of chopped ham. If you want to eat the right kinds of nitrates and nitrites and avoid the potentially carcinogenic ones, then eat a widely varied diet with at least five servings a day of fruit and vegetables, and avoid nibbling on processed meats too often. According to the Food Standards Agency, potassium nitrate is a orthorhombic crystal compound found commonly in explosives, fireworks, rocket propellants, fertilizers and tree stump removers 1. The nitrates are chemical compounds, salts of the nitric acid. Considering that cured meats form a large part of the average food consumption, there has been cause to worry about the levels of nitrites in foods as well as its affect on the human body. Yet, since the medieval ages, potassium nitrate, also called salt peter, has been used to preserve meats. Nitrates are also the active ingredient in some medications for angina, a condition in which reduced blood flow causes chest pain. It is one of the principal ingredients in gunpowder. The Oregon State University explains that the characteristic pink hue of cooked salami is due to the presence of the potassium nitrate. For fires involving potassium nitrite, extinguish with dry chemical, CO2, Halon, water spray Carrots are one rich source of nitrates, which they acquire from the soil they grow in (Credit: Getty). Now, more sophisticated measures, which do not involve the use of bodily substances, are used in its creation. For example, the high natural nitrate content of beetroot juice has been credited with lowering blood pressure and enhancing exercise performance. Nitrates and nitrites, such as potassium nitrate and sodium nitrite, are naturally occurring chemical compounds which contain nitrogen and oxygen. Limited capacity to produce nitric oxide is associated with heart disease, diabetes and erectile dysfunction. It is an ionic salt of potassium ions K + and nitrite ions NO 2 −, which forms a white or slightly yellow, hygroscopic crystalline powder that is soluble in water. Questions have arisen on the harmfulness of nitrites 2. "Expert Group on Vitamins and Minerals"; Risk Assessment: Potassium; Food Standards Agency; 2003. Some natural and organic ways of preserving meat, such as celery salt, may contain nitrates. Still, while the nitrates found in ham are chemically identical to those in the salad you might eat with it, it’s the vegetable-based ones you should shoot for. As always, dose makes the poison, and levels of 2-9 grams (2000-9000mg) of nitrate can be acutely toxic, causing changes in haemoglobin that present as a blueish tinge to lips and skin. Potassium nitrite (distinct from potassium nitrate) is the inorganic compound with the chemical formula K N O 2. This author has been verfied for credibility and expertise. What You Need To Know About Nitrate . “It’s not so much nitrates/nitrites per se [that are carcinogenic], but the way they are cooked and their local environment that is an important factor,” says Kate Allen, executive director of science and public affairs at the World Cancer Research Fund. Other factors that may contribute include iron; PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) which are formed in smoked meats; and HCAs (heterocyclic amines), which are created when meat is cooked over an open flame – and which also are tumour-promoting. But the report also noted that people of all age groups can exceed this ADI quite easily. The National Center for Home Food Preservation explains that one of the major curing ingredients is nitrate, which can be obtained from potassium nitrate or sodium nitrate. Yet, since the medieval ages, potassium nitrate, also called salt peter, has been used to preserve meats. Of those who eat 50 grams processed meat (about three rashers of bacon) daily, the chance is seven out of 100. Leafy greens like spinach and rocket tend to be top of the crop for nitrate content, with other rich sources include celery and beetroot juices, and carrots. Because the nitrate content of food is hugely variable, it’s difficult to be sure how much you’re consuming on a daily basis (Credit: Getty). “Levels can vary up to 10,000-fold for lettuce, and nitrates within drinking water can also vary considerably within the legal limit (50mg/litre),” says nutritional epidemiologist Gunter Kuhlne of the UK’s Reading University. The Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources added to Food (ANS) provided a scientific opinion re-evaluating the safety of potassium nitrite (E 249) and sodium nitrite (E 250) when used as food additives. According to the Food Standards Agency, potassium nitrate is a orthorhombic crystal compound found commonly in explosives, fireworks, rocket propellants, fertilizers and tree stump removers 1. To create that vibrant red color that distinguishes corned beef, potassium nitrate is added to the brine along with the pickling spices. But the relationship between dietary nitrates/nitrites and health is a lot more nuanced than merely saying “they’re bad for us”. So when most of the nitrates in our diets come from vegetables – and in turn encourage nitric oxide formation – they are probably good for us. “It means that studies investigating the effects of nitrate on health need to be interpreted very carefully, as ‘nitrate’ might simply be a marker of vegetable intake”. But nitrites, and the chemicals formed from them, are much more reactive. This includes nitrates, which are compounds that occur when nitrogen is … While the International Agency for Research on Cancer categorises processed meat a carcinogen, the risk is quite small. Diet is responsible for the highest level of exposure to nitrites, due to nitrate fertilizer on crops that accumulate in foods, according to the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services.