2017 Gluten Free Halloween Candy List
Remember when bacon was just bacon?
Now bacon is bacon with adjectives. It must be:
Some folks want to see “paleo” or “Whole30 approved” on the label, too.
I get it. I admit, being the health-conscious savvy shopper that I am, I flip those bacon packages over to read the ingredients, too. Just like you, I only want to see a few basic ingredients.
Usually, what we see on the “natural” bacon ingredient list is pork, water, salt and some celery derivative (juice, powder or extract). You might see cherry juice powder as an ingredient, too. (That’s in place of ascorbic acid.)
Who can argue with that? It’s totally natural and we avoid nitrate and its wicked cousin, nitrite, right? Wrong.
Celery is naturally high in nitrate. So, paying more at the checkout for “nitrate-free” and “no added nitrate” bacon doesn’t mean you avoid nitrate. It means you avoid added synthetic nitrate. Manufacturers are technically and legally able to label their products nitrate-free; however, the finished product contains nitrate and (after some chemical reactions upon consumption) sodium nitrite from the celery.
No one can argue with celery and its derivatives in terms of being “natural”. But, in terms of nitrate levels, be aware that products with celery derivatives do contain nitrate and may contain higher nitrate levels than traditional cured meats.
That’s because the nitrate content of “no nitrate added” products is difficult to calculate. The nitrate levels in any batch of celery differs according to where and how it is grown (soil, air, nitrogen-based fertilizer, etc.) and a host of other factors. That applies to all plants.
But here’s the kicker: our bodies can’t tell the difference between nitrate from celery juice or nitrate that is added as a preservative. So, should we be worried?
Instead of worried let’s be aware.
Nitrates added to foods like deli meat, cured meat and hot dogs help those foods retain their color and prevent harmful bacterial growth.
Nitrates are nitrogen-based compounds. I’ll spare you the chemistry, but basically, nitrates are harmless.
Not so fast. When we consume nitrates, a chemical reaction occurs and converts them to nitrites. (Side note: the celery derivative used in “natural” preserved meats is treated with bacteria to convert it to nitrite.)
While this is great in terms of preventing bacterial growth on certain foods, it can sometimes be problematic for our health. Nitrite can go on to form nitrosamines, which has been linked to an increased risk of gastric cancer, albeit inconclusively.
However, preserved or cured meats aren’t necessarily our greatest nitrate/nitrite issue. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that those products account for only 6% of our dietary intake of nitrate.
We get most nitrates from fruits, vegetables, grains and drinking water. All plants contain some nitrate. Veggies like celery, leafy greens, fennel, cabbage, leeks and beets have higher (but generally acceptable) levels.
We need nitrates. In fact, our bodies make them! Doctors even prescribe nitrates to individuals with certain cardiac conditions. That’s because nitrates relax blood vessels and improve blood flow.
So, nitrates and nitrites – good or bad? Avoid or eat?
You can see there’s no clear answer. There is no doubt we should all eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated.
A good approach to overall health – nitrate intake issue aside – is to limit the amount of processed and preserved foods we eat. Sure, everything in moderation, but don’t go overboard with the cold cuts and hot dogs. Enjoy them on occasion, keep the dietary balance and always follow your individual needs in terms of health, diet and what your doctor recommends for your unique situation.
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