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Low Tox Kitchen - Nitrates and Nitrites

In recent years, there has been an increasing awareness of the potential health risks associated with consuming nitrates and nitrites in food.



Nitrates and nitrites are naturally occurring compounds found in many foods, but they can also be added to processed foods as preservatives, flavorings, and colorings. Unfortunately, these compounds can have a negative impact on our health.


Nitrates and nitrites are compounds that are formed when nitrogen and oxygen combine.


They are found naturally in a variety of foods, including vegetables, cured meats, and smoked fish. While nitrites can be beneficial in small amounts, consuming too much of these compounds can be dangerous. It is when they are added to these products as a preservative that levels can become dangerous.


Nitrates and nitrites can react with other compounds in the body to form nitrosamines, which have been linked to a number of health issues, including certain types of cancer.


The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified nitrosamines as a Group 2A carcinogen, meaning that they are possibly carcinogenic to humans.


Regular consumption of processed meats and smoked fish that contain nitrates and nitrates has been linked to an increased risk of colorectal cancer. Additionally, nitrosamines have been linked to an increased risk of stomach cancer, bladder cancer, and esophageal cancer.


It is important to be aware of the nitrate and nitrite content of the foods you are eating.


While naturally occurring nitrates and nitrites found in vegetables are generally safe, processed meats and smoked fish can contain high levels of these compounds.


Limiting your consumption of processed and smoked foods can help reduce your exposure to nitrates and nitrites. In recent times, some manufacturers have gone back to preserving meats and fish with salt only and these will be labelled as being nitrate and nitrite free. These products are safer than the artificially preserved products.


Additionally, you should always read food labels to check for added nitrates and nitrites.


In Europe they feature under the E number system as:



sodium nitrite—E249, potassium nitrite—E250

sodium nitrate—E251, potassium nitrate—E252




In Australia and New Zealand they drop the E.







Nitrates and nitrites can be dangerous when consumed in large amounts. Regular consumption of processed meats and smoked fish that contain these compounds has been linked to an increased risk of certain types of cancer. It is important to be aware of the nitrate and nitrite content of the food you are eating and to limit your consumption of processed and smoked foods. By taking these steps, you can help protect yourself from the potential health risks of consuming nitrates and nitrites.



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