Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What's up with nitrates and nitrites?

I have to admit that I have been pretty lazy about nitrates and nitrites.  I know they are in some of the foods that I eat and I know the general vibe is that they are bad. 

What are they?
  • Sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate are two closely related chemicals used for centuries to preserve meat.
What foods are they primarily in?
  • Often found in cured meats including hot dogs, sausages, bologna, ham, bacon and deli meat. It is also found in pepperoni, corned beef, salami and canned meats.  My favorite deli meats use nitrites -- Boar's Head Brand is kind enough to have their nitrite rebuttal posted online if you want to check out their stance (and the American Meat Institute). 
Are they bad? How bad?
  • When nitrite combines with compounds called secondary amines, it forms nitrosamines, potential cancer-causing chemicals. The chemical reaction occurs most readily at the high temperatures of frying. Nitrite has long been suspected as being a cause of stomach cancer. 
  • Here is a good article, http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/f-w00/nitrosamine.html
Are there worthy alternatives?
In a way, I am mostly thankful for pioneering health advocates.  Without them blazing the trail household brands like Hormel may not have seen the opportunity in offering a 'natural' product line.  A battle line will likely be forever drawn between the old-school-nitrate/nitrite-safety-advocates and the vegan-or-100%-nitrate/nitrite-free-posse. 

But, for now, our purchasing dollars can be spent silently driving demand and this influence will steer the market into offering healthy alternatives.  Eat well and shop smart.

Monday, December 27, 2010

B Complex

I used to joke that the last thing I needed was to "B" more complex.  Wrong again...

B vitamins are worthy of a long post; however, my intent is to highlight one area that recently caught my attention.  Deficiencies of vitamins B6 and B12 and folate can prevent homocysteine from converting rapidly enough. 

Homocysteine is an amino acid that is produced in the body in the course of methionine metabolism.  Homocysteine has been the focus of increasing attention in recent years because high levels are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.  Further, it is known that homocysteine has a toxic effect on cells lining the arteries, makes the blood more prone to clotting, and promotes the oxidation of low-density lipoproteins (LDL -- "bad cholesterol"), which makes it more likely that cholesterol will be deposited as plaque in blood vessels.

If high levels of homocysteine accumulate in the body, it can damage cell membranes and blood vessels and potentially increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. 

Vitamin B6 and B12 and folate work together to facilitate the breakdown of homocysteine and thus help protect against heart disease.

Balch, Phyllis.  "Prescription for Nutritional Healing."  Amino Acids.  Homocysteine, p. 49.

A Favorite Book

I love this book.

This book makes me curious...

This book is empowering...

This book is a first step.

This books make me wants to eat better and be healthier.

I would like to buy everyone a copy.