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Should You Be Worried about Nitrites in Your Food?

The debate over bacon and nitrates nitrites in foodFor years, the issue of nitrites has stumped passionate foodies and dedicated health scientists alike.The newest debate? The slew of nitrate-free foods flooding the market, and what exactly that means for both our food and our health.

Health claims against nitrates range from triggering migraines to being linked to an increased risk of cancer and more recently, decreased lung function and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Other studies tout nitrates’ health benefits and time-honored ability to prevent harmful bacteria.

To say the least, the information out there is difficult to wade through, and opinions on both sides of the fence are strong. So what are these pesky nitrites, anyway, and what’s all the buzz about?

For more up-to-date information on the use of nitrates in meat, check out these helpful articles:

Nitrite in Meat, from the University of Minnesota

Nitrate in foods: harmful or healthy? from The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

Chef/author Michael Ruhlman is up in arms about what he calls The “No Nitrites Added” Hoax — should you be, too?

Are your nitrate-free foods really nitrate free?

“Nitrate-Free” Hot Dogs, Now with More Nitrates (Serious Eats)

Your “Nitrite-Free” Meats Are Full of Nitrites (Good Food)

The Red-Meat Miracle, and Other Tales From the Butcher Case (New York Times, Dining & Wine)

Is it time to ban nitrites altogether? Maybe not. It seems that as with so many things in life, (aspirin, chocolate, wine)… all is well in moderation and sticking to a plan of healthy, whole food nutrition is always your best bet.

Tell us: Are you afraid of nitrites in your foods?


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