Health & Fitness

Food Ingredients to Avoid: Nitrites and Nitrates

If you don’t put much thought into what you eat…think again. You are what you eat is no lie.

You should know that 80% of your fitness results can be attributed to your eating habits.

We are in such a hurry to eat sometimes that we just don’t pay attention to what we are ingesting. And this is what we can tie to excess body fat and poor nutrition. What is the best for you to eat is confusing. There‘s all sorts of misinformation out there from the media and from food manufacturers. Food companies use lots of unhealthful and dodgy ingredients to extend shelf life, add gaudy colors, and make us crave their products. Avoiding these ingredients helps you to improve the quality of what you put into your body.

Read labels to know what you’re putting in your body.

There are ingredients that you want to avoid. Seeing these listed on a food label or recognizing that it is manufactured into a product should automatically signal to you that you don’t want it. Nitrites and Nitrates are part of this group.

Sodium Nitrite and Sodium Nitrate are two closely-related chemicals are used to preserve meat. When added to meat, the nitrates are readily converted to nitrosamines, which are associated with an increased risk of certain types of cancers. This chemical reaction occurs most readily at the high temperatures. In a 2007 analysis, The World Cancer Research Fund revealed that eating 1.8 ounces of processed meat every day increases your cancer risk by 20%.

Sodium Nitrite and Sodium Nitrate, also known as soda niter and Chile saltpeter, are found in cured meats, bacon, ham, salami, corned beef and hot dogs, pate, pickled pig’s feet, canned meat (Vienna sausages, deviled ham), smoked salmon, dried fish, jerky.

Nitrates are a normal part of the diet, but excessive levels can cause problems, especially for kids who pound for pound take in more than adults do. They have been linked to diseases like leukemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and ovarian, colon, rectal, bladder, stomach, esophageal, pancreatic, and thyroid cancer. They’re found in our diets in several ways: as synthetic food preservatives and naturally occurring in fruits and vegetables like spinach and celery. Sodium nitrate and potassium nitrite are added to cured meat to preserve its color, prevent fats from going rancid, and stop bacteria from growing. They’re also found in drinking water thanks to nitrogen-based fertilizers as well as livestock waste.

Here’s where things get tricky: If nitrites are exposed to high heat during cooking, they can convert to nitrosamines, which are carcinogenic. And when nitrates are used as a food additive or consumed, they can convert into nitrites. Scientists believe that these conversions may be responsible for the link they’ve discovered between nitrates and nitrites and the diseases listed above. Nitrate or nitrite exposure has also been known to cause pregnancy complications and infant health problems.

Before you give up celery for good, keep in mind that there’s a difference between eating nitrates added to foods as preservatives and consuming them via produce. Nitrates that occur naturally are found alongside compounds like vitamin C that inhibit their conversion into nitrosamines in the body. When we eat nitrates and nitrites in foods artificially treated with them, we may not be getting these complementary nutrients and their preventative effects.

Keep nitrates and nitrites off your plate by:

-Minimizing consumption of processed foods and cured meat products like hot dogs, sausage, and cold cuts. Check labels carefully though—these compounds are also found in other products that contain processed meat and even some meat-free products.

-Don’t be fooled by “uncured” or nitrate-free brands. These products typically contain high amounts of nitrates obtained from ingredients like celery juice, which means they could contain as much as if not more than their traditional counterparts.

-Eat organic foods. They’re not grown with synthetic nitrogen fertilizers, which can boost a crop’s nitrate content significantly.

-If you live in an agricultural region, consider treating your water with a home water distiller, a reverse osmosis filter, or an ion exchange filter to remove any fertilizer nitrates that have accumulated in the groundwater.

-Eat a diet high in antioxidants. Certain vitamins, like vitamin C, can reduce the conversion of nitrates.

Once you cut these items such as this out of your diet, you’ll be pleased with the results. You will see excess weight loss, higher energy levels and you will just generally feel better.

Another way to think about purifying your diet is by focusing on eating “real food”. These food items include lean meats, vegetables, whole grains, fruits, nuts and seeds. Interestingly enough, real food items are generally found around the perimeter of your supermarket.


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