Nitrites, Nitrates and curing meats synthetically and naturally

Nitrites are used to cure meats and extend their shelf life. They do this by preventing the fat from going rancid and also slow the growth of bacteria. For decades, nitrates and nitrites have been demonized and blamed for cancer just as much as smoking. While there is definitely some validity in this, a few things also need to be clarified.

Sodium nitrate is a naturally occurring compound found in many vegetables such as beets, celery and spinach. In fact, most of the nitrates we consume come from the vegetables we consume, contrary to popular belief that it comes from cured meats such as hot dogs, ham and bacon. However it is these cured meats that give nitrites the bad rap they have. The majority of these cured meats are cured using purified sodium nitrite produced synthetically.

Lately I’m sure you have noticed labels of “Nitrate and Nitrite free” on many items that normally would contain nitrites and nitrates. The dirty little secret is that they still do contain nitrates that convert to nitrites. However they come from a natural source and are about as similar as pure cane sugar is to high fructose corn syrup or common table salt is to natural sea salt.  Your body does not react the same way to natural nitrates as they do to synthetic nitrates. In addition, natural nitrate sources such as celery juice contain high levels of antioxidants which I think we can agree are a good thing.

We're proud to mention that Chomps are cured naturally using celery juice!  If you're looking for healthy snacks without all the crap, you found it!