The Story of Delicious Bacon, Nitrates, Nitrites, and Nitrosamines

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This is a topic I’ve been meaning to look into a little more closely for a while. We all seem to be under the impression that bacon is not a great choice, but do you know why? Fat right? Sort of, but mostly no. The best answer would be the resulting product (Nitrosamines) of the chemical Sodium Nitrite used in the curing process.

Nitrates: Are found in vegetables and cured meats. In our bodies some of these Nitrates are converted into Nitrites and of these Nitrites some are converted into Nitrosamines (a known carcinogen). In the case of vegetables this is offset by their antioxidants, and the amount of converted Nitrosamines becomes inconsequential. In cured meats such as delicious bacon, hot dogs, sausage, and cold cuts the amount of resulting Nitrosamines can vary on how the meat is cooked and inhibitor it’s consumed with.

Sodium Nitrite: is a chemical used in many preserved meats including the ones listed above. It maintains colour, flavour, and inhibits bacterial growth. So what’s the problem? As mentioned above the problem lies in it’s conversion to Nitrosamines. Nitrosamines have been linked to:

Infant Methemoglobinemia (limited oxygen supply to tissues resulting in tissue hypoxia)
Pancreatic Cancer
Gastric Cancer
Colon Cancer
COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) including emphysema and chronic bronchitis

In the case of Bacon this is exacerbated when we cook it at high temperatures or over cook it.

So what do you do:

-Keep the bacon as a delicious treat

-Know that better quality bacon is just that, better quality. As in all the other meats we eat look for: organic, grass fed, and in this case “Nitrite Free” or “Naturally Preserved”

-Cook the bacon under 350 degrees F and don’t overcook it

-With your meal consume foods with Vitamin C or E (as both are known to inhibit the conversion of Sodium Nitrite into Nitrosamines)

-In the case of infants and toddlers, it seems like it’s worth leaving the cured or processed meats off the meal plan. Infants generally have a higher PH in their digestive environment which can promote the conversion of Nitrates to Nitrites.

I would take this all as good news. It could have been worse.


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