Eating Healthy: Why You Should Avoid Nitrates in Your Food
Through the magic of science, most of what we consume today for nutrition and energy can be preserved to perfection. Humans have always tried to extend the shelf life of the food they have on hand — and today’s selection of canned goods, cured meats, and jarred items is proof of this obsession.
One of the compounds used to prolong the shelf life of our food today is nitrates. Commonly found in bacon, salami, sandwich meats, and sausages, nitrates have been used to cure meats and give them a lively red colour. However, recent findings show that using nitrates to preserve food may not be completely safe and even increase our risk for various health issues
In this post, we’ll talk about why and how we can avoid nitrates in our food.
Why do we add nitrates to food?
As we’ve mentioned, nitrates are used to preserve food, mainly produce and meat. Nitrates are an effective way to extend the shelf-life of meat as it is an antimicrobial food preservative and food antioxidant. In addition, it adds a red tinge to the meat and helps maintain its colour.
Also, nitrates delay the development of the Clostridium botulinum bacteria in meats, which greatly reduces the chances of getting foodborne botulism and allows us to enjoy meats for longer periods of time.
When are nitrates harmful?
Nitrates react differently in our bodies due to differences in atomic structure. As we consume nitrate-rich foods, the bacteria in our mouth and gut metabolise the nitrates, which then converts them into nitrites. If the newly produced nitrites are swallowed and come in contact with the acids in your stomach, your body then produces a new compound called nitrous acid. This compound then mixes with the amines from protein to produce another chemical called nitrosamines — which has been reported to be carcinogenic in nature according to a study by the German Cancer Research Centre.
However, not all nitrate-rich foods are harmful. Some foods that are found to have high amounts of nitrates are fruits and vegetables. Because these foods also often have high amounts of antioxidants, the harmful effects of nitrous acid are then counterbalanced and consuming these foods shouldn’t be a cause of worry for your health.
How to avoid added nitrates
If you want to keep yourself healthy and avoid the harmful effects of nitrates on your body, we’ve listed below some tips that can help.
Look for organic food
You’re less likely to consume added and synthetic nitrates in organically produced and packed foods and meats. So next time you find yourself in the grocery, be sure to look for foods that are labelled as organic.
Prepare your own meals
One of the best ways to make sure that you only consume healthy foods that are free from nitrates is by making your own meals. If you’re not too confident with your cooking skills, you can use tools such as a rice cooker or slow cooker, which allows you to easily cook a huge variety of foods without much fuss— whether it’s energy-boosting grain dishes or hearty main courses. You can also further practice your cooking skills by trying out recipes from various health-focused blogs.
Be careful when eating out
If you really cannot avoid ordering out, be sure to look for a restaurant that serves healthy food and only uses fresh and organic ingredients.
If you want to keep your body in top shape, be sure to avoid consuming foods that have added nitrates. For more posts on how to live healthy, be sure to check our blog.
Written by Astrid Gabriella Cole
Exclusive for goodfoodemporium.com.au
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