The Nitrate Dilemma

While shopping for pizza toppings at my local IGA this afternoon I came across a very disturbing product hanging there amongst the ham and salami.  I don’t know what was more shocking, that Schneider’s makes something called Meat, Macaroni, and Cheese Loaf, or that people would actually buy it.  I looked at the package in horror and sure enough one of the first ingredients listed was my nemesis, sodium nitrate.

I love salami, bacon, hot dogs, sausages, etc. but as I’ve grown older and wiser, I clued in to the fact that all the preservatives in these products probably aren’t very good for us.  So a few years ago I did some research.  Just reading the wikipedia entry on sodium nitrate sheds light on the subject.  It’s been linked to cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and all sorts of other ailments that you probably don’t want to fool with.  Yet parents continue to pack their kids off to school with the good old bologna sandwich.  So ever since this revelation I’ve severely cut back on processed meats.

Now, I find that when I eat a jumbo hot dog I don’t feel very good after.  Once you’ve gone nitrate free for a while your body has trouble digesting the processed food, then you no longer want it, and all of a sudden you’ve eliminated a harmful chemical from your diet.  It’s a magical thing that I encourage everyone to try.  I won’t lie, I do unintentionally eat nitrates from time to time; it’s hard to completely avoid them, but I do look for alternative items or substitutes where possible.

Oyama on Granville Island makes the most amazing sausages, salami, and other deli meats that are natural and pure.  Well worth the trip and the cost.  I’ve also noticed that the main stream food manufacturers like Maple Leaf, and even Schneider’s are making natural products now.  Schneider’s makes a pretty good all natural bacon that’s only about $1 more than their regular chemical ridden one.  And I’ve also recently picked up the Maple Leaf Natural Selections uncured ham, thinking I was making a smart choice.  However according to CBC’s Marketplace it turns out that Maple Leaf is duping health conscious consumers like me into thinking their products are nitrate free (although in their defence the label does not actually claim nitrate free)!  The cultured celery extract in this line of products is apparently identical to a nitrate. So great, I’ve paid more for a product that is still bad for me.  Thanks Maple Leaf!

So what this all boils down to in my mind is everything in moderation.  There are harmful chemicals in lots of things we eat, clean our houses with, wash our faces with, and breathe in every day.  Don’t eat hot dogs every day, consider bacon a treat, and if you have kids, explain how to make smart food choices and lead by example.  They will thank you later!

I remember the first time I really thought about deli meats.  I was in my early 20’s and was at the grocery store with my now husband and I commented on how it was strange that the ham at the deli was perfectly round.  He said “well, do you think the pigs walk around with hams just hanging off them like that”?  It was then that I realized there was no way in hell this stuff was good.

Oh, and if anyone has been brave enough to try the Meat, Macaroni and Cheese Loaf, please let me know how it was.


One thought on “The Nitrate Dilemma”

  1. I actually love it and it is very tasty. I worked at JMS years ago , but now knowing more also more in my years, worry about the nitrate as i did eat it allot.

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