The Straight Dope

Go Back   Straight Dope Message Board > Main > General Questions

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 06-19-2003, 07:47 PM
Susma Rio Sep Susma Rio Sep is offline
BANNED
 
Join Date: Jul 2002
Posts: 548
Neutralizing salt and sugar

What chemical substances or chemical procedures or kitchen tricks can be employed to neutralize sugar or salt?

Here are the situations:

1. Cooked or prepared dish or drink happen to contain too much sugar or salt;

2. You happen to have eaten too much and too highly sugared or salted foods.

To neutralize here means to render the chemicals that are sugar or salt into compounds, not possessed of the food and chemical properties of sugar or salt, but at the same time at least tasteless, and very important also harmless.

Thanks for any helpful information or suggestion. I know some friends who are diabetic and/or plagued by hypertension, and therefore must not ingest sugar and salt like others who are freed of these liabilities.

Susma Rio Sep
Reply With Quote
Advertisements  
  #2  
Old 06-19-2003, 07:55 PM
Fear Itself Fear Itself is offline
ɯǝlqoɹd ɐ ǝʌɐɥ ǝʍ 'uoʇsnoɥ
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: Flavortown
Posts: 34,261
You might be able to cover up the taste of sugar or salt, but as far as rendering them safe for diabetics or hypertensives, you are out of luck. There is no way to take the salt out of Top Ramen or the sugar out of a Twinkie, at least not so they would still be recognizable as food.
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 06-19-2003, 08:51 PM
j.c. j.c. is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
If you happen to have eaten too much... that's all she wrote.

If you are cooking something, and it seems too salty, sugar and fat might overwhelm that. Too sweet can sometimes be cut a little with a splash of vinegar.

Or, you can give the whole mess to the dog and start over.
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 06-19-2003, 09:13 PM
Nanoda Nanoda is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2002
You could always make the recipe bigger.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 06-19-2003, 09:25 PM
lorinada lorinada is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Re: Neutralizing salt and sugar

Quote:
Originally posted by Susma Rio Sep
diabetic <snip> must not ingest sugar

Susma Rio Sep
How and where did this myth EVER get started? In over two decades of being a type 1 diabetic I have never been told I must not ingest sugar. On the contrary, fruit is highly recommended to even out the rate in which my blood sugar rises after a meal. And in fact, with me, rice and potatoes make my blood sugar spike higher than any candy bar ever has.

We must have carbohydrates of both types in moderation. Hey, just like we must moderate our proteins and fats, too! Hey, just like everyone without this "liability" should also do!

Oh, sorry for the hijack. This is just one of my pet peeves.
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 06-19-2003, 10:25 PM
Tikki Tikki is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2002
This is not neutralizing the salt but I've heard that putting a sliced potato on oversalted soup will absorb the extra salt, then when you're ready to eat, you just throw the potato out.
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 06-19-2003, 11:41 PM
antechinus antechinus is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2001
You could try dialysis. Just put the whole lot in a semipermeable bag and soak in agitated water for a few days. While you are at it, you might want to irradiate the lot first, to prevent growths.
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 06-20-2003, 02:37 AM
chaoticbear chaoticbear is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
For the salt: I've heard the potato thing too... If you want to make your food inedible, try adding silver nitrate... that should precipitate out the sodium.

For the sugar: I don't know if it would work, and I probably wouldn't eat it later, but I know sulfuric acid works for pure sugar. Maybe if it's in a food, it will work too.
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 06-20-2003, 02:55 AM
nebco9 nebco9 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
I'll ring in at #3 for putting sliced potato in salty liquid to absorb the salt, and then throw the potato out.
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 06-20-2003, 11:20 AM
robby robby is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: Connecticut, USA
Posts: 4,973
Quote:
Originally posted by chaoticdonkey
For the salt: ... If you want to make your food inedible, try adding silver nitrate... that should precipitate out the sodium.
That would be a neat trick, considering that sodium nitrate (presumably the precipitate you're trying to produce ) is extremely soluble in water (even more so than sodium chloride).

Indeed, I'm not aware of any sodium or nitrate salts that are insoluble in water.

Cites:
http://www.thesciencedesk.com/SolubilityGraph.html
http://onsager.bd.psu.edu/~jircitano/soluble.html
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 06-20-2003, 11:35 AM
Terminus Est Terminus Est is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2001
Adding silver nitrate should precipitate out silver chloride. You'll still be left with a mess of sodium and nitrate ions.
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 06-20-2003, 11:53 AM
curly chick curly chick is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2002
I can't see what use it would be to precipitate the silver chloride out unless the OP has a centrifuge and the food is a liquid.
All you would have done would be turn the food from too salty to poisonous.

The potato trick works for salty foods, you can do it with bread, as well.

Sugary foods can be diluted, by making the recipe bigger, as has already been said on here, but by very little else in an ordinary kitchen.

The reason there is no real chemistry quick fix for these is that sugar and salt are both neutral compounds to start with.
Of course chemists make sugars and salts into other things in the lab, but temperature, pressure, catalysts and the associated specialist equipment are usually needed.
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 06-21-2003, 11:14 AM
robby robby is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: Connecticut, USA
Posts: 4,973
Quote:
Originally posted by Terminus Est
Adding silver nitrate should precipitate out silver chloride. You'll still be left with a mess of sodium and nitrate ions.
...which will certainly not "precipitate out the sodium."
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 10-20-2016, 11:13 PM
susidknghrtsrzon_a susidknghrtsrzon_a is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2016
maybe crystalize the sodium

Just stumbled across this and wanted to register, so then too much nitrates could be upsetting. The potato thing is a form of crystalization from a supersaturated solution.
Reply With Quote
  #15  
Old 10-20-2016, 11:22 PM
CookingWithGas CookingWithGas is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: Tysons Corner, VA, USA
Posts: 10,785
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tikki View Post
This is not neutralizing the salt but I've heard that putting a sliced potato on oversalted soup will absorb the extra salt, then when you're ready to eat, you just throw the potato out.
This is a myth. No idea why it is widely believed. A potato will absorb some salty water but that is different than absorbing salt. It will not reduce the concentration of salt in the soup. Food scientist and university chemistry professor Robert Wolke documented an experiment to demonstrate this in his book "What Einstein Told His Cook: Kitchen Science Explained."
__________________
Making the world a better place one fret at a time.
| | |會 |會 |會 |會 | |:| | |會 |會
Reply With Quote
  #16  
Old 10-21-2016, 01:08 AM
penultima thule penultima thule is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2009
Quote:
Originally Posted by Susma Rio Sep View Post
1. Cooked or prepared dish or drink happen to contain too much sugar or salt;
If you have a drink that is too salty or too sugared then (in theory) you could use osmosis e.g. put the drink into a container with a semi-permeable membrane say a latex balloon and suspend in a bowl of distilled water.

How long this would take I couldn't say but probably at least overnight and the drinkability of the filtered remains might be adversely affected.
Reply With Quote
  #17  
Old 10-21-2016, 01:31 AM
Mangetout Mangetout is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: May 2001
Location: England
Posts: 54,948
Quote:
Originally Posted by penultima thule View Post
If you have a drink that is too salty or too sugared then (in theory) you could use osmosis e.g. put the drink into a container with a semi-permeable membrane say a latex balloon and suspend in a bowl of distilled water.

How long this would take I couldn't say but probably at least overnight and the drinkability of the filtered remains might be adversely affected.
That would just dilute the drink by drawing additional water through the membrane.

The same result could be achieved by diluting the drink in a glass, by adding water.
Reply With Quote
  #18  
Old 10-21-2016, 01:36 AM
Mangetout Mangetout is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: May 2001
Location: England
Posts: 54,948
Quote:
Originally Posted by susidknghrtsrzon_a View Post
The potato thing is a form of crystalization from a supersaturated solution.
It's not possible to have a supersaturated solution of salt in a pot of stew or soup. Supersaturation typically occurs in fairly pure solutions - if your stew was supersaturated, the stuff in there already (chunks of carrot, chicken, barley, whatever) would already be causing nucleation.

The potato thing is a myth - it might make the soup palatable by offsetting the flavour of the salt with starch etc, but it's not going to remove very much salt - the best that could be hoped for would be that the potato becomes as salty (in terms of concentration) as the broth, allowing you to remove that amount of salt from the recipe. The same effect could be achieved by removing a ladle full of the broth and replacing it with unsalted broth.
Reply With Quote
  #19  
Old 10-21-2016, 02:02 AM
Francis Vaughan Francis Vaughan is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2009
Location: Adelaide, Australia
Posts: 3,872
An ion-exchange resin could be used to replace the sodium with calcium. Whether the rest of the contents of the broth would actually be compatible with this is another question. But you can remove sodium, which from a dietary point of view is the bad ion.

In fact it seems that ion-exchange beds are used in the food industry for all sorts of interesting processing, and can even be used to move sugar about.

I don't think either salt or sugar removal via ion-exchange is going to be viable for prepared food, but the principle is interesting.

One point about the OP. "neutralise" is a funny word. People know about neutralising acids or bases. So the idea often gets used for things where there is no actual equivalent reaction. There is no anti-salt that neutralises salts. Nor an anti-sugar. This is, in part, because there is no equivalent to neutral salt or neutral sugar concentrations. Acid versus base is because there is a concentration of protons in water that has some neutral properties, and anything more or less than that has active chemical action (ie is acidic or caustic.) The only concentration of salt that is neutral is zero, and the same for sugar. (OK this is very slightly not true, ultra pure water has some very interesting properties, but that is beyond these thoughts.)

Sugar might be converted to something else. Letting your food ferment would achieve this. Somehow I doubt this was the intent.
Reply With Quote
  #20  
Old 10-21-2016, 03:05 AM
Carl Pham Carl Pham is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2010
First, let's be clear that your food doesn't generally contain "salt" (sodium chloride, NaCl) but dissolved sodium (Na+) and chloride (Cl-) ions, because sodium chloride immediately comes apart in water. As mentioned above, it's the Na+ that tastes "salty" and does all the unfortunate things to your blood pressure.

Second, the "sugar" that probably most concerns you is called sucrose, and it's a molecule made of two simpler sugars (called glucose and fructose) chemically bonded together. That's the "sugar" you add when you cook, although there are an enormous number of other compounds that a chemist also calls "sugars," a few of which actually taste sweet, but most of which don't.

So you're asking: is it possible to do a chemical reaction with the Na+ and sucrose in my food that will turn them into something else, something harmless?

Sure. Chemists have spent centuries figuring out how to do these things. The most difficult one is going to be the Na+, because sodium is a very, very reactive element, and it really, really likes to form the Na+ ion in the presence of water. It would take some very powerful and complex chemistry to prevent that. In fact, the only thing that comes to mind is some kind of fancy chelating agent that would surround the Na+ with a "cage" made up of some organic (= food-like) molecule that was indigestible, so that the sodium in its carrier cage would be carried entirely through your digestive system without being absorbed.

The sugar is relatively easy, because sugars are already pretty chemically reactive. There are many, many reactions that could be done on the sucrose to turn it into something that is harmless but isn't sweet and doesn't have the effect on you that sugar does.

So far so good. But now comes the big problem, and it's almost certainly insurmountable: these are not easy reactions by any stretch of the imagination. They can generally only be done satisfactorily under laboratory conditions, with pristine starting material and very carefully controlled conditions. They are very unlikely to work well on your stove top, with all the other glop in the food (which will likely react with the stuff you put in to deal with the Na+ and sugar, producing what a chemist calls "byproducts"). Even worse, the reagents (= other chemical) that are used are going to be very expensive by your food standards. $100/kg or even $100/g are not at all uncommon in chemical reagents. Finally, in order to be 100% sure that the result is 100% safe to eat, you are going to require some very, very careful chemical analysis of the result, to be sure no nasty poison byproduct was accidentally created (particularly with all that glop in there).

In short, while I'm sure what you want can theoretically be done, it would probably involve a month or so of careful lab work and at least several thousand dollars, and quite possibly much more.

There's a lot of very interesting chemistry that goes on in the food industry. If the whole field interests you, you can look into it and you might find it fascinating. Quite a lot of people who get degrees in chemistry, even advanced degrees, end up going into the food industry to work on problems of food preparation, preservation, and analysis.
Reply With Quote
  #21  
Old 10-21-2016, 09:27 AM
Pantastic Pantastic is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2015
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fear Itself View Post
You might be able to cover up the taste of sugar or salt, but as far as rendering them safe for diabetics or hypertensives, you are out of luck. There is no way to take the salt out of Top Ramen or the sugar out of a Twinkie, at least not so they would still be recognizable as food.
I know I'm responding to a zombie, but you can easily massively reduce the salt in Top Ramen by not using the spice pack or only using part of it. The noodles themselves don't actually have that much salt in them.
Reply With Quote
  #22  
Old 10-21-2016, 09:54 AM
Leo Bloom Leo Bloom is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2009
Location: Here
Posts: 10,400
Liquefy it and send it to a de-salination plant by the seashore. It's right there in the company name.

I don't know what chelating is (mentioned above)...is that what they do?
Reply With Quote
  #23  
Old 10-21-2016, 10:52 AM
Ruken Ruken is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: May 2003
Location: DC
Posts: 4,749
Quote:
Originally Posted by Francis Vaughan View Post
Sugar might be converted to something else. Letting your food ferment would achieve this. Somehow I doubt this was the intent.
Fermented Twinkies!
Reply With Quote
  #24  
Old 10-21-2016, 11:07 AM
Frankenstein Monster Frankenstein Monster is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Location: Europe
Posts: 478
Quote:
Originally Posted by Carl Pham View Post
There are many, many reactions that could be done on the sucrose to turn it into something that is harmless but isn't sweet and doesn't have the effect on you that sugar does.
Could you elaborate on this or do you have examples?

I'm trying to think of a chemical you could add to a sugary drink that turns the sugar into non-sugar, but can't think of any!

I don't think the reactions listed on the wiki page are chemicals that you just can add to a glass of soft drink in small quantities (on the order of the sugar itself) to neutralize the sugar. Chloric acid? What would that do?

Fermentation does not quite count as it's a living organism, not a chemical.

Enzymes (sucrase, invertase, lactase, amylase...) would be exactly what I'm looking for but all of them seem to turn sugar into another sugar!

I googled for "fructase" or "glucase" but those kinds of hypothetical enzymes don't seem to exist!

Is it that hard to react sugar out of a soft drink with a simple chemical?

Last edited by Frankenstein Monster; 10-21-2016 at 11:08 AM..
Reply With Quote
  #25  
Old 10-21-2016, 11:16 AM
Mangetout Mangetout is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: May 2001
Location: England
Posts: 54,948
I don't think Carl was implying that many or most of these reagents would be food safe.

Hydrogen peroxide added to a sugary drink will react with the sugar, I think.
Reply With Quote
  #26  
Old 10-21-2016, 12:16 PM
Frankenstein Monster Frankenstein Monster is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Location: Europe
Posts: 478
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mangetout View Post
I don't think Carl was implying that many or most of these reagents would be food safe.

Hydrogen peroxide added to a sugary drink will react with the sugar, I think.
Doesn't have to be food safe, for the purposes of my thought experiment.

What would roughly be the reaction with dissolved sugar and hydrogen peroxide solution?

Also, how about duplicating the reaction that happens in fermentation. Looks a bit difficult. Could you have a solution of "NAD+" and "ADP" and (Phosphorus? Phosphate?) and add a splash of it to a soft drink? Would it decompose the sugar?
Reply With Quote
  #27  
Old 10-21-2016, 01:41 PM
Cartoonacy Cartoonacy is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Quote:
Originally Posted by Frankenstein Monster View Post
I'm trying to think of a chemical you could add to a sugary drink that turns the sugar into non-sugar, but can't think of any!
Yeast. OK, technically it's not a chemical...
Reply With Quote
  #28  
Old 10-21-2016, 05:00 PM
Ignotus Ignotus is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2012
Quote:
Originally Posted by Frankenstein Monster View Post
Doesn't have to be food safe, for the purposes of my thought experiment.

What would roughly be the reaction with dissolved sugar and hydrogen peroxide solution?

Also, how about duplicating the reaction that happens in fermentation. Looks a bit difficult. Could you have a solution of "NAD+" and "ADP" and (Phosphorus? Phosphate?) and add a splash of it to a soft drink? Would it decompose the sugar?
You'd have to add the necessary enzymes too. But sure, Buchner managed to carry out glycolysis in cell-free solutions by means of yeast extracts back in 1897, so it can be done.

About hydrogen peroxide: I guess the theory is that it would convert those -OH groups to =O (+ H2O), perhaps with some additional carbon chain cleavage. I wouldn't bet on it to happen in moderate concentrations though. I think potassium permanganate might be a better choice for oxidizer. Actually, I'm testing this theory right now: I prepared a solution of a few permanganate crystals in water, poured it in two flasks, and added a teaspoon of sugar to one of them. If it's working, the solution in that flask should have a lighter color (and a precipitate of MnO2) by tomorrow!
Reply With Quote
  #29  
Old 10-22-2016, 07:11 AM
Ignotus Ignotus is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2012
My experiment from yesterday worked beautifully! I now have a bottle of perfectly clear, colorless solution with a dark precipitate at the bottom! The control sample, of course, remains a dark purple.

So, it's clear you can oxidize sugar to some degree by KMnO4. The remaining question, of course, is whether the products from the reaction would still be metabolized like sugar (cells are pretty good at carrying out things like =O/-OH conversions).
Reply With Quote
  #30  
Old 10-22-2016, 08:39 AM
Nava Nava is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
The manganese solution itself would probably not be all that safe, though.
Reply With Quote
  #31  
Old 10-22-2016, 12:46 PM
Leo Bloom Leo Bloom is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2009
Location: Here
Posts: 10,400
Permanganate in pomegranate. Mmmm...
Reply With Quote
  #32  
Old 10-23-2016, 06:09 AM
Isilder Isilder is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2013
Quote:
Originally Posted by Susma Rio Sep View Post
What chemical substances or chemical procedures or kitchen tricks can be employed to neutralize sugar or salt?
There's no chemical procedure to neutralise sugar or salt... Another example of a dietary restriction is lactose intolerance.. You can use lactase to convert lactose into glucose and galactose, if you had accidentally made a food for lactose intolerant person contaminated.

But a trick ?
If you put two batches worth of sugar (for example, the same for salt or other ingredient) into one batch, you might double the size of the batch and then store the left over for tomorrow or next week.

Last edited by Isilder; 10-23-2016 at 06:11 AM..
Reply With Quote
Reply



Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 08:55 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2016, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@chicagoreader.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to: sdsubscriptions@chicagoreader.com.

Copyright 2016 Sun-Times Media, LLC.