What are the harmful vs beneficial effects of dietary nitrates in foods?


Nitrate is widely found throughout nature and can be found in soil, water and food, and is a crucial nutrient for the growth and development of plants. Dark green leafy vegetables (such as spinach, kale, and romaine lettuce), beets, and celery naturally have high concentrations of nitrates, compared to other vegetables. Food producers may add nitrates and nitrites to foods like processed meats (bacon, ham, sausages, and hot dogs) as part of the meat curing process. Nitrates can be converted into nitric oxide within the body, which plays a crucial role in heart health by promoting vasodilation (when blood vessels in your body widen), improving blood flow, and regulating blood pressure. Nitrates can also be converted into a form called nitrosamine which is harmful to our bodies and is associated with increased cancer risk. It is generally safe to consume a variety of vegetables rich in dietary nitrates, as their health benefits, particularly the promotion of heart health through nitric oxide production, outweigh potential risks. Unlike processed meats, vegetables also contain vitamin C and other antioxidants that inhibit the reaction that creates harmful nitrosamine compounds. Embracing a diverse selection of vegetables not only ensures a balanced and nutritious diet but also minimizes any concerns about excessive nitrate intake.

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