Originally Posted by boufa06
While it's true that bases will cause breakdown and therefore softening of food, it may prove somewhat dangerous to do. Strong bases such as sodum hydroxide would be dangerous if used beyond a certain amount. The amount the human body can tolerate is very small. Weaker bases such as calcium hydroxide (lime water) may be marginally safer but still dangerous. In addition, calcium hydroxide will give an unpleasant taste to the food. It is better to experiment with very weak bases which pose a much lower health risk. But is saving some old beans worth all this trouble? Finally, please bear in mind that breaking food down through the action of a base is the process that is foreign to the human body which breaks down food by the action of acid (hydrochloric acid produced in the stomach).
Actually, the acid in hte stomach merely starts a part of the digestion process. Foods are actually broken down in the small intestine by bile salts, which are strong bases (alkalyes). The bile release is triggered by the acidic food entering the douodenum, if I recall correctly. The sugars, starches, and fats are then broken down into digestible materials that can be absorbed into the bloodstream.
Think of Dawn dishwashing liquid and what it does to grease. It is a very effective base. And also notice that most drain cleaners, and oven cleaners are positive PH as well. They break down the foods and make them easier to get off of surfaces.
But still, strong bases are very caustic and will quickly destroy body tissues if gotten into the wrong areas of the body. But YT is correct in that there are food products that have been treated with such things as lye to make them pallatable. The first example I can think of is hominy. Hominy is a tough corn that is inedible until treated with lye to soten the hulls. I believe that pretzels are also treated with a base. Baking soda, though not as strong as many alkalies, is still a base and reactes fairly violently with acids.
Foods that are treated with alkalies are then rinsed to remove them from the food.
Seeeeeeya; Goodweed of the North