NITRATES AND NITRITES ON FOOD OR WATER
Why are nitrates harmful?
Nitrates are one of the major problems of water pollution. Most of the nitrates come from fertilizers. These seep into aquifers and contaminate water.
When we drink water contaminated with nitrates, these are converted into nitrites by the action of intestinal bacteria. They are also responsible for the appearance of nitrosamines.
Nitrosamines from nitrites
Nitrosamines are formed in the body by the action of the digestive acids. When we fry food at a high temperature, this can also be responsible for nitrosamine formation. Nitrosamines are thought to be one of the main reasons for the development of gastric tumors.
The maximum permitted level of nitrates is 5 mg per liter. Larger quantities can cause the blue baby syndrome, which is a disease caused by lack of oxygen which leads to the coloration of the skin.
This condition occurs because the nitrates, converted to nitrites, inhibit the absorption of oxygen.
Food high in nitrates
Spinach are one of the foods that can contain a lot of nitrates
Besides polluting water, the use of nitrogen fertilizers pollutes soil, so that these components are absorbed by the body through food, either plant food or animals that feed on plants.
If we consider that there are some vegetables that have a special ability to capture these components, we will realize the need to control the intake of certain foods in population groups that can be especially affected by this problem, such as children or aging people.
Among the animal food richest in nitrosamines we have fish, beer and meat or cheese preserved in nitrite salt.
Tobacco smoke also contains lots of nitrosamines.
How to get rid of nitrates in water
To eliminate these substances different processes of filtration or water treatment have been used. It is known that activated carbon filters are not able to remove these components.
They get eliminated through a reverse osmosis system, although it should be noted that this procedure, in addition to eliminating all harmful products of water, also removes minerals that are beneficial to health, such as magnesium or calcium.
How to diminish nitrates in plant-based foods
boiled spinach and potatoes. We can eliminate much of nitrosamines from food by means of boiling it in water and draining it. Naturally, we should better discard the boiling water.
In order to diminish the nitrates of plants that especially accumulate them, a series of precautions should be taken into account when we prepare or eat these vegetables:
- The best way is cooking them in water, so that it dissolves the nitrate content. Before cooking we should let them soak for a while for the same purpose.
- Cooking water should be discarded and drained much as possible.
- Cook as quickly as possible to prevent bacteria from acting against them by converting nitrate to nitrite and nitrosamines, which are the most harmful substances.
- No consumption abuse, alternating them with other vegetables.
Antioxidants to combat nitrates
Another way of reducing nitrates effects on human body is to ingest rich antioxidant food. Antioxidants are able to neutralize the negative effects of these harmful substances. (More information about antioxidants)
More information on water.