Food - Drink
What You Should Know Before Buying Nitrate-Free Bacon
As a common additive and preservative, nitrates add color and flavor to processed meats such as bacon, and extend the shelf life of any food they touch. However, nitrites found in processed meats may increase your risk of cancer, and bacon can contain up to 380 mcg of nitrates, making so-called "nitrate-free" bacon a tempting option.
Not all nitrates are created equal; while many food producers use synthetic nitrates, nitrates are also naturally abundant in leafy greens like spinach, lettuce, and arugula. Some studies show that natural nitrates can help prevent cancer, and those specifically found in beetroots and beetroot juices can help reduce blood pressure.
So-called "nitrate-free" bacon always contains nitrites; the label simply means that the meat was not treated with chemicals, but with celery juice. However, "nitrate-free" bacon cured with salt and celery juice can react with saliva and turn nitrates into nitrites, which in turn become harmful carcinogens known as nitrosamines.
WebMD reports that bacon packages labeled "nitrite-free" can contain double the amount of nitrites compared to packages of regular bacon; Cook's Illustrated conducted its own lab tests and also found that "uncured" bacon brands were higher in nitrites. You may be better off buying regular bacon instead of the "nitrate-free" stuff.