10 Sodium Nitrate Uses in Food – Compounds – Health Effects – Cautions

Sodium nitrate is well known as Peruvian salt, is a colorless, odorless, crystalline compound, sometimes referred to as soda niter, nitrate of soda or Chile saltpeter. It is one of Chemical substance which is used as a preservative in some processed meats and color fixative, such as bacon, jerky, luncheon meats, salami, fishes and all pink meats. There are many uses of Sodium Nitrate in the worldwide fields, there are for fertilizers, potassium nitrate, limited pharmaceuticals, explosives, and the high-strength glass production. It can be used for the production of nitric acid which is very important for fertilizers and explosives, the etching of metal, purification and extraction of gold.

Sodium nitrate creates a dissimilar flavor, controls lipid oxidation, and can be functioned as antimicrobial. Sodium nitrate (NaNO3) is the relative of sodium nitrite (NaNO2).

According to Wikipedia; “the history of sodium nitrate; the first shipment of Peruvian saltpeter to Europe is in 1820 or 1825, after that country got its independence from the Spain. At that time, they didn’t find any buyers and the salt was dumped at sea in order to avoid the customs toll. However, the mining of South American saltpeter became a profitable business (in 1859, England alone consumed 47,000 metric tons).”

In our life, it is the type of salt which we consume along the foods that we eat. Sodium nitrate is present in all kinds of vegetables, such as carrots, leafy greens like celery, spinach, lettuce, and all sorts of fruits and grains. On the whole, everything that grows from the ground draws sodium nitrate out of the soil too. Indeed, here are list of Sodium Nitrate Uses in Food:

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1. Food Preventative 

I bet you must be wondering, “Why is the sodium nitrate used for preserving the meats?” Here are the reasons, they are;

  1. Sodium nitrate can preserve the color of the meats, it means it doesn’t look like cooked hamburger but instead it looks like pink. You will perhaps notice that when you cook the meats that contain sodium nitrate it will remain pink though they are cooked during processing.
  2. It somehow retrains the botulism to some degree.

You may also read: List of Food Preservatives

2. Harmful Chemicals in Food 

The fact that makes this more interesting the sodium nitrate that we consume through fruits, vegetables and grains are also converted to sodium nitrite (NaNO2) by our digestive system in our body. In other words, we eat fruits, vegetables or a grain, which is the time when our bodies produce the sodium nitrate. Nitrate itself refers to a compound made of nitrogen; remember it is the biggest components of our atmosphere. When we take a breath there is 78 percent of nitrogen.

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3. To Preserve Food 

There are many food companies that use sodium nitrate to preserve their foods products so that it can extend the shelf life of their products. In a more dose, sodium nitrates is used as fumigates to exterminate the rodents, and for soil also and its food supply. The FDA, (Food and Drug Administration) permits only a maximum amount of 2.75 ounces of nitrates to be added to 100 pounds (45.36 kg) of chopped meat.

More Sodium Uses in Food

Here are more Sodium Nitrate Uses in Food:

  1. All pink meats that comes from food companies,
    Such as Bacon, Ham, Salami, Poultry meats, Jerky, Etc.
  2. Vegetables and fruits because the nitrogen is turned into sodium nitrate in soil and are very important for the plant growth. Plants absorb the sodium nitrate from the soil in varying amounts. The vegetables which high levels of sodium nitrate, such as; Spinach, Radishes, Lettuce, Celery, Carrots, Cabbage, beets, Etc.
  3. Fishes meats and smoked fishes
  4. Unregulated drinking water
    In our life nitrates can be used as a natural part of normal diet, although, some research suggest that high levels can cause problem.
  5. Sodium nitrate is used to preserve the food
  6. prolong the shelf life
  7. also to prevent early spoilage from bacterial growth

Meanwhile, the uses of many chemicals compound in food may be danger for us. Thus, there are many type of food with Sodium Nitrate Uses in Food.

Is Sodium Nitrate in Food Good for Us?

  1. The important element of a natural part of any diet is sodium nitrate. It also has a place in medicine.
  2. In the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that dietary supplements of inorganic nitrate can reduce the blood pressure.
  3. Sodium nitrate contains nitrogen which is important in the growth of plants. Too much nitrogen will delay the production of fruits and flowers, and too little can lead to short growth of the plants. The nitrogen from sodium nitrate fertilizers is immediately available to plant roots.
  4. With nitrates, the age of meats can be prolonged and free of microbial.

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The negative effects to our healthy

  1. It’s thought that sodium nitrate might damage our blood vessels, making the arteries more possible to harden and narrow, leading to heart disease. Sodium nitrate might affect the way our body uses sugar, making you more likely to posses the diabetes disease.
  2. This chemical has a side effect if we consume it in large quantities. It reacts with stomach acid and other chemicals in the stomach to produce nitrosamines, which have been shown to cause cancer in animals.
  3. Children and pregnant women should avoid these chemicals because the side effects could be dangerous for the growth of neither the children nor the baby.
  4. Colorectal cancer and other diseases such as; Leukemia, Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Heart disease, Ovarian, Esophageal, Stomach, Pancreatic, and Typhoid cancer

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ordered that your daily intake of sodium nitrate shouldn’t be more than 3.7 milligrams per kilo of body weight, for example, a person with a weight of 150 pounds (68 kg) should not consume more than 0.25 grams of sodium nitrate per day. As we know it’s hard to measure the amount of these preservatives because it is not listed on food labels, so it could be hard how much you are getting on a daily basis.

According to research, many countries have listed the sodium nitrate in every product that contain that substance, these countries are;

  1. United States (TSCA) sodium nitrate is listed
  2. Canada (DSL) sodium nitrate is listed
  3. Mexico (JNSQ) sodium nitrate is listed
  4. European Union (EINECS) sodium nitrate is listed
  5. China (IECS) sodium nitrate is listed
  6. Japan (METI) sodium nitrate is listed
  7. Korea (KECJ) sodium nitrate is listed

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How to Stay Healthy With Sodium Nitrate

There are some tips to stay healthy even if we consume the sodium nitrate, however it also has an important factor to our body and health, there are:

  1. Limit how much cured meat is in your diet. It can also help you to avoid the risk of blood pressure.
  2. Eating organic food is a good way to avoid taking in too many nitrates, since organic food isn’t growth with synthetic nitrogen fertilizers, which increase nitrate content in crops.
  3. Antioxidant rich foods that are high in vitamin C can also minimize the conversion of nitrates.
  4. Look for nitrate-free or nitrite-free options for our children processing meat product.
  5. Eat more fish because it can help you to avoid the heart disease.

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Here are the Foods that produce without coloring or preservative

Sodium nitrate is used to preserve the food and to prolong the shelf life, also to prevent early spoilage from bacterial growth. The coloring of food must be fit and certified with the regulation from the U.S Food and Drug Administration, it is also known as food dye. Here are some foods that produce without the coloring or preservative, they are;

1. Natural Foods and Organic Foods

According to United States Department of Agriculture, foods certified as organic by the USDA are free from pesticides, food colors, and added preservatives. Fresh organic foods, vegetables, and fruits are your first priority choice for a healthy life.

2. Lean Meats

You should know that a fresh cut meat has no preservative or color on it. Choose meats that have been labeled as grass-feed, free-range, antibiotic-free and hormone-free. Please avoid any packaged cuts of meat that have been processed.

3. Egg

Eggs are the complete protein, contain healthy fats, and have no added sugars. They are the source of important vitamins and minerals, beside that they also contain phytochemicals lutein and zeaxanthin which act as an antioxidant to be thought in the prevention of eye disease. Please purchase organic cage-free eggs to ensure that they don’t contain harmful additive. Organic and cage-free chickens run freely and aren’t injected by hormones.

4. Fresh, Organic Vegetables and Fruits

Fresh fruits and vegetables should be the foundation of your healthy diet, since the produce is naturally occurring and are not processed, refined, or manufactured.

According to ATSDR; Case Studies in Environmental Medicine concluded that in humans’ body, ingested nitrate is rapidly absorbed from the proximal small bowel and distributed throughout the body. And then, it enters the large bowel from the blood, where it is rapidly converted to highly reactive nitrate, in part of fecal microorganisms, the formed nitrate is reabsorbed into the blood, where it reacts with the ferrous (Fe2+) iron of deoxyhemoglobin, forming methemoglobin with iron in the the ferric (Fe3+) valence state.

Ferric iron is unable to transport oxygen. Nitrates are rapidly converted in the liver to denitrated metabolities and inorganic nitrites, which are then excreted in urine. Approximately 60% to 70 % of an ingested nitrate dose is excreted in urine within the first 24 hours. About 25% is excreted in saliva through an active blood nitrate transport system and potentially is reabsorbed. Half-lives of parent nitrate compounds are usually < 1 hour; half-lives of metabolites range from 1 to 8 hours./Nitrates/.

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As a chemical compound, sodium nitrate can be useful also danger in our life. It depends on how we use it, in a wisely term or in a negative term. We can use it as a tool for the benefit of our environment. In the middle of disputation about how danger is the sodium nitrate, it still has the important role in our life, from the tool to preservative the meats, becoming fertilizer, the element of making the explosive, etc.

However, we must stay aware of this substance although we consume it every day through meat, vegetables, or fruit. The parents must be aware about the foods that are consumed by their children, so they can be cautious about their children healthy and growth.

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