which can cause consumers to become sick. When calcium ascorbate is on the ingredients list, consumers can have peace of mind that their food is safe and contaminant-free.
Reduces food waste: By extending the shelf life of products through preservation with calcium ascorbate, companies can reduce food waste and maximize profits. Longer shelf life also means consumers can enjoy these products longer and throw away less food in their homes.
Creates healthier products: Instead of chemical preservatives or other harsh additives, calcium ascorbate can help manufacturers produce healthier and greener products. Foods preserved with calcium ascorbate provide additional calcium and vitamin C. The antioxidant properties of calcium ascorbate can also help repair and protect the body, both topically and ingested in food.
Helps meet growing food demand: According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, food production will need to increase by 70 percent from 2009 to meet demands in 2050. Processed and shelf-stable foods are an efficient way to meet this demand, as they last longer and are often more affordable to produce. As a natural and effective preservative, ascorbates can assist in this meeting this growing demand.
Helps meet growing demand in cosmetics: Demand for natural and clean-label products is also growing in the cosmetics industry, with the skin care segment growing the fastest. As more consumers are interested in anti-aging products, the demand for calcium ascorbate in the skin care industry will likely continue to grow.
Provides more consumer-friendly supplements: Because calcium ascorbate is a salt rather than an acid, it is less acidic than vitamin C in its pure form as ascorbic acid. When a person digests calcium ascorbate, the calcium and ascorbate ions do not alter the acid concentration in the stomach. Therefore, consumers with sensitive stomachs can take calcium ascorbate supplements with little risk of nausea or discomfort.
These benefits of calcium ascorbate make it a valuable ingredient in processed foods, skin care products, and as a dietary supplement.
- Calcium ascorbate in food and drinks
In the food and nutrition industry, calcium ascorbate is an ingredient in a variety of processed goods. Because calcium ascorbate is odorless and soluble in water, it is easy for food and beverage manufacturers to incorporate into their products without altering their scent, flavor, or color. Calcium ascorbate is most common as a preservative, but also boosts the vitamin C or calcium content of foods and drinks.
Listed below are some examples of calcium ascorbate in food and drinks.
Many fruit juices that naturally contain high levels of vitamin C lose a large percentage of this vital nutrient during processing. Naturally occurring vitamin C in fruits like oranges, blackcurrants, guavas, kiwis, and lemons breaks down when these fruits get processed for juices or jams.
Heat treatment that pasteurizes juices to eliminate harmful bacteria also destroys much of the vitamin C. For example, a single cup of fresh-squeezed orange juice contains 124 milligrams of vitamin C, while a cup of pasteurized orange juice contains only 84 milligrams. Vitamin C can also deteriorate after exposure to oxygen, so it can also get lost during cutting, chopping or blending of fruits.
Food manufacturers can add calcium ascorbate to these products after processing or pasteurization to replenish their vitamin C levels. Because of its acidity, calcium ascorbate can also enhance the tart flavor and fresh taste of fruit products like jellies, jams, compotes, fruit juices, or fruit-flavored candies.
Calcium ascorbate is also useful during the production of many processed meats, including sausages, ground meat, cold cuts, and many cured meats. In ground meat production, calcium ascorbate prevents discoloration and oxidation. That allows longer storage of ground meats, cold cuts, and uncured sausages without losing their vibrant color.
In cured meats — such as bacon, ham, pepperoni, sausage, salami, and prosciutto — ascorbates preserve color and speed up the curing process. In powdered form, calcium ascorbate can get added before canning or packaging. Food manufacturers can also inject it as a curing solution before precooking the meat, which helps it retain more juices.
Calcium ascorbate in cured meats also plays the critical role of preventing the formation of toxic nitrosamines. Nitrates often get added to cured meats to protect against bacterial growth, specifically Clostridium botulinum. However, these nitrates can also produce carcinogenic nitrosamines during the curing, storing, and cooking process. Together, calcium ascorbate and nitrates protect consumers from harmful bacteria and nitrosamines.
Calcium ascorbate is a common ingredient during the breadmaking process as an agent for promoting the growth of yeast. Adding calcium ascorbate to dough causes the loaf to rise more and improves the crumb structure of the bread. The calcium ascorbate helps trap more gas inside the dough to create a fine crumb structure that is still strong. The final product will be bread that is soft, but returns to its original shape when pressed.
In addition to improving the quality of the bread, calcium ascorbate additives also extend the product's shelf life and protect against the growth of mold.
Other processed foods
Because it is a natural and FDA-approved preservative, calcium ascorbate improves the shelf life and preserves the color of a variety of other processed foods. Its ability to be added to foods and beverages without altering their smell or appearance makes calcium ascorbate a versatile preservative. Here are a few foods that commonly use calcium ascorbate to preserve their quality, flavor, and color:
- Soups and broths
- Sauces and dressing
- Dry pasta
- Ice cream
- Beer and wine
- Flavored drinks
By adding calcium ascorbate during the production of various processed foods and beverages, manufacturers can create more delicious and safer products for consumers.