Nitrites and nitrates are two chemicals that are little known to the general public, and yet we find them everywhere. More and more studies prove that these substances are closely linked to cancer risks. Experts and associations are rising to make their voices heard, and demand their outright ban in certain foods. But, what is it exactly? The Objeko team provides an update for you in this article, and enlightens you on the potential danger of these substances ingested in large quantities.
Nitrites and nitrates: what are they?
Surely you have heard of nitrites and nitrates before. You have also seen these names written on food packaging before. But what is it exactly? They are two different chemical compounds, but closely related, as the name suggests. Nitrates (NO3) are made up of one nitrogen atom and three oxygen atoms. Nitrites, on the other hand, are made up of one nitrogen atom and two oxygen atoms.
Like any chemical compound, these can be beneficial, but also bad for health. It seems that their too much ingestion in our food is a cause of cancer. Nitrates have no harmful effects on the body. However, when ingested, they can be turned into nitrites, which are harmful. Nitrites can also be converted into nitrosamines, which is also harmful to health. Here, everything is a question of dosage. As for all, it is in excess that nitrates and nitrites cause real problems.
Chemical compounds found everywhere in food
Nitrates and nitrites are found in a completely natural way in our body. Our body makes it, secreted in saliva. However, we mainly consume it from external sources. These are the vegetables that provide us the most, up to 80% of our intake.
Manufacturers add a lot of nitrates and nitrites in our food, mainly in processed meat products. We find a lot of it in sausages, ready meals, ham … Pork-based dishes are almost always provided with it. Indeed, nitrites and nitrates have a very important role. They help prevent the development of harmful bacteria. They also improve the appearance of the meat, giving it back its pink color. Finally, nitrates give a salty taste that we particularly appreciate. You will understand, it is a very widespread preservative.
Our bodies produce these nitrates and nitrites for the same reasons. Our saliva is taken directly to our stomach with the food we eat. During digestion, they prevent the potential microbes present on our food from multiplying and making us sick. However, as said above, too much source of nitrite can have disastrous consequences for your health.
How to avoid eating too many nitrites and nitrates?
Nitrites and nitrates are closely linked to the risks of cancer. These have been found in people consuming a lot of meats, which has helped to highlight the culprit chemical compound. Our body assimilates the nitrates present in vegetables very well. The nitrates and nitrites added to meat, however, tend to represent a harmful contribution for our body. So, if you want to avoid consuming it, there is no secret!
– jeanyvesloiret (@jeanyvesloiret) November 18, 2021
Limiting your meat consumption is the best way to avoid these carcinogenic risks. In addition, the meat, which is fatty, causes other cardiovascular problems. Your best bet will obviously be to become a vegetarian, if only for a while. Who knows, you might become a follower of this lifestyle!
If you are an avid meat lover, all is not lost! You just need to avoid processed products. Prefer to go to your butcher rather than the supermarket. Especially avoid favorite dishes and processed meats. Steaks and other fresh cuts should not contain excess nitrates and nitrites. However, we recommend that you avoid over-consuming meat, and increase your consumption of vegetables. You know the saying: avoid eating too fatty, too sweet, too salty.