Facts on Nitrites in Cured Meats

Jun 12, 2017

nitrites_cured_meats_friederichs_img1When people hear about cured meats, they commonly have concerns about a specific ingredient used in them called nitrite. Nitrites have several beneficial uses in cured meats and are a key ingredient to giving cured meats their identity, including their pink color and savory flavor. They are antioxidants, used to help preserve the meat’s shelf life and prevent rancidity. Most importantly, the inclusion of nitrite in a processed meat product reduces the risk of food-borne bacteria, like Listeria and Clostridium botulinum, the organism that causes botulism.

Some people worry about nitrite and its relationship to diseases such as cancer. A study conducted by the U.S. National Toxicology Program, responsible for discovering whether certain chemicals cause cancer, showed otherwise. After a several year investigation, it was found that sodium nitrite does not belong on the list of substances of carcinogenic substances. 

Instead, sodium nitrites found in cured meats actually have some health benefits. After years of research, National Institutes of Health and University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston scientists have learned the human body needs a certain level of nitrite to regulate the nitrogen cycle. Some possible benefits to incorporating a healthy level of nitrites into one’s diet includes the following: blood pressure regulation, promote wound healing, promote successful organ transplant, treat sickle cell anemia and prevent gastric ulcers.

Overall, it is important to remember sodium nitrites consumed in moderation are integral for a healthy body.

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