I cringe when I hear of schools serving hotdogs for lunch. And those packaged “lunches” you see in the grocery store containing processed cheese, crackers, and luncheon meats? Well, don’t even get me started on those.
Most of us know that eating a lot of cured meats and hotdogs is not healthy because of how high these foods tend to be in fat, sodium, and preservatives. But not many people realize how dangerous these foods really can be.
Many cured meats on supermarket shelves contain nitrates. Nitrates are chemical preservatives used in foods like bacon and lunch meats to preserve color and inhibit the growth of bacteria.
What exactly are nitrates?
Nitrates aren’t harmful all on their own, but in the human body, nitrates are converted to the carcinogen nitrite. High amounts of nitrate consumption are linked to liver, stomach, and esophageal cancers. People who eat a lot of nitrates also seem to be at higher risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. (Pregnant women and babies should avoid all chemical nitrates.)
There are many types of cured meats containing nitrates—particularly pink cured meats. (The color comes from nitrates.)
There are vegetables like spinach and carrots that contain nitrates, but it’s believed that these veggies have other compounds that can prevent their naturally occurring nitrates from becoming dangerous. (It is advised to avoid giving these vegetables to babies under six months old because they can be sensitive to nitrates.)
Many manufacturers are listening to consumers, offering nitrate-free versions of ham, bacon and cured meats so be sure to check your labels. There may be a nitrate-free version of your favorite meats in your local grocery store.
If you can’t find nitrate-free meats in your neck of the woods, limit the amount of these foods that you do eat. At the same time, try to take extra vitamin C while you’re eating nitrate-containing foods to inhibit the conversion of nitrates to toxic nitrites. Eat a small orange with your bacon to balance things a bit.
Besides an orange, leafy greens are another great way to get that vitamin C into you. Lucky for you, if you have a hard time sourcing a steady supply of fresh greens, you have to try our Just Juiced Veggies—the absolute best greens product EVER! Completely organic and GMO-free, we’ve carefully dried and preserved pure juiced fruits and veggies without any fillers or ingredients like alfalfa which are difficult for those of us with autoimmune disorders. This would be a great product to add to your diet if you can’t cut out all of the nitrates (which you still should try to be doing, by the way!). Get the details here!
Leanne, so many of your posts are spot on! When you start looking around at our children’s food, there is so much to watch out for. Thank you for posting this information about nitrates and nitrites, and for suggesting how to decrease their impact.
I’ve read that one serving of arugula, two servings of butter lettuce, and four servings of celery or beets all have more nitrite than 467 hot dogs. Not really sure which bit of information is pertinent.
applegate is a really good brand of bacon/ham that is all natural, and raised humanely. we love their products. just have to make sure to use it all within a few days of opening it since it isnt dripping in nitrates/nitrites. it definitely will not last 2 weeks in the fridge. more like 3 or 4 days. but worth it to us!