Sodium Nitrate and Sodium Nitrite; a lot of hype?

In the recent years, the trend to have sodium nitrate free lunch meat has expanded.  So, for manufacturers of lunch meat, this has meant switching to sodium nitrites as a curing, preserving agent.  So, what is the difference between sodium nitrates and sodium nitrites besides one letter?  And are they as bad for you as the government agencies and media would like you to believe?

The chemical difference between the two is one atom, an oxygen atom to be exact. “What it comes down to is one oxygen atom — sodium nitrite has two oxygen atoms and one nitrogen atom. Sodium nitrate has one more oxygen atom.”  It was interesting to read that when we consume nitrates, our bodies change them into nitrites.  What?

“Either kind of preservative can be added to meat to keep bacteria from growing on it, but once we consume them, nitrates are converted to nitrites in our digestive system. And what’s the harm in nitrites, you might ask? 

Sodium nitrate and sodium nitrites are also different in the fact that sodium nitrate can be mined and sodium nitrite is chemically made.

Sodium nitrate is the chemical compound with the formula NaNO3. This salt is also known as Chile saltpeter or Peru saltpeter (due to the large deposits found in each country) to distinguish it from ordinary saltpeter, potassium nitrate. The mineral form is also known asnitratinenitratite or soda niter.

Sodium nitrate is a white solid which is very soluble in water. It is a readily available source of the nitrate anion (NO3), which is useful in several reactions carried out on industrial scales for the production of fertilizers, pyrotechnics and smoke bombs, glass and pottery enamels, food preservatives, and solid rocket propellant. It has been mined extensively for these purposes.

Did you notice the uses for sodium nitrate?  Kind of scary that a food preservative can also be used for pyrotechnics and smoke bombs.

Sodium nitrite is the inorganic compound with the chemical formula NaNO2. It is a white to slight yellowish crystalline powder that is very soluble in water and is hygroscopic. It is a useful precursor to a variety of organic compounds, such as pharmaceuticals, dyes, and pesticides, but it is probably best known as a food additive to prevent botulism.

Again, kind of scary that pesticides and food additive are in the same description.

Nitrites, not sodium nitrites, occur naturally in plants and vegetables.  Arugula, celery and butter lettuce have some of the highest concentrations of naturally occurring nitrites.  We even produce some nitrites in our own bodies.  What is the difference?  Well, the nitrites produced by vegetables and our bodies, work in conjunction with other vitamins and nutrients.  Simply said, they balance each other.

The cel­ery juice, which con­tains nitrites and nitrates nat­u­rally, is extracted or a pow­der form is used, and added to meats.  Veg­gies with nitrates/nitrates occur­ring nat­u­rally are fine to eat as they are because they have other nutrients/vitamins that coun­ter­act the car­cino­gens formed.  How­ever, with­out the other nutri­ents, you’re just get­ting the cancer-causing carcinogens.

So, next time you are looking at lunch meat, read the fine print.  I am not telling you not to eat the lunch meat but maybe don’t eat a whole pound.  Moderation is the key and natural is the way to go but the hype about nitrates and nitrites is just that…. hype.

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About Felicia

Hello, I am Felicia and I am one of the founding members of Health Now, Wealth Forever. When we came up with the concept of starting our family business, I was enthusiastic just to spend time working on a project with my family. But, as we have grown and expanded, my passion for educating myself and others - about alternative health options and changing the way we view finances and life - has taken over. While I admit I am not the healthiest of our group, I am working on it daily and hope that the articles I write help you to work on it with me. Thank you for supporting us and allowing us to open our minds and yours to an alternative way of look at health, wealth and life!

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