Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Nitrates and Nitrites Nonsense?


A lot of food-conscious individuals who are on a low carbohydrate lifestyle avidly state they avoid meat with added nitrites and nitrates.  It is almost automatic - as if these substances were inherently toxic to humans.  If you look closely at the image above, you'll see that there is an asterisk next to the statement that none have been added:

"Except for the naturally occurring nitrites in celery powder". 

So wait a minute.  Nitrates and Nitrites are naturally-occurring?  Correct.  As Chris Kesser explains, "...your spit contains far more nitrites than anything you could ever eat".  Check out his blog article on the topic here:  http://chriskresser.com/the-nitrate-and-nitrite-myth-another-reason-not-to-fear-bacon

But one cannot equate "natural" to "healthy", right?  Cancer and coca plants are "natural" also, are they not?  To answer this, we can look at a lot of common food items and see just how they register on the nitrate and nitrite scale.  This data comes from "Nitrates and Nitrites Dietary Exposure and Risk Assessment" by Barbara Thomson, June 2004, Institute of Environmental Science & Research Limited.

Note:  all measurements are mean values in mg/kg

Bacon:  36.5 nitrate / 15.9 nitrite
Ham: 16.6 nitrate / 19.9 nitrite
Luncheon:  30.9 nitrate / 24.6 nitrite

Lettuce:  1,590 nitrate / 2.5 nitrite
Celery:  1,610 nitrate / 2.5 nitrite
Spinach:  990 nitrate / 2.5 nitrite
Broccoli:  133 nitrate / 6 nitrite

As you can see, vegetables contain high levels of nitrates, and smaller levels of nitrites.  This does not put them in the clear.  When humans ingest nitrates, the body converts some of them to nitrites.  The conversion rate baseline is 5%, however this number can go all the way up to 20%. 

At baseline figures, the result is over 4 times more nitrites for lettuce compared with bacon!

In the aforementioned blog post by Chris Kesser, he explains that the "science" behind nitrites/nitrates being bad for your health and cancer-causing has been discredited after peer-review.  Another in a long list of nutritional myths that is still believed even after being called out for the hogwash it is. 

It is understandable that individuals don't want added ingredients to food when possible.  This is a no-brainer.  But calling a substance dangerous is the epitome of recklessness. 

Morals of the story

1)You now don't need to worry about nitrates and nitrites, especially in your bacon.

2)You can now mull over other bacon dilemmas (free range pigs?).

3)Why are you still reading this?  Go buy some bacon!

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