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You’ll find a little box of baking soda in almost every American pantry or freezer to offset odors. It’s well known among baking enthusiasts, too. How many of us have heard stories about baking soda’s versatility from our mothers and grandmothers? But baking soda can be used for a variety of other purposes. You’ve probably heard that if you sprinkle a little bit of baking soda in your shoes, it can work as a natural deodorizer. And baking soda mixed with apple cider vinegar makes a bubbly combination that has many uses, such as unclogging your sink. But what is baking soda, and what are baking soda’s health benefits? Let’s take a closer look.
Baking Soda’s Health Benefits: History
So what exactly is baking soda? According to Phys.org, baking soda contains only one ingredient: sodium bicarbonate, which acts as a base that reacts when it comes into contact with acids like buttermilk, yogurt, or vinegar. The reaction produces carbon dioxide (CO2), which results in bubbles. When baking, trapped bubbles help raise the dough or batter, yielding a fluffy and yummy texture.
It’s worth noting that baking soda—inexpensive and available at most grocery stores—revolutionized the baking industry. Prior to the 18th century, people had to spend between 12 and 24 hours making yeast—not an easy process without refrigerators and other equipment that we’re lucky to have today. It wasn’t uncommon for yeast not to turn out the way it was supposed to because the temperature was either too cold or too hot. Sometimes, contamination from bacteria ruined the entire process. Baking soda revolutionized this process because bakers no longer had to do rigorous work in order for a cake to rise.
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DID YOU KNOW?
Baking soda can help to enhance exercise performance. It has been tested by runners and cyclists for decades. The bicarbonate increases the buffering of lactic acid. During an intense workout, you don’t experience lactate accumulation, which can help you to push harder and perform better.
Baking Soda’s Health Benefits: Uses and Remedies
Heartburn and indigestion. Most medications for heartburn or indigestion contains some form of bicarbonate. Baking soda taken by mouth as an antacid works by immediately neutralizing stomach acid, which can help relieve acid reflux and indigestion. It can also help with diarrhea, which can cause a significant loss of bicarbonate from the body. According to the National Institutes of Health, it’s safe to add one-half of a teaspoon to one-half glass of water (around 4 ounces). Make sure it dissolves completely. You can repeat the process every two hours, but it’s important to not exceed 7 one-half teaspoons in 24 hours. If you’re over the age of 60, do not take more than three half-teaspoons during a day.
Tooth decay. Baking soda can help fight Streptococcus mutans bacteria, which is responsible for tooth decay. You can make your own gum paste at home or purchase toothpaste that already contains baking soda.
Baking soda also can help whiten teeth. You can make your own whitening mixture at home using one crushed ripe strawberry and a half-teaspoon of baking soda. You can spread the mixture onto your teeth and leave it for five minutes. After that brush and rinse your teeth. This method should be used no more than once a week because it can potentially harm your tooth enamel. 
Urinary tract infection. According to NCBI resources taking baking soda orally can help raise the Ph level of urine. When the pH level in urine is lower than 6 it creates an acidic environment. By taking baking soda you can help to alkalize urine and, according to the study, patients noticed positive change in their urinary tract infection symptoms.
Inflammation. Baking soda contains anti-inflammatory properties, so it can help with inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and gout. Gout occurs when excess uric acid circulates in the blood stream and is deposited as sharp crystals in certain joints. Baking soda helps neutralizes the excess acid and can help ease the inflammation. It can prevent the deposition of sharp crystals in the joints.  According to Nutrition Review, the antacid properties of baking soda can help the spleen to produce less inflammatory reactions and promote healing.
Allergies. Baking soda can help relieve seasonal allergies. It can also help with insect bites and itchy skin. Applying a pasted made of a teaspoon of baking soda and some water is enough to calm the itch. Baking soda is also the main ingredient in nasal irrigation. To do a saline nasal rinse yourself, combine one quart of distilled or boiled and then cooled water in a Neti Pot or squeeze bottle. Add two or three teaspoons of sea salt and one teaspoon of baking soda. Tilt your head forward over the sink and pour or squeeze solution into one nostril and let it drain from the other. Make sure you are doing it carefully.[11,12]
Circulatory system issues. The circulatory system helps to deliver blood, oxygen, and hormones to our vital organs. If the circulatory system doesn’t work the right way, it can cause problems like fatigue, cognitive issues, compromised immunity, and digestion ailments. Healthy lifestyle and heart-health diet can help minimize the risk of heart disease. Baking soda can help maintain a healthy pH, detoxify the blood and help improve the blood flow.
Baking Soda’s Health Benefits: Warnings
According to PubMed Health, side effects from using baking soda by mouth may include:
- Itching and hives
- Swelling in your mouth or throat
- Severe stomach pain
- Shortness of breath
- Swelling or tingling in your mouth
Avoid overdoing it; baking soda can cause an increase in acid production. Due to high sodium, it’s not recommended for children, pregnant women, and people over 60. People who follow a salt-restricted diet should avoid taking baking soda. If you have a medical condition, make sure to consult your doctor before using baking soda.
If you notice any of the listed (or other) side effects, contact your doctor for medical advice.
Is Baking Soda the Same as Baking Powder?
You’ve probably wondered at one point or another whether baking soda and baking powder are the same thing. The answer to that question is no. Baking soda and baking powder are both leaveners used in baking, however, baking soda contains only one ingredient—sodium bicarbonate—while baking powder contains three: baking soda, cream of tartar, and cornstarch.
Baking soda acts as a base and if a recipe calls for baking soda as one of the ingredients, it means that it will interact with an acidic element already present in the recipe, such as brown sugar, vinegar, lemon juice, buttermilk or yogurt. When baking soda interacts with acid, it traps air, which causes the dough to rise. Baking powder, on the other hand, is a double agent, which means that it already contains an acidic element to neutralize the baking soda. Baking powder contains cream of tartar, which is acidic, and corn starch, which helps to separate and dry.
Baking powder is a more commonly used ingredient in cakes and biscuits, while baking soda is more often used in cookies and quick bake recipes, such as muffins or pancakes, because of its simplicity. In cookies, baking powder helps the dough to rise, while baking soda the dough helps to spread. It’s important to remember that while you can substitute baking powder for baking soda, you cannot substitute baking soda for baking powder—unless you have some cream of tartar to add to the dough.
GREEK YOGURT PANCAKES RECIPE
- 1 teaspoon of baking soda
- Egg or egg whites
- 3 tablespoons of flour
- 1 cup of Greek yogurt
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
- Put 6 ounces of Greek yogurt and whisk a bit until creamy.
- Add an egg or egg whites of 1 egg.
- Mix that together, then add in your baking soda and flour slowly. Mix some more.
- Optional: Add in whatever you like in pancakes. You can add blueberries, almonds, raisins, some vanilla extract, and cinnamon. (you can also add chocolate, other nuts…etc…)
- Heat a sprayed down griddle or pan to medium heat and spoon the batter to your desired size onto it.
- When it starts to bubble on the top, flip it. These pancakes flip easily since the batter sticks together really well.
- Stack them up and serve with the sides you like: It can be a banana, some blueberries or maple syrup + cinnamon. You can add confectioners’ sugar, butter, whipped cream…etc…
This recipe makes 3 to 6 pancakes, depending on how big you like them.