When Nitrate Becomes Harmful Nitrite: When Does It Harm Your Health?

When Nitrate Becomes Harmful Nitrite: When Does It Harm Your Health?

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Nitrate is not a bad thing at first, but if bacteria turn it into nitrite, it can be a health hazard. We show what to look out for.

Limits for water
Drinking water in Germany can be 50 mg per liter, and water suppliers mix nitrate-rich water with low-nitrate to comply with the limit value. Water treatment with nanofilters also lowers the nitrate level in drinking water.

Too much nitrate in drinking water?
Nitrate is harmless below the limit values, and even above that, they are above all an indication of pollution with nitrogen rather than a danger to humans.

Beware of infants
However, nitrite is not without danger. In infants, it prevents red blood cells from carrying oxygen, and the subsequent lack of oxygen can even lead to suffocation - the notorious blue addiction.

A dysfunctional intestinal flora also converts nitrate into nitrite.

Nitrite can form the nitrosamines together with amines, and these are considered carcinogens. One example of this is cigarette smoke, and mascara with carcinogenic nitrosamines also made headlines.

Vitamin C protects against nitrosamines
Nitrosamines form best at a pH of 3-3.5, especially in fruits and vegetables. When roasting, amines are increasingly released when amino acids break down. Vitamin C and Vitamin E stop the nitrite before it combines with the amines.

Less nitrate means less nitrite
Without nitrate, neither nitrite nor nitrosamines are formed. Arugula, lettuce or spinach contain a particularly large amount of nitrate. Spinach strengthens the muscles, and it would be wrong to forego these healthy vegetables.

Stop bacteria
If they do not leave lettuce standing and do not reheat spinach, they will prevent bacteria from settling that transform nitrate into nitrite. Avoid hermetically packed lettuce and food: here the nitrite-forming bacteria can spread.

Buy summer salad
In leafy greens, plants harvested in summer contain less nitrate than winter vegetables because the nitrate rises with less light.

Do not heat cured items
Nitrite curing salt is already present in cured products such as Kassler or salami, especially in ham, blood sausage and salami. If you heat this, nitrosamines can form. Be careful than with salami pizza. Therefore, you should slowly heat Kassler in the water and neither grill nor roast it. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)

Author and source information

Video: Nitrates in Processed Meat. Nourishable Raw Episode 11 (June 2022).