By Jackie Scrivanich, contributing writer
The truth about nitrates
Fat is bad! No, Sugar is harmful! No, food coloring is bad! No, cholesterol is the problem! No, nitrates are a problem! It seems that every few months something new is considered bad for us. The problem is being able to determine if these things are really bad, and if so, how do you avoid them?
Being a mother of two young children, and trying to live a healthy life for our family, I often wonder if I’m doing everything possible for them. I’m crazy about the concern of all refuse to drive, but Nor do I ignore the evidence that something can be harmful to my family.
I read an article last year about how a child should not eat more than 12 hot dogs a month or there will be an increased risk of cancer. I could not imagine eating that many hotdogs in a month, but now I have a preschooler who loves when his dad grills. Then, what are we going to do? No hot dogs or sausages ever? No more lunch meat? No more bacon? Nitrates are as bad as we are told?
What are nitrates?
Scientifically speaking, a “ Nitrate is a naturally occurring compound that is part of the nitrogen cycle as well as a food additive approved. It plays an important role in nutrition and function plants “( Source ). Nitrates are just one of the many chemicals in plants we eat. So nitrates can be considered safe for us to eat.
Or at least, that is when they occur naturally.
Nitrates are also known as sodium nitrate. Sodium nitrate is a preservative . It was first used as a way to reduce the growth of bacteria and diseases as botulism. This was very beneficial when people did not have electricity and refrigerators as we do now, or they needed to take the meat with them on a trip. When nitrates are used in our processed meats that are not naturally occurring and it is important to look at the effects this may have on our health.
Where nitrates are found?
As stated above, the nitrates are naturally occurring in many plants. In fact, “ Approximately 80% of nitrates in the diet are derived from vegetable consumption ” ( Source ). Some vegetables, such as lettuce, spinach and other leaf crops generally have higher nitrate concentrations ( Source ).
Sodium nitrate “is used in some processed meats such as bacon, dried meat and cold cuts” ( Source ). Nitrates are added to things like lunch cured or smoked meats, salami, sausages, hot dogs, and more. In almost any food that needs to be preserved, they can be used nitrates. There nitrates even in many water supplies.
Nitrates are found mainly in vegetables, fruits and processed meats. Therefore, it seems that nitrates are found in many of the foods we eat regularly. Vegetables and fruits are important to our diet and processed meats are everywhere.
are healthy nitrates?
That is the big question, and there seems to be a clear answer. This is what we know about nitrates and our health:
- In 1962, the World Health Organization made a recommendation based on the findings of a study by the FDA. This recommendation is that the “acceptable daily intake for humans sodium nitrate 5 mg or 3.7 mg nitrate per kg of body weight, equivalent to 222 mg for a 60 kg adult” ( Source ). This recommendation still remains today.
- “ Nitrates and nitrites are considered dangerous , and there are legal concentration in food and drinking water limits” ( Source ).
- According to the Mayo Clinic, “Sodium nitrate … could increase the risk of heart disease” ( Source ).
- “The presence of nitrates and nitrites in foods is associated with an increased risk of gastrointestinal cancer and, in infants, methemoglobinemia ” ( Source ). This is when, “bacteria in the mouth and gut nitrate converted to nitrite and nitrite reacts with hemoglobin to produce methemoglobin, which is no longer able to carry oxygen” ( Source ). That said, it is also possible that other factors contribute to methemoglobinemia, such as contaminated water.
- “nitrate and nitrite themselves are not carcinogenic, but nitrite formed from nitrate in the diet may react with dietary amines to form carcinogenic nitrosamines” ( Source )
- “there is even emerging evidence of a possible benefit of nitrate in cardiovascular health. there is also evidence intake of nitrate to protect against infections such as gastroenteritis” ( Source ) . It is not clear whether this refers only to nitrates naturally occurring or found in processed foods as well.
seems clear that nitrates that occur naturally in fruits and vegetables are not the problem. is, however, it is unclear whether or not the nitrates found in our processed meats are safe for us or not. does not seem to have been enough studies to determine whether it is safe or not and at what levels considered safe or unsafe.
From what I have found, that is clear enough to me that due to lack of clear evidence that nitrates are safe, and the evidence that there could be some serious problems, such as cancer connected to nitrates food, our family will do everything possible to limit in our diets.
How to stay away from nitrates?
If you feel that nitrates are a concern for the health of your family, you can choose to stay away. For me and my family, we decided to be more aware that there may be some serious concerns when it comes to nitrates. While the jury is still out on how much is good and how much is too much, we decided to err on the side of caution and limit our consumption as much as possible. The Mayo Clinic suggests that “if you eat meat, it is best to limit processed and instead choose lean meat, fresh meat and poultry, and have small portions” ( Source ).
When buying meats such as cold cuts and hot dogs, try to buy options that have nitrates at all, or those who use celery powder or other product celery type as natural nitrate . More research still needs to be done in those types of products however.
nitrates or nitrates?
Everything you want to do for your family, be polite. Do your research and make a decision that is best for your family. I feel I have a responsibility to do everything possible to protect my children.
I found a local meat shop that uses local meat to make their own lunch meat and do not use nitrates. This is a great option for us. We do not completely free of nitrates live, but we stuck them whenever possible. Like most things in life, moderation seems to be a good choice. We have yet to find a good choice for all meat we eat. Nitrates we must do everything possible to the life of a free as possible from them, but eat in moderation, especially from natural sources, which seems to be a good option.