All cured meats, including breakfast sausage, bacon, luncheon meats, and hot dogs, contain nitrites and nitrates. They’re added to processed meats to prevent botulism and enhance the taste and color of the meat. Without nitrates processed meats would be brown, just like cooked hamburger.
Once inside the body, they can form nitrosamines, a cancer-causing chemical. These carcinogenic compounds have been associated with cancer. They have also been linked with leukemia and ADD/ADHD in children.
Between 1980 and 1987, a study conducted in Los Angeles found a relationship between the consumption of certain foods and the risk of leukemia with children under the age of 10. Results indicated that children, who ate an excess of 12 hot dogs per month, had nine times the normal risk of developing childhood leukemia.
Pictured: Zach thinks nitrates are hair-raising scary!
In 2007, researchers in Denver found that children, whose mothers consumed one or more hot dogs per week during pregnancy, had double the risk of developing brain tumors, and children, who consumed one or more hot dogs per week were also at higher risk of brain cancer.
Nitrites are found naturally in many green vegetables, especially spinach, celery, and green lettuce. However, the consumption of vegetables is effective in reducing the risk of cancer. Nitrites found in whole foods are managed differently in the body. It’s the synergy of various compounds, which makes the difference between harmful and healthful. Nitrite containing vegetables also have vitamins C and D, which inhibit the formation of carcinogenic compounds. Therefore, vegetables are quite safe and healthy, and actually reduce your cancer risk.
For health avoid eating meat products with nitrates. Children, who have small tummies, and the picky eater, who is consuming limited foods, shouldn’t eat meats containing nitrates. Always look for nitrate-free meats. In addition, these products usually are high in fat, and the fat is where contaminates are stored.
Food additives are problematic for everyone, but for the child or adult with ADD/ADHD, avoidance of food additives is imperative. There’s sound evidence that food plays an important part in controlling the symptoms of ADD/ADHD. Food additives such as artificial colorings, preservatives, MSG, and nitrates. Of course, avoidance of junk foods, trans fat, and sugar, especially High Fructose Corn Syrup, is also very important.
My daughter, Jenny, was extremely sensitive to food additives, including nitrates. Thirty years ago, her pediatrician thought I was crazy, when I mentioned that food additives made her ADD symptoms worse. Today, parents, who suspect artificial ingredients in food are affecting their childrens’ behavior, can now point to proof. New research, by Jim Stevenson, a professor of psychology at England’s University of Southampton, reported in a British medical journal, that a variety of common food dyes and sodium benzoate, an ingredient in many soft drinks, fruit juices, and salad dressings, causes some children to become more hyperactive than usual. The younger the children, the more they found they negatively responded to the additives.
Be on the lookout for nitrates: All prepackaged lunch meats contain nitrates. If lunch meet is pink it has nitrates. Ask the deli counter clerk to check the nutrition label for nitrates. Some deli meats may be nitrate-free. Frozen turkey breakfast and turkey Italian sausage packaged in a tube usually don’t contain nitrates.
Most pork products (all cured meats, hot dogs, bacon, sausage, pepperoni, salami, etc.) use nitrates to preserve color and freshness. Look for alternatives. Incorporate easy-to-make egg, tuna, and chicken salad sandwiches in your lunches. Of course, the standby peanut butter and jelly sandwich is easy and always nitrate-free.
When you have a craving for a hot dog, be sure to buy a brand that doesn’t contain nitrates. These are usually found in whole food stores. Or when a delivery pizza is the answer to dinner, order a veggie or hamburger pizza, leaving off pepperoni, ham, and other processed meats with nitrates.
Take the time to teach your children to enjoy whole foods. If you set good eating habits from the beginning with your kids, you’ll avoid ever having a picky eater. Learning to eat a healthy diet starting early in childhood will decrease the likelihood of your child becoming obese and getting diabetes, heart disease, or cancer. I discuss this more in detail in Baby Bites: Transforming a Picky Eater into a Healthy Eater.
For a synopsis of Baby Bites: Transforming a Picky Eater into a Healthy Eater, Click Here.