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Nitrate Verses Nitrite, How They Affect You!

Sep 13, 2008
Nitrates/nitrite is of the same family. They are both used to cure meats but nitrites are easier to work with than nitrates. Nitrates are used mainly to make fertilizer, explosives and glass while nitrites are used mainly as a preservative in foods. Both are naturally occurring in nature in our water, certain vegetables etc. and ingestion from normal nitrite/nitrates in nature are nontoxic, but can be very powerful poisons in larger doses and need to be strictly controlled.

But we still eat them, and why?

Because over the last thousand years, man has been using this as a preservative for meat, but so far, NO ONE has found a better solution! (Or if someone has, we don't know about it)!

It does several things for meat;

- It imparts a pink color and makes meat look more appetizing and fresh.

- It gives meats a smoked, cured flavor, that's why we love the taste of bacon so much. It has been tested in taste kitchens, and bacon not cured with nitrite/nitrates, fared very poorly in taste tests, plus they were somewhat grey in color and most people equate that with bad meat (even though it is not).

- It prevents botulism and controls the possibility of food poisoning.

This all sounds great and in all truth a little bit of nitrates in your diet is not going to have necessarily long term effects on your health, but if you eat luncheon meat, hotdogs, sausages and bacon on a regular basis, that is a whole different story.

- According to the Environmental Health Investigations Branch, one of the problems with ingesting nitrates/nitrites is that it can cause the hemoglobin in blood to change to Met hemoglobin, and this reduces the bloods ability to carry oxygen. This can be particularly hazardous to infants and very small children as they are much more sensitive to nitrate/nitrites than adults. Ingestion of nitrates turns into nitrite when it comes into contact with saliva and then down trough the intestinal tract. Adults can change nitrates to nitrites by about 5% while Infants can change them by 10% or more. For infants, the inability to carry the oxygen through the blood can cause what is called the "Blue Baby Syndrome" had has been known to cause brain damage and death. Adults can have symptoms such as dizziness, headaches, irritability and blue tones around the eyes, mouth, hands and feet.

- Meats that are preserved with nitrate/nitrites can cause the body to form nitrosamines which has been demonstrated to be carcinogenic. This occurs when the preserved meat has been heated such as cooking bacon or sausages. Tasty but potentially hazardous to your health. Some of the nitrosamines effect can be counteracted by ensuring that your body gets plenty of vitamin C & E and in fact some manufacturers are now adding these to their meats but alas, most are not.

When you eat certain vegetables like spinach, collard greens, kale, celery, lettuce etc., you will naturally be consuming nitrates, but there is a way to tell if it has been grown organically without fertilizers laced with extra nitrates. The organic vegetables will have a lot less of the bitter taste that you will find with conventionally grown vegetables. It is a good argument for getting kids to eat organic as you may find it a lot easier for them if they aren't so bitter tasting! This would be an interesting experiment with your children or spouse for that matter!

To stay healthy, it is best to limit your exposure to nitrate/nitrites!
About the Author
Willie is a researcher and freelance writer whose own health problems prompted her to gain information on health and wellness and share that knowledge with others. She is co-owner of CleanBodyDetox.com a site that provides health and nutrition information.
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