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Get answers to your nutrition & healthy eating questions.
Call us toll-free† at 1-877-510-510-2 to speak directly with a Registered Dietitian.
Have you ever wondered what nitrates are and what foods contain nitrates? Are nitrates linked to any health concerns? If you have questions about nitrates and their role in the food supply, read on to get the truth about nitrates.
Nitrates (or nitrites) are natural chemicals that are found in the soil, air and water. Nitrates are also used as a food additive to stop the growth of bacteria and to enhance the flavour and colour of foods.
Nitrates are naturally found in vegetables such as:
These foods provide the most nitrates in our diets. However, there is no recommendation to limit vegetables that naturally contain nitrates.
Nitrates are added to these foods to make their appearance and flavour more appealing.
Generally speaking, Canadian’s average daily intake of foods that contain nitrates is within safe limits.
Nitrates are added to processed meat like:
This is done to preserve the product and prevent bacteria from growing. Nitrates also give processed meats their pink colour.
Yes. There is strong research that shows a diet high in processed meats increases the risk of colon cancer. However, it is not yet clear if this is because of the nitrates or other compounds in processed meat. To decrease your risk of colon cancer, it is a good idea to eat very little processed meats or avoid them altogether.
It depends on the food. Organic foods like vegetables and fruit typically have fewer nitrates compared to conventional foods.
However, processed organic meats do not have nitrates. In Canada, adding nitrates to processed organic meats is not allowed. Read more about organic foods in Canada.
Nitrates are naturally found in some vegetables, dairy products and meat. There is no recommendation to limit foods that naturally contain nitrates. Nitrates are also added to processed meats as a preservative. There is strong research that shows a diet high in processed meats increases the risk of colon cancer. However, it is not yet clear if this is because of the nitrates or other compounds in processed meat. To decrease your risk of colon cancer, it is a good idea to eat very little processed meats or avoid them altogether.
Do you have questions about nitrates, food additives or preservatives? Call EatRight Ontario and speak to a Registered Dietitian today at 1-877-510-510-2.
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