Health & Wellness Newsletter

What’s the deal with Nitrates and Nitrites?

If you’ve ever purchased hot dogs, bacon, or other types of processed meat, the term “nitrates” might pop out on the list of included ingredients. Nitrates are chemical compounds added to cured and processed meats to enhance both the flavor and color of the food and act as a preservative. These salts may be formulated from synthetic compounds or derived from natural sources, but they can be equally harmful to the body as they are digested and converted into nitrites in the stomach. With grill season in full swing, you might start to wonder if throwing hot dogs or sausages on the grill is actually a detriment to your health, because of the nitrates they contain.

How nitrates harm the body

When you consume nitrates in hot dogs or sausages, they can be converted by oral bacteria to nitrites. These compounds may break down in the stomach to form compounds called free radicals, which can lead to the development of cancer—specifically colon cancer.

Where nitrates are found

Nitrates are found in almost any cured or processed meat, including hot dogs and sausages—which may be staples at your summer cookouts—as well as lunch meats and bacon. They can come from synthetic compounds or from natural sources, like celery juice. Because of this, food packaging may be misleading when advertising the absence of nitrates in certain foods. If foods contain celery juice, they will still contain nitrates that can break down in a way that’s harmful to your body.

What can curb the effects

At this point, you may be wondering if you can safety enjoy a sausage or hot dog on the grill at all this summer, and there is a little good news for those who consider these foods summer necessities. Antioxidants have been shown to halt the harmful conversion or nitrites into cancer-causing compounds in the body, so eating a plethora of fresh summer berries and a side of spinach may balance out the occasional hot dog.

To keep your health decisions in good balance this summer and throughout every season, connect with MeMD for convenient healthcare services from anywhere, anytime.

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