Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness


Leave a comment

The Truth About Nitrates

Have you ever wondered what nitrates are and what foods contain nitrates? Are nitrates linked to any health concerns? If you have questions about nitrates and their role in the food supply, read on to get the truth about nitrates.

What are nitrates?

Nitrates (or nitrites) are natural chemicals that are found in the soil, air and water. Nitrates are also used as a food additive to stop the growth of bacteria and to enhance the flavour and colour of foods.

Where are nitrates found?

Nitrates are naturally found in vegetables such as:

  • Beets
  • Celery
  • Lettuce
  • Radishes and
  • Spinach

These foods provide the most nitrates in our diets. However, there is no recommendation to limit vegetables that naturally contain nitrates.

Smaller amounts are found in:

  • Dairy products like cheese
  • Beef
  • Poultry and
  • Fish

Nitrates are added to these foods to make their appearance and flavour more appealing.

Generally speaking, Canadian’s average daily intake of foods that contain nitrates is within safe limits.

What about nitrates and processed meat? 

Nitrates are added to processed meat like:

  • Deli meat/cold cuts
  • Ham/Bacon
  • Sausages
  • Hot dogs/Wieners

This is done to preserve the product and prevent bacteria from growing. Nitrates also give processed meats their pink colour.

Should I avoid processed meat?

Yes. There is strong research that shows a diet high in processed meats increases the risk of colon cancer. However, it is not yet clear if this is because of the nitrates or other compounds in processed meat. To decrease your risk of colon cancer, it is a good idea to eat very little processed meats or avoid them altogether.

deli-meat

Do organic foods have nitrates?

It depends on the food. Organic foods like vegetables and fruit typically have fewer nitrates compared to conventional foods.

However, processed organic meats do not have nitrates.  In Canada, adding nitrates to processed organic meats is not allowed. Read more about organic foods in Canada.

Tips on making nitrate-free food choices 

  • Avoid foods with ingredients like potassium nitrate or sodium nitrate.
  • Avoid foods with the words ‘cured’ or ‘smoked’ on the ingredient list. This means that the food may contain nitrates.
  • Avoid processed meat or have them once in awhile. Have a cooked ham during the holidays or an occasional hot dog in the summer.
  • Skip the bacon and sausage for breakfast and try fresh fruit or grilled vegetables with your eggs.
  • Stuck on lunch ideas? Think beyond the sandwich! Try a vegetable wrap with hummus instead of a deli sandwich.  Try other quick and easy lunch ideas for you and your kids.
  • Eat vegetarian more often. You might be surprised at how tasty it can be! Learn more about healthy vegetarian meals for you and your family.
  • Throwing a party? Avoid party sandwiches that use processed meats and instead try a variety of fresh salads with an assortment of flat breads and dips.

Bottom line 

Nitrates are naturally found in some vegetables, dairy products and meat. There is no recommendation to limit foods that naturally contain nitrates. Nitrates are also added to processed meats as a preservative. There is strong research that shows a diet high in processed meats increases the risk of colon cancer. However, it is not yet clear if this is because of the nitrates or other compounds in processed meat. To decrease your risk of colon cancer, it is a good idea to eat very little processed meats or avoid them altogether.

October 9, 2016
 

 

————————————————————

 

Does the sodium nitrate in processed meat increase my risk of heart disease?

Answers from Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.

Sodium nitrate, a preservative that’s used in some processed meats, such as bacon, jerky and luncheon meats, could increase your heart disease risk.

It’s thought that sodium nitrate may damage your blood vessels, making your arteries more likely to harden and narrow, leading to heart disease. Nitrates may also affect the way your body uses sugar, making you more likely to develop diabetes.

And you already know that most processed meats are high in sodium and some are high in saturated fat, which can disrupt a heart-healthy diet.

If you eat meat, it’s best to limit processed meat and instead choose lean, fresh meat and poultry, and keep serving sizes small. For greater heart health, consider going one step further and increasing the amount of seafood in your diet.

With Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.
 


Leave a comment

Too Much Processed Meat Linked to Shorter Lifespan

March 7, 2013    By Health Editor   Steven Reinberg   HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, March 6 (HealthDay News) — Grilled hot dogs and sausages may be tasty treats at ball games and picnics, but a new study of nearly 450,000 people finds that eating too much processed meat might shave years off your life.

Those who ate the most processed meat increased their risk of dying early by 44 percent. In broader terms, if people ate less processed meat, the number of premature deaths overall would drop by almost 3 percent, Swiss researchers reported.

“Our recommendation is to limit processed meat intake to less than an ounce a day,” said study author Sabine Rohrmann, head of the division of cancer epidemiology and prevention at the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine at the University of Zurich.

The researchers could only show an association between eating processed meat and an increased risk of dying early, and not a cause-and-effect link. There are, however, some reasons to believe the association may be real, the scientists said.

“We know of some potential mechanisms that probably all contribute,” Rohrmann said. “Meat is rich in cholesterol and saturated fat, which may be the link with coronary heart disease.”

Processed meat is also treated with nitrates to improve durability, color and taste. “However, it also causes the formation of carcinogens. These are linked to the risk of colorectal and stomach cancer,” Rohrmann said.

In addition, high iron intake from meat may lead to an increased risk for cancer, she said.

Another expert noted that previous research supports the link between processed meat and health problems.

“A wide array of studies have linked meat intake to higher rates of chronic disease,” said Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center in New Haven, Conn.

Eating relatively more meat likely means eating fewer plant foods, which protect against chronic disease, he said.


“The case for us eating mostly plants is strong,” Katz said. “But those inclined can eat meat without harming their health, provided they choose wisely and steer clear of bologna.”

For the study, which was published online March 6 in the journal BMC Medicine, Rohrmann and an international team of investigators collected data on nearly 450,000 men and women. At the start of the study, none of the participants had had cancer, a heart attack or stroke. The researchers also collected data on diet, smoking, exercise and weight.

By the middle of 2009, more than 26,000 of those in the study had died.

“Mortality is increased when we compare those participants who eat more than 40 grams per day of processed meat to those who have 10 to 20 grams per day,” Rohrmann said.

The higher the consumption, the higher the risk. “For the highest consumption group (those who consume at least 160 grams of processed meat per day) mortality was 44 percent higher compared with those who eat little meat (10 to 20 grams a day),” she said.

“Since meat is also rich in certain minerals and vitamins, we do not recommend not to eat meat anymore, but to reduce the intake of processed meats and to limit the intake of red meat to about 300 to 600 grams per week as recommended by other nutrition groups,” Rohrmann said.

In addition, eating a lot of processed meat went along with other unhealthy choices. Those who ate the most processed meat ate the fewest fruits and vegetables and were more likely to smoke. Also, men who ate a lot of meat tended to drink a lot, the researchers found.

One expert pointed out that it might be hard to change bad habits in the United States.

“A side of sausage, a BLT or a ham sandwich are the daily norm for many Americans,” said Samantha Heller, a clinical nutritionist at the NYU Center for Musculoskeletal Care, in New York City. “Limiting consumption of processed meat to less than an ounce a day, as the researchers of this study suggest, will be a difficult recommendation to put in place unless we can educate the public about the health concerns associated with eating processed meats regularly.”

Health professionals, educators and food companies need to make efforts to change the culture of food in the United States so that healthy, plant-based eating becomes the daily norm, Heller said.


Leave a comment

Top 10 Food Additives To Avoid

Jun 28 2012 by 


If you’ve ever made homemade bread, crackers, muffins, etc then you know that you pretty much have a ‘shelf life’ of about 1 day before you have to move them to the fridge or freezer before they spoil.  So what about those products on the shelf at the store?  How does that loaf of bread, prepared salad, can of soup or deli meat stay fresh after weeks and months just sitting there?  The answer – food additives, preservatives and chemicals.  Unbelievably there are over 300 chemicals used in processed foods today and statistics show that the average American household spends about 90 percent of their food budget on such foods!  These manmade chemicals are seen as foreign to our bodies, which often results in a number of implications to our health and well being.  Allergies are a common side effect and MSG is known to cause overeating and weight gain.  The best way to avoid exposure to these harmful chemicals is to understand the most common and dangerous additives and which foods they are most often found in.  Here is our list of the top 10 food additives to avoid.

1. Artificial Sweeteners

Aspartame, (E951) more popularly known as Nutrasweet and Equal, is found in foods labeled “diet” or “sugar free”. Aspartame is believed to be carcinogenic and accounts for more reports of adverse reactions than all other foods and food additives combined. Aspartame is not your friend. Aspartame is a neurotoxin and carcinogen. Known to erode intelligence and affect short-term memory, the components of this toxic sweetener may lead to a wide variety of ailments including brain tumor, diseases like lymphoma, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, emotional disorders like depression, anxiety attacks, dizziness, headaches, nausea, mental confusion, migraines and seizures. Acesulfame-K, a relatively new artificial sweetener found in baking goods, gum and gelatin, has not been thoroughly tested and has been linked to kidney tumors.
Found in: diet or sugar free sodas, diet coke, coke zero, jello (and other gelatins), desserts, sugar free gum, drink mixes, baking goods, table top sweeteners, cereal, breathmints, pudding, kool-aid, ice tea, chewable vitamins, toothpaste

2. High Fructose Corn Syrup

High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a highly-refined sweetener which has become the number one source of calories in America. It is found in almost all processed foods. HFCS packs on the pounds faster than any other ingredient, increases your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels, and contributes to the development of diabetes and tissue damage, among other harmful effects.
Found in: most processed foods, breads, candy, flavored yogurts, salad dressings, canned vegetables, cereals

3. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG / E621)

MSG is an amino acid used as a flavor enhancer in soups, salad dressings, chips, frozen entrees, and many restaurant foods. MSG is known as an excitotoxin, a substance which overexcites cells to the point of damage or death. Studies show that regular consumption of MSG may result in adverse side effects which include depression, disorientation, eye damage, fatigue, headaches, and obesity. MSG effects the neurological pathways of the brain and disengages the “I’m full” function which explains the effects of weight gain.
Found in: Chinese food (Chinese Restaurant Syndrome ) many snacks, chips, cookies, seasonings, most Campbell Soup products, frozen dinners, lunch meats

4. Trans Fat

Trans fat is used to enhance and extend the shelf life of food products and is among the most dangerous substances that you can consume. Found in deep-fried fast foods and certain processed foods made with margarine or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, trans fats are formed by a process called hydrogenation. Numerous studies show that trans fat increases LDL cholesterol levels while decreasing HDL (“good”) cholesterol, increases the risk of heart attacks, heart disease and strokes, and contributes to increased inflammation, diabetes and other health problems. Oils and fat are now forbidden on the Danish market if they contain trans fatty acids exceeding 2 per cent, a move that effectively bans partially hydrogenated oils.
Found in: margarine, chips and crackers, baked goods, fast foods

5. Common Food Dyes

Studies show that artificial colorings which are found in soda, fruit juices and salad dressings, may contribute to behavioral problems in children and lead to a significant reduction in IQ. Animal studies have linked other food colorings to cancer. Watch out for these ones:
Blue #1 and Blue #2 (E133)
Banned in Norway, Finland and France. May cause chromosomal damage
Found in: candy, cereal, soft drinks, sports drinks and pet foods
Red dye # 3 (also Red #40 – a more current dye) (E124)
Banned in 1990 after 8 years of debate from use in many foods and cosmetics. This dye continues to be on the market until supplies run out! Has been proven to cause thyroid cancer and chromosomal damage in laboratory animals, may also interfere with brain-nerve transmission
Found in: fruit cocktail, maraschino cherries, cherry pie mix, ice cream, candy, bakery products and more!
Yellow #6 (E110) and Yellow Tartrazine (E102)
Banned in Norway and Sweden. Increases the number of kidney and adrenal gland tumors in laboratory animals, may cause chromosomal damage.
Found in: American cheese, macaroni and cheese, candy and carbonated beverages, lemonade and more!

6. Sodium Sulfite (E221)

Preservative used in wine-making and other processed foods. According to the FDA, approximately one in 100 people is sensitive to sulfites in food. The majority of these individuals are asthmatic, suggesting a link between asthma and sulfites. Individuals who are sulfite sensitive may experience headaches, breathing problems, and rashes. In severe cases, sulfites can actually cause death by closing down the airway altogether, leading to cardiac arrest.
Found in: Wine and dried fruit 

7. Sodium Nitrate/Sodium Nitrite

Sodium nitrate (or sodium nitrite) is used as a preservative, coloring and flavoring in bacon, ham, hot dogs, luncheon meats, corned beef, smoked fish and other processed meats. This ingredient, which sounds harmless, is actually highly carcinogenic once it enters the human digestive system. There, it forms a variety of nitrosamine compounds that enter the bloodstream and wreak havoc with a number of internal organs: the liver and pancreas in particular. Sodium nitrite is widely regarded as a toxic ingredient, and the USDA actually tried to ban this additive in the 1970′s but was vetoed by food manufacturers who complained they had no alternative for preserving packaged meat products. Why does the industry still use it? Simple: this chemical just happens to turn meats bright red. It’s actually a color fixer, and it makes old, dead meats appear fresh and vibrant.
Found in: hotdogs, bacon, ham, luncheon meat, cured meats, corned beef, smoked fish or any other type of processed meat 

8. BHA and BHT (E320)

Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydrozyttoluene (BHT) are preservatives found in cereals, chewing gum, potato chips, and vegetable oils. This common preservative keeps foods from changing color, changing flavor or becoming rancid. Effects the neurological system of the brain, alters behavior and has potential to cause cancer. BHA and BHT are oxidants which form cancer-causing reactive compounds in your body.
Found in: Potato chips, gum, cereal, frozen sausages, enriched rice, lard, shortening, candy, jello

9. Sulfur Dioxide (E220)

Sulfur additives are toxic and in the United States of America, the Federal Drugs Administration have prohibited their use on raw fruit and vegetables. Adverse reactions include: bronchial problems particularly in those prone to asthma, hypotension (low blood pressure), flushing tingling sensations or anaphylactic shock. It also destroys vitamins B1 and E. Not recommended for consumption by children. The International Labour Organization says to avoid E220 if you suffer from conjunctivitis, bronchitis, emphysema, bronchial asthma, or cardiovascular disease.
Found in: beer, soft drinks, dried fruit, juices, cordials, wine, vinegar, and potato products

10. Potassium Bromate

An additive used to increase volume in some white flour, breads, and rolls, potassium bromate is known to cause cancer in animals. Even small amounts in bread can create problems for humans. Found in: breads