Happy Memorial Day Weekend!
As “we” un-officially kick off the summer of 2012 with Dodger Baseball and Dodger Dogs, I thought it would be apropos to discuss the differences (the good and the bad) between Sodium Nitrate and Nitrite.
Chemically, the only difference is that the Nitrogen atom (N) is connected to three Oxygen atoms (O) forming Nitrates (NO3) and two forming Nitrites (NO2). Riveting, I know!
But hold on! Here’s where it really gets interesting. It does. I promise.
Nitrates, primarily used to make such “yummy” items like fertilizer, glass and explosives, when added to food, provide “appetizing” coloring and the “chemicals” necessary in the curing of fish and meats such as bacon, breakfast sausages (turkey/chicken), deli and, of course, hot dogs! Also known as preserving, this process is necessary as it keeps away tiny bacteria, which needs moisture, oxygen and food in order for it to grow.
Sodium Nitrate, a type of salt that has been effectively used in food preservation, is also present in all kinds of vegetables, fruits and grains. In fact, anything that grows out of the ground draws sodium nitrate out of the soil. Now, the question is, “Is that a bad thing?”. In short, the answer is, “No”.
Many people have long believed that Sodium Nitrate was one of the many causes of cancer. According to the National Academy of Sciences, the American Cancer Society and the National Research Council, there is “no” cancer risk from consuming Sodium Nitrite.
Now, if you are paying attention, you just read Nitrite and not Nitrate. Why? Because, when Sodium Nitrate is used as a curing agent, or when it is digested directly, as it is when we eat fruits and vegetables that grow out of the ground, it converts to Sodium Nitrite and thus is harmless when it comes to a cancer risk.
However, there are some negative side effects of eating foods packed with Nitrites.
For example, Nitrites can react with hemoglobin in the blood, eventually creating methemoglobin which, at increased levels, can cause weakness and a rapid pulse. Extreme high levels of Nitrites can result in a person losing consciousness, go into a coma, and die. Infants are much more sensitive to this disease known as methemoglobinemia. In fact, all deaths reportedly attributed to nitrate/nitrite poisoning have been in infants. So if you’re pregnant, trying to become so or breastfeeding, it may be best to avoid foods with Nitrites.
But remember, we are talking about SODIUM Nitrates/Nitrates. And as you are more than already aware, too much sodium will cause water retention (bloating) and can lead to other health related issues particularly high blood pressure. So, if you do indulge, be sure you drink lots of water and keep your sodium/salt levels low throughout the rest of the day and maybe even the week. Also, the antioxidants in foods rich in vitamins C (tomatoes, kiwi, peppers, mangoes, papayas and oranges) and E (most nuts, tomatoes and olive oil), will reduce the formation of nitrosamines (carcinogenics produced when cured meat is cooked at high levels), and makes eating nitrites a negligible health risk.
So, what is one to do next time at Dodger Stadium, Marty’s or when “jonesing” for a Jersey Mike’s? Have them as an occasional treat. A very occasional treat, but don’t make it part of your daily routine; even if you are “in training” for the coveted Mustard Belt currently held by Joey Chestnut (five-time defending champion) or current Hot Dog Eating World Record Holder Takeru Kobayashi at Nathan’s International Hot Dog Eating Contest on Fourth of July in Coney Island.
For more Body Designs info. on Salt, please go the the following link: https://emotiondemo.com/bodydesigns/category/salt/