Sodium nitrate is generally a form of salt used in the preservation of various processed meat products. These meat products include salami, ham, hotdogs, and bacon and sodium nitrate is added to preserve the said meat-based food items.
Sodium nitrate can actually help fight off harmful bacteria before they can spoil or damage the meats which in turn, can help preserve the meats. It can also lend preserved meats their pinkish color, they can control oxidation of lipids, creates a distinct taste and flavor, aside from providing antimicrobial properties.
This chemical compound can be found in different sources such as unregulated water for drinking and various plants. Plant growth requires the transformation of nitrogen into sodium nitrate and sodium nitrate is usually absorbed by plants through its contact with the ground or soil and can be absorbed in different levels and amounts. Specific plants and vegetables have higher levels of sodium nitrate. Some of these plants and vegetables include radishes, spinach, celery, carrots, lettuce, beets, and cabbage. One study conducted in 2009 noted that a regular adult diet usually gets its sodium nitrate fix from the consumption of sodium nitrate-rich vegetables.
What are Some of the Risks of Getting too Much Sodium Nitrate?
As mentioned earlier, a normal and regular adult diet will always include some level or amount of sodium nitrate. There are some studies, though, that indicate the possible harmful and adverse health effects of consuming or getting too much the chemical compound.
Evidence suggests that taking in elevated levels or too much sodium nitrate may lead to certain cancers, one of which is colorectal cancer. Excessive intake or increased levels of consumption of sodium nitrate may lead to other dreaded diseases such as non-Hodgkin lymphoma, leukemia, heart or cardiovascular diseases, and other cancers such as esophageal, stomach, thyroid and pancreatic cancer.
It may be noteworthy to mention though, that the levels of sodium nitrate needed to be consumed before an individual can develop the diseases listed above is bordering on the extreme and highly elevated levels. In addition, it was mentioned earlier that sodium nitrate is usually consumed by humans through the consumption of natural foods and these food items contain other helpful vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C which can, in a way, help fight off the diseases mentioned earlier.
One of the leading organizations in determining the development of diseases, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention or the CDC, a person should ideally be taking in sodium nitrate at about 3.7 mg (milligrams) per kilo of his/ her body weight. This means that an individual with a body weight of 150 pounds (lbs) should only consume around 0.25 grams worth of sodium nitrate daily.
The problem for modern individuals is that not all food preservatives and additives are listed and enumerated in the nutritional label of food items and as such, it may be very difficult to monitor and manage the amount of sodium nitrate being consumed by individuals on a daily basis. Another serious concern that may be caused by excessive consumption of sodium nitrate and that is nitrate poisoning.
Nitrate poisoning can be very dangerous especially for infants as the said condition can result in methemoglobinemia, a blood disorder which may result in tissue hypoxia. This can happen to infants when the water used for the preparation of baby formula comes from unregulated water sources. Alarmingly, around fifteen (15) Million of Americans get their drinking water from unregulated water sources which in turn, increases the chances of nitrate poisoning.
What are some of the benefits of using and taking in Sodium Nitrate?
While there are a number of adverse health effects when sodium nitrate is consumed in excessive amounts, studies suggest there are some identified benefits when using and taking in sodium nitrate. Listed below are some of these benefits:
1. Can help lower blood pressure
One study was able to identify that taking in supplements or incorporating inorganic nitrate into an individual’s diet may have a possible effect on the individual’s blood pressure levels. The said study showed that taking in inorganic nitrate at appropriate and acceptable levels may help lower, control and manage blood pressure levels.
2. Can make food items more appealing
Consumer reaction is very important to make sure that food items are patronized and supported by the consumer themselves. Sodium nitrate can make certain food items such as meats more appealing by giving them that enticing red color that consumers look for in the said food items.
3. Can make certain food items more flavorful
Sodium nitrate can bring about a complex combination of texture, aroma, temperature, and taste, making those food items with sodium nitrate applied to them more flavorful and tastier to consumers.
4. Can prevent and slow down lipid oxidation helping food items avoid quicker deterioration
One of the more well-known benefits of sodium nitrate is that it can preserve food items for later consumption. This is because sodium nitrate can prevent lipid oxidation that can result in oxidative rancidity which makes food items deteriorate and spoil faster. Sodium nitrate can, in fact, be considered as a bacteriocidal and bacteriostatic agent making it an excellent preservative of food items such as meats and certain fish based food items.