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From our blog.

What You Need to Know About Nitrates

AMY GARDNER / February 4, 2011

Most of you have probably heard of nitrates. It may be helpful to understand a little more about this molecule. Nitrates occur naturally in plants and have a number of uses. Nitrates are easily converted to nitrites. Sodium nitrite is a food additive used to cure meats such as sausage, ham and bacon. Sodium nitrite is what gives these meats their characteristic color, kills off any harmful bacteria and adds flavor.

When combined with the fat on meat and cooked at very temperatures, nitrites convert to nitrosamines, a harmful carcinogen in the body. So go easy on that extra crispy bacon! Nitrosamines also form through acidity changes that occur when foods containing sodium nitrite hit our stomach.

Some companys use alternative processes to kill off bacteria and add flavor to meat. Although, you won’t see the characteristic red color. For instance, Applegate Farms uses a sodium lactate in their meat. Learn more here:  Applegate Farms Products.

Just to clarify, an occasional visit to the sausage cart or a couple slices of bacon on Saturday morning is not going to kill you.  However, you do want to eat these foods sparingly.  Also, ensuring you have a lot of antioxidants in your diet from fruits and vegetables can help protect your body from the damaging effects of any carcinogens.

Find out more about sodium nitrite and other food addititives here CSPI’s report on “chemical cuisine”