Nitrate-Free Bacon: The Nitrate and Nitrite Myth | Chris Kresser

The Nitrate and Nitrite Myth: Another Reason Not to Fear Bacon


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Beyond just being loaded with “artery-clogging saturated fat” and sodium, bacon has been long considered unhealthy due to the use of nitrates and nitrites in the curing process. Many conventional doctors, and well-meaning friends and relatives, will say you’re basically asking for a heart attack or cancer by eating the food many Paleo enthusiasts lovingly refer to as “meat candy”.

The belief that nitrates and nitrates cause serious health problems has been entrenched in popular consciousness and media. Watch this video clip to see Steven Colbert explain how the coming bacon shortage will prolong our lives thanks to reduced nitrates in our diets.

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In fact, the study that originally connected nitrates with cancer risk and caused the scare in the first place has since been discredited after being subjected to a peer review. There have been major reviews of the scientific literature that found no link between nitrates or nitrites and human cancers, or even evidence to suggest that they may be carcinogenic. Further, recent research suggests that nitrates and nitrites may not only be harmless, they may be beneficial, especially for immunity and heart health. Confused yet? Let’s explore this issue further.

Find out why you shouldn’t be concerned about nitrates & nitrites in bacon. Tweet This

Where Does Nitrate/Nitrite Exposure Come From?

It may surprise you to learn that the vast majority of nitrate/nitrite exposure comes not from food, but from endogenous sources within the body. (1)

In fact, nitrites are produced by your own body in greater amounts than can be obtained from food, and salivary nitrite accounts for 70-90% of our total nitrite exposure. In other words, your spit contains far more nitrites than anything you could ever eat.

When it comes to food, vegetables are the primary source of nitrites. On average, about 93% of nitrites we get from food come from vegetables. It may shock you to learn that one serving of arugula, two servings of butter lettuce, and four servings of celery or beets all have more nitrite than 467 hot dogs. (2) And your own saliva has more nitrites than all of them! So before you eliminate cured meats from your diet, you might want to address your celery intake. And try not to swallow so frequently.

All humor aside, there’s no reason to fear nitrites in your food, or saliva. Recent evidence suggests that nitrites are beneficial for immune and cardiovascular function; they are being studied as a potential treatment for hypertension, heart attacks, sickle cell and circulatory disorders. Even if nitrites were harmful, cured meats are not a significant source, as the USDA only allows 120 parts per million in hot dogs and bacon. Also, during the curing process, most of the nitrite forms nitric oxide, which binds to iron and gives hot dogs and bacon their characteristic pink color. Afterwards, the amount of nitrite left is only about 10 parts per million.

And if you think you can avoid nitrates and nitrites by eating so-called “nitrite- and nitrate-free” hot dogs and bacon, don’t be fooled. These products use “natural” sources of the same chemical like celery and beet juice and sea salt, and are no more free from nitrates and nitrites than standard cured meats. In fact, they may even contain more nitrates and nitrites when cured using “natural” preservatives.

What Happens When You Eat Nitrates and Nitrites

It’s important to understand that neither nitrate nor nitrite accumulate in body. Ingested nitrate from food is converted into nitrite when it contacts our saliva, and of the nitrate we eat, 25% is converted into salivary nitrite, 20% converted into nitrite, and the rest is excreted in the urine within 5 hours of ingestion. (3) Any nitrate that is absorbed has a very short half-life, disappearing from our blood in under five minutes. (4) Some nitrite in our stomach reacts with gastric contents, forming nitric oxide which may have many beneficial effects. (56) You can listen to my podcast “Does Red Meat Increase Your Risk of Death?” for more information on this topic.

In general, the bulk of the science suggests that nitrates and nitrites are not problematic and may even be beneficial to health. Critical reviews of the original evidence suggesting that nitrates/nitrites are carcinogenic reveals that in the absence of co-administration of a carcinogenic nitrosamine precursor, there is no evidence for carcinogenesis. (7) Newly published prospective studies show no association between estimated intake of nitrite and nitrite in the diet and stomach cancer. (8) Nitric oxide, formed by nitrite, has been shown to have vasodilator properties and may modulate platelet function in the human body, improving blood pressure and reducing heart attack risk. (91011) Nitrates may also help boost the immune system and protect against pathogenic bacteria (121314)

So what do we take from this? There’s no reason to fear nitrates and nitrites in food. No reason to buy nitrate-free, uncured bacon. No reason to strictly avoid cured meats, particularly those from high quality sources (though it may make sense to limit consumption of them for other reasons). In fact, because of concerns about trichinosis from pork, it makes a lot more sense in my opinion to buy cured bacon and other pork products. I do.


Join the conversation

  1. I think I heard from the Weston Price Foundation that supermarket bacon is done with a quick curing process which makes it less healthy that traditional cures. Is that true?

      • So, just to clarify, as long as I don’t burn the bacon, it will not form the known cancer causing nitrosamines?

        I cook my bacon low & slow, as it, imo, results in a much more tastier bacon (fat is soft and yummy!). I do prefer to buy the uncured “natural” bacon, but it isn’t always economically practical for me unfortunately. So knowing that buying the cheaper “cured” bacon can be just as safe if cooked properly would be a great relief & one less stress on my mind.

  2. Well like the egg getting a bad rap now we are hearing nitrates not so bad, for me good for all those people that eat alot of bacon, personally I am coming from the thoughts of just paying attention to what my body is telling me, If i eat it how do I feel, I getting
    a little frustrated and over whelmed with it all, not that I will not be going forward, with learning, who do you trust , I am finding
    trust your self and how you feel with each bite , your body and skin tell you right away if it likes it or dosent, 🙂 this is the first step.
    than pray for and seek out a good functional Medicine practice (if you can afford it) hopefully one day that will be main stream,

    • Yes, nitrates can trigger migraines. But that of course doesn’t make bacon an unhealthy food for people that don’t experience migraines, as Dana pointed out.

      • I wrote above that I was wondering if there weren’t hidden MSG in bacons that cause the migraines. I sure would love to eat (turkey) bacon. What is in the smoky flavor of commercial bacon — I doubt they actually smoke it, do they? Could it be the MSG causing the migraines? For instance, I have found the Applegate farms brand of hot dogs does not cause migraines in me so no MSG there, but they probably do have the beet nitrates in there, right? Couldn’t the migraines be from some form of MSG?

      • how does this work?…surely that would mean that all the nitrates/nitrites from veges or produced endogenously would cause these people to have a permanent migraine.

        cheers chris

        • People have all kinds of migraine triggers, including non-food ones (lack of sleep, drops in barometric pressure like when a storm comes, sudden changes in blood pressure like when they’re angry), so it’s going to be different for everyone. MSG doesn’t bother me on the symptomatic level, and nitrites give me a migraine for 3 days straight. My grandmother was the reverse.

          In my case, the sodium nitrite acts as a vasodilator, and I’m guessing I’m overly sensitive to that, so that gives me the migraine. There’s really no way of knowing for sure.

          • That doesn’t really make any sense.

            I’m not an expert, but most migraines/headaches are as a result of vascular restriction, but the vasodilation should alleviate that.

            Nitrous oxide is a common chemical used in pre-work out supplements and its pretty good at getting rid of head aches.

            • Travis –

              You are falling into the trap of thinking that Migraines and headaches are the same thing. There not. Regular headaches are often cause by vasoconstriction (though not always).

              Migraines are caused by a different mechanism, I am not sure of the details.

              • The migraines I get are usually the result of dilation (which is why taking an aspirin will make it worse).

                Occasionally they will be caused when my body senses too much blood vessel restriction (which is why I will get dizzy first every once in a while, but not often) which my brain counters by dilating my blood vessels, and that’s the part that causes me pain.

                I very rarely get headaches. Maybe once a year or so. You’re right, they’re very different.

        • Your assumption is that all nitrates/nitrites are the same. Also, naturally occurring nitrates and nitrites in vegetables etc. do not occur on their own. They will be accompanied by many, many other compounds which may prevent the reactions people get when eating foods with nitrates/nitrites added artificially. This, I believe is the issue. Food manufacturing uses processes that isolate compounds which are found in nature and presume them to be safe. But what they fail to understand is that it has taken millions of years of evolution for the earth’s ecosystem to find a balance. Human’s are continually upsetting that balance, and messing with what we eat is one of the most dangerous things we can do.

          • Great point! Just as the vitamin C study showed drinking a glass of OJ with your bacon helped to reduce negative impacts from the meat.

          • Yes, I was surprised there wasn’t more inquiry into that difference when this article was written. What’s up with that Chris? Do you think an isolated single chemical being added to something it doesn’t naturally belong with and then is heated… is processed by our bodies in the same way as that chem in it’s natural state would be? I’m wondering if you researched this… and what you found.

    • Me too. I still haven’t tried “nitrate free” bacon since I know is still technically has nitrates in it (as this article proves). Not sure if the bacon cured with celery would give me just as bad a headache as regular bacon does….I know everyone’s different, but does anyone know if it would? One time I got a migraine just from the smell of bacon!

  3. I have definitely feared the nitrates forever… Thanks for this article.

    Question: When “nitrate” is listed in the ingredients list, and it doesn’t specify that it’s from a natural source such as celery, where does it come from?

  4. Nitrites and nitrates aside, there are other things in bacon that make it inappropriate for hypoglycemics, most likely the sugar. Most bacons make me feel terrible. Only sugar-free bacon sits well with me, and it’s very hard to find. Our supermarket had uncured bacon in its frozen foods deparatment but discontinued it because it was too expensive and didn’t sell.

      • Thanks, Mark, I’ll try it, albeit with fear and trembling as I’m a top-of-the-line, extreme hypoglycemic.

    • This is not an absolute thing. I’m pretty sure I suffered from reactive hypoglycemia in my high-carb days. I do fine with bacon now, and I don’t make any special effort to find the sugar-free. Really, there isn’t enough sugar to make it a huge dose even if I eat several pieces.

      Best that each person try it for themselves to see how they personally react. Some people get migraines from nitrites/nitrates, but not everyone. Some people can’t digest pork well for some reason, apparently. I dunno.

      • The topic of sugar, in all things, let alone bacon, interests me greatly. I’m one of the most sensitive sugar barometers that has ever existed in human form. Eat some product with sugar in it and within a matter of days I break out with some acne. Not nice. Bacon does it to me too, even with the “minimal” amount it has per serving. Breaking out like this tells me, in my experiment of one, that any substance with sugar added to it for human consumption is suspect. In fact, despite many sources that claim it not so, I believe sugar to be the primary culprit in most people’s acne problems but they just haven’t made the connection between the two, yet. I hadn’t yet looked for sugar-free bacon yet, but I will be doing so. It’s just too good!

        • Sugar is one of the most inflammatory foods, and acne is an inflammatory condition. Keep in touch with me, Frank. Inflammation has its place, but we don’t need our skin to “come to the rescue” with inflammation at the littlest insult to our digestive system, and shout out through our skin. The best way to chill this inflammatory process out? Water in the a.m., alkalinizing foods, like salad, and fermented vegetables, like the ones in Akea Essentials.

        • You could also do AAT testing, if you can find a practitioner in your area, to see if you’re simply sensitive to sugar due to a mechanism other than insulin production etc.

          I’d also like to mention that my strong hypoglycemic reactions, that would occur wether I ate carbohydrates or not, disappeared within a few days of following the guidelines in the book Mastering Leptin.

        • I have clearly traced my acne to dairy from pasteurized milk – you should try to eliminate dairy from your diet (at least for a couple of weeks), see what it does to your acne. Then reintroduce dairy, see what it does.

          • Tony – The Dairy Industry wants to change the labeling of milk so that added sweeteners (natural or chemical) do not need to be listed. That the definition of “milk” will be assumed to include sweeteners in definition.

            The idea of pasteurized milk obviously has many problems, lactose-intolerance, no live bacteria or enzymes. What is not commonly known is that the amount of bacteria allowed to proliferate in the milk before pasteurization that is not filtered out, adding a large amount of killed bacteria being homogenized into the milk substrate (suspension). There are no scientific studies to my knowledge as to if the body can process such a foreign body in such large concentrations, or if it has to be detoxed or stored into fat to protect the body.

            Raw dairy has very strict requirements for very low live bacterial levels allowed. In a healthy, cleanly milked animal, there are naturally very low bacterial levels. In the Big-Agricultural fed and contained animals, fed growth hormones, antibiotics to counter the growth hormones and to counter the standing in feces, even with disinfected milking equipment, the bacteria levels in these unhealthy cows comes out of the udder many times fold the levels of a healthy cow. If the standard dairy industry had to adhere to the levels of bacteria as the raw dairy producers, not one drop of milk could be sold, it would be considered contaminated right out of the cow.

            Also, the proliferation of bacteria is allowed to multiply, I have no scientific evidence of this, but my gut tells me, the bacteria reproduce and take up space, resulting in a larger mass (size) that when pasteurized and included in the milk adds volume that is not actually “milk” but produces a new product of “dead bacteria suspended and homogenized into milk”.

            Personally, my gut instinct again, the pull to change the industry “definition” of milk to include sweeteners is a direct result of either a) the industry allowing the bacteria to proliferate to the highest levels allowed before being pasteurized – many hundreds of thousand times what occurs in healthy animals’ milk – or – b) the animals diets, those that live two years, which is long for industrial milk cows – lives have somehow been extended through modern pharmaceuticals – and the resulting milk has become so noxious that sweeteners Must be added to disguise the taste.

            Cows love grass and sunshine, being propped up on a wooden block because their legs have given out and may be broken from disuse and rampant disease and hormonal-induced growth – again – if you care about animal welfare or not, and as referred to in my statements – does not produce healthy milk from the get-go. Unhealthy farm animals create an unhealthy food supply. Farm animals are by design, domesticated creatures who by definition are to be raised on a farm ( grass, sunshine, shelter and a care-giver). Milk by natural design is not proliferated with excess numbers of bacteria and certainly does not include sweeteners in the definition!

            (excuse writing style vs. grammatical style please) 🙂

  5. The main thing to be looking for when buying bacon or any type of pig meat is that it comes from a local farm where it was allowed to pasture all day. What you buy at the store is factory farmed and those animals have been abused. No need to support that type of industry!

  6. Thanks so much for this article! I’ve been avoiding non nitrate free bacon due to fear of cancer for the last few years! This post has been as enlightening for me as Robb Wolf’s post on the meat/cancer study…I can’t believe how much the media takes these ‘sound bites’ from so called medical research and runs with them. The even scarier thing is that grains are being promoted as a healthy alternative! Thanks again – I’m off to enjoy a bunless double bacon cheeseburger…

  7. Just curious….would it still be more ideal to buy bacon cured from natural sources such as celery root versus traditional cures. Thanks

    • I asked Mat LaLonde, a Harvard biochemist, about this and his answer was “no”. It’s the same chemical.

      • Chemically speaking he might say that honey is the same as highly processed table sugar? If his answer is yes, than I personally would draw different assumptions about the assertion that all nitrites are chemically the same ie the body reacts the same to it?

        • The difference between honey and sugar is that honey has other beneficial nutrients, whereas table sugar does not. Honey is not better than sugar because the glucose and fructose in it is different than the glucose and fructose in sugar.

      • Chris,
        Could you (or Mat) address the fact that in America curing salt is dyed pink? I can only assume this FD&C Red #whatever, but could problems associated with nitrites/nitrates be a food coloring issue? I do not know what year the pink salt mandate took place, I’ve been curing my own bacon/sausage for only 2 years.

  8. Wow. That could save some money. So it’s not so important to buy uncured pork, but what I’ve been reading lately seems to favor animal fats from ruminants (beef, lamb, goat, deer, bison) over other animal fat sources (pork, poultry, etc.). I still eat pork once or twice a week because, well, pork rules. It seems to be harder to find pork that’s fed it’s natural diet than it is to find grass fed beef. Shouldn’t pigs be rooting around for acorns and such (do they eat grass?) instead of eating GM corn and soy? Even if you pay dearly for organic pork, it still seems to be primarily grain fed. I’m getting off the subject; it’s good to know that cured meats of all kinds are not as bad as we’ve been told. Thanks, Chris.

    • good questions! Don’t know the answers either. Do pigs eat grass? As far as I have learnt they don’t at all. So pastured pigs? I really don’t think so. Pigs are fed grains nowadays I believe. In the good old days they used to be fed food left overs. Acorns would be best!

      • VERY GOOD reminder…nitrates not so bad per Chris, but GMO soy and corn…not on my list of things I want to ingest!

      • Actually some pigs do eat grass. 🙂 They also love to root and eat grubs and things under the dirt… Acorns are great for finishing of course. Yes I know many are fed grains, but we have a local farmer who feeds his pigs, sweet potatoes, leftover veggies from the market and organic grains. And they run around on grass too…

      • I think kuni kuni pigs (Polynesian) eat grass. They are vegetarian. We feed one entirely from the food scraps at my work. It’s mainly fruit waste. People here in New Zealand seldom eat kuni kunis. They are regarded as pets but aren’t permitted within the house as far as I know, though there is no reason why not – just convention. Can’t help thinking that pig (Doris) would be delicious…

      • Pigs do eat grass, but I think NZ kuni kuni are the only ones that can achieve good condition just from grass….and they would much rather have apples 🙂

  9. I still buy nitrate free and uncured bacon because it actually tastes less salty to me. Is there a difference in the amount of salt in cured and uncured bacon? And the brands I buy that are nitrate free use higher quality pork, don’t necessarily buy it because it’s nitrate free, just good quality meat.

    • I don’t worry about salt. I find I actually have to *eat* salt every day because, thanks to keeping my insulin reasonable most of the time, I don’t retain sodium like I did on high carb. My blood pressure is completely normal and I’m still sixty pounds overweight.

      • You’re not sixty pounds overweight, you’re 60 pounds more lovable, adorable, and 60 pounds happier than a bony-assed vegan chick. Take good but not obsessive care of your wrapper, but remember to take extra special care of your soul & spirit because they are who you really are.

        • Well said. That’s a nice reminder especially when we’re reading articles about eating more of this and less of that.

      • Dana, I think what Monet was referring to was the perceived taste of salt in the nitrate free. I have high blood pressure but it ain’t from salt. I don’t pay much attention to sodium content, but rather salt to taste with either pink himalayan or grey salt, but I don’t care for the over salty aspect of nitrate free. It just tastes too salty to me. Back in my pre Paleo days I used to enjoy popcorn at home with salted Kerrygold butter. I never added extra salt. People think that’s wierd, but that is my personal taste preference. I think some people just like less salt on certain things.

    • Migraine triggers are in a class all their own. If you don’t get migraines or nitrates aren’t your trigger then don’t worry about it. I mean, chocolate triggers them for some people, but most people don’t get migraines regularly.

      • Amen. MSG, sodium nitrates, red wine, etc are all migraine triggers for me. I have no problem with celery and other foods that have naturally occurring nitrates.

        I love bacon, ham, hot dogs, but must abstain if they contain sodium nitrates or I pay dearly.

      • Migraine triggers vary person to person. So it’s quite possible that for your family members it is a trigger. But for someone else its not a trigger.

        • LOL.

          On another note, I am concerned about factory farmed pork. Chris…at the risk of making you sound like you are plugging a brand, what brands do you purchase? Will you divulge? Or perhaps recommend some “recommended” brands (plural)?

    • Bacon (I only would eat turkey bacon if I could eat it, due to my religion) always gives me a migraine. In foods, what gives me a migraine is MSG containing foods. I have tried all the “natural” kinds of turkey bacon at Whole Foods and elsewhere and even though they don’t list MSG on the ingredients, I know it’s in there somewhere. As it is in all store rotisserie (and fast food rotisserie) chickens. Perhaps they do the same thing and inject the raw meat with “water” that happens to contain flavorings. Or perhaps it is in the fake smoke effect. I don’t think it is the nitrates or nitrites giving the migraine but some form of MSG.

      • Had to jump in here on the turkey bacon. Bacon is the fat back of a pig. Turkey bacon is not bacon. It is chipped, chopped, flavored and dyed turkey meat.

        Trader Joes sells a beef bacon that is made from real cuts of meat, it tends to cook up crisp and yummy, but is too salty for me.

        I don’t care if you want to eat turkey fake-on, but please remember, first, it’s just a fancy processed product made to resemble the real thing.

      • There are many other words that mean the same thing as MSG – anything “autolyzed” or “hydrolyzed” is the same thing, like yeast extract and autolyzed yeast extracts – but there are many more things I can’t think of now but know when I see them. I too get migraines from MSG. Once I learned to cut out all of these things, I’ve been in much better shape.

      • Do you eat mushrooms, and if so, are they a migraine trigger? I ask because mushrooms contain quite a it of naturally occurring MSG.

        I am very sorry for your migraines, I get them too… wouldn’t wish them on my worst enemy!

          • Boy, holisticmama, I think you really misinterpreted “a class all their own.” I bet no one else besides you took that as meaning anything remotely like “migraine triggers must not be an issue.” I’m a migraine survivor and I didn’t take it that way. I read it as “AAANNND yet another important thing to think about! — for those who need to worry about it.” Saying migraine triggers are only an issue for people with migraines makes absolutely perfect sense, and does NOT equate to saying they aren’t an issue. People who don’t get migraines, or for whom particular ingredients aren’t triggers, don’t need to avoid those triggers. Your response came across to me as singularly self-absorbed and defensive.

      • You do understand that MSG is natural and found in high amounts in mushrooms. You are experiencing what is called a placebo effect due to what you have been told and read to feel after eating chinese food.

    • Well according to Dana, because nitrates or MSG or whatever doesn’t trigger HER migraines they must not be an issue so let’s just ignore it for the rest of us no matter how small the margin. MSG and Nitrates can and do cause migraines for people who are unaware. Until I cut out processed foods, which yep I ate lots of nitrate and MSG laden foods, my yes very FREQUENT migraines pretty much stopped. MILLIONS of people suffer from migraines for a host of reasons they are NOT in a “class all their own”. They are very real and very part of the need to eat REAL, unprocessed foods as much as possible. Until I switched to eating real, whole foods, I as well as my husband suffered debilitating, chronic, migraines. Almost at the same time, so I know it was very much food related and when we ingested any foods with these substances we became ill again. So they are out for good. I’ve not had any issues eating Organic Bacon so I will remain to do so.

      If nitrates are “ok” then I’d say it’s likely just as ok to eat the nitrates in the celery salt. At least that doesn’t turn our bacon, neon pink. Also I don’t get the ultra crispy bacon like you get with conventional bacon, which I believe is likely related to the nitrates/nitrites used and as someone else mentioned is probably more likely to have more nitrosamines when cooked ultra high and crispy. When I cook my bacon it still tastes like meat, not like another food product entirely like many conventional bacons do.

      “Have I changed your mind about the safety of eating bacon? ”

      Nope, I’d rather continue to eat ORGANIC bacon from healthy fed pork even with celery salt than conventional bacon with nitrates. I’m not convinced of a reason to not eat organic or pastured pork…and those of which all are nitrate free that I have found in my market or co-ops or local processors.

      • Persuasive…and indeed been my bent. But, if there is a brand of pastured or humanely treated pork with nitrates – will someone please divulge the name?

        • Dave, thanks for this link and list. For those in the SF bay area, Sprouts carries Applegate farms. Also, Full of Life Farm is bringing back their bacon. Available at Farm in Oregon, plus sold in Concord and at Mt. View Farmers Market. Check their website.

          I have bought Niman Ranch bacon at TJs in the past, and when it disappeared I was sad, only to find it in the freezer at Costco. It’s not pastured as is the Full of Life, but a reasonably priced alternative to chain store brands.

          Finally, Prather Meats sold at the Ferry Building Farmers Market has some amazing meat.

          After Chris posted his lard making post, I bought a Prather apron that says PRAISE THE LARD on it. I bought and rendered a couple lbs of Full of Life Farms leaf lard, ans stopped saving and using bacon renderings in cooking, except as flavoring on veggies or in salad dressings. I too was concerned about nitrosamines from cooking with bacon fat, as it tends to have a fairly low smoke point. I think bacon is fantastic food.

          Love your site, insight etc, Dave.

          • I believe the distinction you need to recognize is grass-fed vs. pastured.

            For non-ruminants, the pasture would not be limited to grass 🙂

            • Here in the UK we talk about ‘free-range’ and there’s no way I would knowingly eat meat that was not so labelled. Same applies to eggs.

              • Unfortunately, ‘free-range’ in the UK does not mean ‘free-roaming’ as some animals are only allowed to roam outside for a restricted period during the day. The term ‘free-range’ has become very misleading.

          • Yes, there is. I have actually seen them with my own eyes on farms in our area. They work the ground and eat the grubs/roots/grass and keep the invasive weeds under control. Farmers around here rotate them with movable fences. Once the pics are done with the area it’s just dirt. They do a GREAT job turning over the top soil. The farmers then use the opportunity to plant beneficial grasses. Around here the pigs are the best defense we have against bind weed. They do get supplemented with whey soaked organic oats, etc but they are definately out on pasture soaking up the sun all day long.

        • Kuni kuni pigs are very popular here in New Zealand. They are a polynesian pig a bit like the pot-bellied ones. They are generally pets and not eaten. From what I’ve heard they are known as grass eaters and I’m not sure if they root for grubs. My sister had kuni kunis but she got in ordinary big white pigs to break in a paddock for her. Our workplace has a kuni kuni pig that lives in a paddock and is fed exclusively on what she finds there plus the meat-free (it’s illegal to feed pigs meat in NZ unless it’s autoclaved) mainly fruit scraps. Doris doesn’t like tea bags or onions apparently.

      • This might be the one Chris Kresser reco I have to (almost) outright disagree with.

        Fascinating physiology re: nitrates in saliva, but yes, I’m another person who gets NASTY MIGRAINES (starting with stomach and sense of smell saying “no”–if I listen to it) after eating bacon/hot dogs or anything conventionally cured. After years tinkering with it, it is a reliable cause and effect that if I eat anything cured (sometimes even a bite) I WILL get a migraine. As a consequence I will not feed that dreck to anyone.

        I do not have that problem with “nitrate free” Trader Joe’s or Applegate products.

        This article does, however, make me wonder what the actual culprit is…is it necessarily the nitrate/ites per se or some other byproduct or metabolite thereof which is produced (or destroyed?) in the usual manufacturing process?

    • Nitrates cause mine. Switching to “nitrate free” meat products eliminate my food-triggered migraines (as well as eliminating all other food triggers). I think there is a difference – and not just a psychological one. If I unknowingly eat regular bacon, I immediately get a migraine, no matter how little. Even if it’s in a gravy or sauce. There is a need for these nitrate-free products, even if the cancer thing is a myth.

      • For all the migraine sufferers commenting, this article is not talking about the food sensitivity aspect of eating nitrates/nitrites. He is simply stating that in general and they may not be as worrisome as we have been led to believe. If get migraines every time you eat bacon, you clearly have a problem that could be related to the nitrates/nitrites or possibly tyramine as Jennifer mentioned so, by all means, stay away from them. And, if you follow Chris, you can be assured when he says bacon is okay to eat he is talking about quality humanely-raised and not your typical grocery store stocked.

  10. The article you linked to about trichinosis seems to suggest that pork overall included the cured variety can pass on bad pathogens… Did I read it incorrectly?

    I retired from eating turkey bacon and have returned to the real deal. But I always questioned the health benefits…

  11. Isn’t uncured bacon still created with nitrates but just using the nitrates that occur naturally in celery juice? That’s the only kind of bacon Whole Foods carries now and I don’t have much confidence in the typical grocery store brands so I’m not sure where I would get a cured bacon that is still high quality.

    • While those nitrates occur naturally, they are still extracted and concentrated in a not so natural process. The term natural has no real meaning any more. However and having said that, I just do not see the difference and am more concerned with the quality of the pig than the quality of the nitrate.

      • Agreed..I believe it’s more in the quality of the pig and how it is initially handled and further processed prior to being cured.

    • I mentioned that absent co-administration of a carcinogenic nitrosamine precursor, nitrates and nitrites aren’t a problem.

      Here’s a quote from the conclusion of the full-text review I linked to in the article:

      New information has clearly established that nitrite and nitrate per se are important biological compounds and that nitrosation is an important feature of NO metabolism in human physiology including many nitrosation reactions. S-nitrosation may be partic- ularly important to the physiological effects of NO and nitrite. Car- cinogenic N-nitrosation requires conditions beyond those usually found in normal metabolism. These extraordinary conditions were the focus of concern for exposure of populations to nitrate and ni- trite before their role in overall nitrogen oxide metabolism became better understood.

        • That’s purely an observational study, of a very small subset of people, and unless cured meats alone were the ONLY thing you ate there is not even a loose correlation here . It’s based on people’s diets who largely ate ONLY cured meats (little else) and shouldn’t come as surprise they had higher cancer risks…likely from an unbalanced diet more than anything else. How can someone read that and jump to the conclusion that it’s cured meats, and bacon/nitrates in particular that caused the issue…

          • thanks for that observation.
            I think that someone with the tittle of MD should be more careful
            before misinforming the public

          • It seems that industrial meats in general bring elevated risk to consumers. Until studies are done controlling for industrial animal “husbandry” practices, versus animals raised on pastures free of chemical application, I’ll take those federal reports with a huge grain of salt.

        • Correlation does not prove causation. This is grade 6 stuff.

          If you have a trial set up to actually test this theory, one that can actually show causation, be happy to see it. Test group, control group, single intervention (cured meat vs real meat, the only difference), randomization, etc.. you know, actual science process as described in order to actually prove a statement… I bet you will find all kinds of willingness to re-examine your claim.

        • You linked to a single study in 2006 without addressing any of the criticisms of such studies raised in the review paper I cited. That’s not very convincing.

          • A lot of people are getting really angry about this post and the main reason seems to be that they object to the idea that processed foods can be healthy. Did it occur to any of you that maybe both of you are right? That nitrates in cured meats are NOT HARMFUL and DO NOT CAUSE CANCER, but processed meats are nonetheless still bad for because other added ingredients and possibly the nature of how the meat is processed? Look on the back of a hot hotdog packet and you will a lot more suspect ingredients than nitrates…

            Personally I am of the opinion that Chris is right, nitrates in cured meats do not cause colon or stomach cancer, that’s still not gonna stop me from eating artisan/naturally cured meats without all the other crap in them and suspect processing methods.

      • As you say, without an amine you cannot make nitrosamines. However, if you eat fish and bacon there might be a problem. Nitrites go to nitrous acid, not nitric acid, in the stomach. Nitrous acid reacts with amines to produce nitrosamines. Fish are known to contain amines. If dimethylamine hydrochloride happens to be present in the stomach, you could produce dimethylnitrosamine, well known to cause cancer.

      • I am sorry Dr. Chris but I cannot and will not agree with you and your findings. Bacon when eaten in excessive amounts with other foods high in nitrates definitely cause health issues particularly cancer in the digestive system. I will not bore you with link the couple thousand reference materials that back up my stance.

      • The problem is that most bacon, just like hot dogs and other processed meats often have carcinogenic nitrosamine precursor. So while you are right about the nitrates and nitrites being a problem you are providing a false sense of security to your readers which is unfortunate. I agree, bacon from a local farm that raises their pigs organically is not bad at all, in fact we even use the grease to cook with. However, how many of your readers are careful about where they buy their bacon?

    • That’s what I was thinking. As I understand it, the danger of cured meat lies in the nitrosamines that are formed when the cured meat is cooked.

    • I feel that the concept of processed vs. less processed should have been mentioned in this article. The nitrate from a leaf of organic lettuce may have a different reaction in the body to a nitrate, possibly a chemical or natural nitrate, being added to a processed meat and then packaged long-term and cooked.

      I feel the people leading the discussion to pastured, whey-fed and local unprocessed bacon – cut from a jowl or belly – are obviously better informed than those who are feeling happier to eat cheap, highly processed bacon from the buffet or standard agricultural swine. [What I consider to be “tortured souls” as to the unhealthy conditions they are raised in, that logically passes over into the food supply]

      I just finished reading the article on coconut milk, which goes into great detail how the packaging and type of thickeners need to be addressed, especially for certain populations. However, this article concerning nitrates doesn’t address the issues of the standard available bacon. I find that even store, and not farm purchased, nitrate-free bacon has a cleaner taste and less sodium and less sodium after-taste. Also, most have some indication of feeding the swine a healthier less contaminated diet and many within humane guidelines. When I see a huge agricultural company selling nitrate-free hot dogs and bacon (such as Oscar Meyer, and other highly recognizable names) you will seldom find any information on animal welfare or species-appropriate feed. The nitrate may not be a problem, but an unhealthy swine which is physically and mentally distressed will logically produce less healthy nitrate cured bacon. The Big-Agricultural farms are the standard to add nitrates, I would prefer a natural celery-derived nitrate to a chemical nitrate any day. If nothing else except principle alone.

      I feel the author is doing a huge disservice by not differentiating

      • I agree, Lisa. And, I believe that the author has conflated nitrites and nitrates, especially when comparing the levels of nitrites added to cured meats versus naturally occurring nitrAtes in vegetables, a small percentage of which are converted to nitrites in the body but which are counteracted by the naturally occurring vitamin C and antioxidants in said vegetables that reduce the formation of nitrosamines. Therefore, to compare the dangers of sodium nitrite that is added to meats to the level of nitrites delivered by vegetables is not only silly and gimmicky, but disingenuous and incredible. To downplay the dangers of sodium nitrite, which was just recently (2014) indicted by the Mayo Clinic as promoting heart disease and diabetes, does indeed do a disservice to the readers of this article. There continues to be research on the dangers of nitrites and the issue is by no means settled. And, it is the accumulation of nitrosamines in one’s body and how it is processed that seems to be the key, I believe that it is still wise to limit one’s intake of meats that contain sodium nitrite and when one does eat such meats to balance it with Vitamin C and antioxidant-rich foods (or vitamin pills) in an effort to counteract the potentially dangerous affects of nitrites. In addition, if you have pets, look at the ingredients in pet foods. Many contain sodium nitrite to preserve color! Cats and dogs don’t care about the color, but their health is potentially being compromised by ingesting amounts of sodium nitrite on a regular basis. Pet food companies such as Purina and Iams add sodium nitrite to their some of their pet foods that contain salmon. Imagine the affect on cats, which are particularly sensitive and small creatures. We must be advocates for ourselves and our pets when it comes to sodium nitrite and other potentially harmful additives to our food.

        • I agree the author is dead wrong and doesn’t fully understand the chemistry behind nitrates and why foods like bacon when cooked and eaten cause cancer.

  12. I now feel a lot better about when I eat “regular” bacon at a buffet. The more I learn, the less I seem to know.

  13. Thanks Chris for this informative article. I remember you taking about this on the podcast awhile back, and wanted to bring it up to one of my holistic nutrition professors that seems to think that nitrates are one of the worst things to eat. I didn’t have any refererences though – this will help me out a lot 🙂


  14. Great article! I look forward to all the new posts and uncovering more truths about nutrition and dispelling many of the things that are constantly considered “proper nutrition” that is vastly unsupported by evidence.

    I have a question then, from this article, how would you recommend purchasing bacon? Are there things that you should look? Previously, I bought bacon because it was nitrate-free. Any advise?

    • I’m not Chris Kresser, of course, but I couldn’t resist answering. The ideal situation is to buy bacon from a producer of traditionally-raised pigs (no hormones, no antibiotics (directly or in the feed), pigs who must forage for at least part of their diet, use of non-GMO corn, organic veggie culls, etc. for feed). If that’s too expensive, then you’re really playing a guessing game, as Kevin Teague notes above.

      • What about whey-fed pork? I wouldn’t think whey is a natural part of a pig’s diet, but a local farm around here that makes grass-fed cheese feeds their pigs the whey and also some of the cheese. Thoughts on this?

        • This is a common practice since pigs are omnivorous and cheesemaking results in a lot of leftover whey. It’s no stranger for pigs to drink whey than for humans to do it — rich source of probiotics and a general health food — as opposed to poisoning them with soy.

          • In the Parma region of Italy (source of Parmesan cheese…) the local pigs are fed the whey leftover from the cheesemaking process, and these specially-fed pigs are then turned into Parma prosciutto ham, some of the most delicious (and expensive) pork you can buy.

    • Warning: He’s wrong about cooked meats with nitrites. See above comment. Cooking bacon for example, the nitrites react with the breakdown of amino acids and other molecules from cooking and for nitrosamines, which are KNOWN cancer causing agents.

      If you thought this article sounded too good to be true, you’re right!

    • If you look up lard on the USDA database, the proportions are *approximately* 45% saturated, 45% monounsaturated, and 10% PUFA, give or take.

      In studies comparing the effects of seed oils (like corn oil), olive oil, and lard, lard came out on top in terms of health benefits.

      Eating pastured pork is going to be even better because it’ll still have its omega-3.

      • The USDA database isn’t a very accurate measure of n-6 content in bacon. Pigs can range from 3% to greater than 30% n-6 fat, depending upon what they’ve been eating. Feeding pigs high amounts of soybean and seed oil is not only cheap for the farmer, but it slows the pigs metabolism promoting more weight gain on the animal. Farmers know the ratios at which they can crank up the seed oil fed to the pigs to the point where the fat becomes so liquid on the pig from the PUFA content that it will slough right off the animal at slaughter. I suspect that most bacon has a fatty acid profile that’s worse than canola oil.

        • You have no reason to fear the PUFA balance present naturally in meat. Its the unbalance of specifically adding it, especially oxidized PUFA from veg seed oils.

          If you have concerns the best thing you can do is get to know your farmer.

          • Except for most meat is not “natural”. It’s fed dead animals and grains and hormones and antibiotics. The body composition is completely different. And yes, pigs are omnivores, but so are humans. Does what we eat matter to our fat makeup? Of course it does. As does the food that pigs eat.

            • How can you say meat is not natural? Animals in the wild or raised on pasture are as natural as it gets today. Our pigs are raised on pasture without antibiotics or hormones. If an animal is raised with good food and not over crowded in barns they do not need these things to keep them well.

            • Erin,

              I assure you that I’m quite ‘natural’, although I’ve been fed dead animals as well.

            • Erin’s point is well taken. The vast majority of bacon comes from factory farms which produce meat and animal fat that is far from natural.

        • I wonder why ANYONE would ever take the USDA seriously? They invented the food pyramid out of a bunch of food lobby groups and have tried to kill the American population, with some success.

          • the USDA let pizza be a freakin’ vegetable so they could sell it in public school lunches. what makes people think the USDA is a reliable source when it comes to food health information?

          • YES. Thank you Kevin. The lobby groups are what drives the USDA and the food pyramid, not science. In fact, when I landed on this site, I thought I had landed on some thinly-veiled food lobby (pork producers?) website. Everyone should read T. Colin Campbell’s The China Study. It’s the largest longitudinal study of hunan nutrition ever conducted, by a guy who used to work for the USDA – until he looked at the science and learned otherwise.

            • unfortunately the china study isn’t exactly the bible of nutritional research. it made a good point. several of them even. BUT it was highly flawed

        • Q. Some vegetables contain nitrites, do they cause cancer too?

          A. It is true that nitrites are commonly found in many green vegetables, especially spinach, celery and green lettuce. However, the consumption of vegetables appears to be effective in reducing the risk of cancer. How is this possible? The explanation lies in the formation of N-nitroso compounds from nitrites and amines. Nitrite containing vegetables also have Vitamin C and D, which serve to inhibit the formation of N-nitroso compounds. Consequently, vegetables are quite safe and healthy, and serve to reduce your cancer risk.


          One of its sources (though older) shows a significant statistical correlation to leukemia and consumption of hot dogs in children:

          This particular article:

          suggests as you say about vegetables specifically – that they don’t constitute a lot of the burden of nitrite or N-nitroso compounds.

          So it seems that the N-nitroso compounds formed from combining nitrites with meat are the key.

          Contrary to what many are claiming to justify touting the consumption of processed meats, the American Cancer Society’s current stance actually seems to be that the increased risk of cancer “may or may not” be due to nitrites.

          • Cured meats also have to contain vitamin C. Also nitrosomines only form when high heat is introduced.

          • Simple answer: eat a Chicago-style hotdog. Lots of veg there. Tomato, cucumber, peppers, onion — perfect! Make sure your salami sandwich has tomato, lettuce, etc. Done and done!

            • Aaaaand I’ll see you in the cath lab….

              Procesed foods and a diet high in meat and saturated fats means job security for those of us who work in and around the cardiology practices of the world.

              • Maybe if you spent less time on fashion, you’d have enough time to learn that saturated fats actually do NOT cause heart diseases.

      • Pastured pork? Are you joking? Pigs aren’t ruminants. They don’t survive on grass. They are omnivores. Meaning that they can eat a huge variety of foods. If someone starts selling you “pastured pork” – you’re buying the emperor’s clothes.

        • Ruby,
          You are bold but misleading. Pastured Pork is legit. It is the free space environment that allows the pig to be the omnivore. Not only do they readily eat plants above ground but the work below the surface to eat roots, shoots, grubs, worms and other insects. They also get the minerals they need from the soil. We also finish hogs in woodlands settings to get the wonderful benefits of acorns, walnuts and hickory nuts in their systems. Throw in the stupid high vitamin D numbers in the fat from outdoor living and intense satisfaction when consuming it and you have a great product. I am highly mold sensitive and have an immune condition resulting from long term exposure to (aspergillus/penicillium) Although not fully understood vitamin D gives me a significant wellness boost. This might explain why I feel much better when consuming our pork vs not, especially in the winter months.

          Still don’t believe it? Check us out here. and check out the onsite videos. We are rocking the real deal.

          • Sounds really good Clay. Just checked out your website but did not see an online store. How would I go about ordering?

              • It is incredibly delicious. I think this alone is reason enough to care what your pork is eating. We can argue health and nutrition all we want but what I care about right now is how that piggy tastes. Of all of the meats that I eat pork is the one that has a distinct difference in taste based on what it eats. Beef definitely takes on a far more gamey flavor when its purely grass fed but its still no comparison to pork. I hear bear is another animal that really matters when it comes to diet.

                Pigs and bears are both omnivores so it makes sense. Both flavor differences seem to reside mostly in the fat for both animals. There are black bears that are hunted that feed on blueberries that I hear and delicious. People are omnivores.. I wonder what they nevermind.

                • Heehee! Matthew, you made me laugh out loud. I believe some cannibal populations referred to humans as “long pig”.

            • I took a month long final year internship at a serrano ham factory in Beira Baixa in Portugal and they would rejected every leg that had any indication of nitrate or nitrite, they told me is because of cancer risk for consumers, when i see the rainbow in any pork meat i just stay clear…

          • My pigs LOVE pasture. They are Kune Kune and American Guinea Hogs… both excellent pasture pigs. And acorns? They can’t wait until fall to get their fill. They not only survive but THRIVE on their pasture and garden produce I throw in their areas too. I supplement with Fodder… a mix of barley, black oil sunflower seeds, peas, clover, alfalfa, etc. Seeds are sprouted to create a perfect stage pasture meal – increases the nutrition and protein vs dry. A little kelp thrown in for minerals and these pigs develop the best grass to bacon you’ll ever taste. YUM. And healthy too.

        • We use the term “pastured” because the pigs are ON PASTURE and not in a barn or permanent pen. Of course we feed them grain…you are right, but they also get wallows, grass, roots etc. “Grass-fed” is the term for ruminents that live on 100% grass and hay.

          • Almost correct. Animals whose meat carries the “grass-fed” label may occasionally consume grains during winter months when grass is not abundant in some states.

            • The ones that carry the 100% grass-fed label or grass-finished labels are not supposed to have any grain fed to them. Ones that are simply pasture raised can have anything fed to them.

              In the winter months they are likely to get either haylage or baled hay shipped in like grain fed operations will have grain shipped in.

        • Actually, pigs are foragers, and have a much higher vitamin d content in their fat when allowed to forage (as in pastured). The same goes for a pastured chicken. It’s about giving them a diet as close to the wild diet the would have had before mass production. There is plenty of research on the difference in fat profiles if you are interested in learning about how it compares scientifically.

        • The term ‘pastured’ is used so as not to be confused with ‘grass fed’, but clearly, it causes its own confusion. ‘Freerange’ might seem better, but the term is so misused thanks to the chicken marketers that it’s lost all resonance.

          • The solution to this confusion, to reiterate an earlier comment, is to know your farmer. Labels are a substitute for relationship.

      • Hmm? Im not sure what this journalist is talking about. The American Cancer Society even posted a small blurb in the AJC last month stating hotdogs (specifically) increase cancer risk. Considering how much money bigpharma makes on cancer treatments (which are mostly ineffective), how the food industry doesnt care what we eat as long as they get their money and how corrupt the FDA is, I am surprised the AJC even printed it.

      • A 20 year cardiac study, from Temple U., showed that hydroginated oils is what sticks in your arteries, not lard or animal fat.
        Also colestorol(spelling) sticking in you veins is just a theory….just saying……;)

    • Just to be on the safe side. DO NOT EAT bacon. My cousin who had to go on a health life change (his trigl was 700!!!) was told he needed to change his eating habits. He researched all types of food and when it came to bacon he said that the sod. nitrate in the bacon is very bad becasue it affects your liver BIG TIME! So though it may be healty for your heart and whatnot its very bad to consume it for your liver.

      • did you read the article? the bacteria in our saliva give us a DAILY dose of nitrates/nitrites that is about 400 times the concentration of n/n in a hot dog. In addition many veggies also give us hundreds of times the dose . It is a non issue

        • Did you read the other comments? The ones that said some people still have a reaction to nitrites or ntrates that don’t have a reaction to their own saliva?

          It’s NOT a non-issue for some people.

          • Is it possible that those who said they react to nitrates/nitrites actually react to something else in the food? Nobody consumes those substances in an isolated form, do they?

            • Not in my case. It’s only when I eat foods with sodium nitrite (or sulfites), not when I eat anything without them. So, for instance, if I have a cheese pizza I’m fine, but if I have a pepperoni pizza I’m not. If I have a turkey sandwich with no sodium nitrite, I’m fine, but if I have that same exact brand with sodium nitrite (smoked), I get a migraine.

              • You just presented a possibility of cheese (in pizza) vs pepperoni (in pizza) and smoked turkey vs nonsmoked turkey. I bet there are more differences among the products you listed.

                • The only difference between a cheese pizza and a pepperoni pizza (same company, same everything) is the addition of pepperoni. If it makes any difference, it also happens if I eat pepperoni slices by themselves or a hot dog without a bun or a slice of bacon.

                  The turkey I’m talking about just nailed me a couple of weeks ago. Didn’t check the ingredients, though I should have known when my boyfriend mentioned how it seemed to last longer than our usual turkey (same company) and I had been getting unexplained migraines that week. All of the other ingredients were things I’ve eaten before with no problems.

                  Trust me, I have tried a thousand ways around this since I figured it out 20 years ago. If there was a way I could eat bacon, pepperoni, most jerky or anything else with sodium nitrite without a debilitating migraine fro 3 days, I would have found it by now.

                  I know people don’t like to think it’s not a problem for anyone, but it is for me. I wish it weren’t true too. Trust me, I do. But it is.

                  Most likely, it’s because it’s a vasodilator, and that’s wonderful for most people, terrible for me. I’m very sensitive to changes in blood pressure, so it would have more impact on me than it would most people. Lucky me.

                  Again, I’m not saying it’s bad, good or indifferent for anyone else, just that it really and truly is for me and many other people.

              • The blog doesn’t let me reply to your latest comment, so I will reply here.

                If it’s true that plants contain much more nitrates than processed foods, then you’d get the same reaction to the plants too. Do you? If not, I wonder why.

                By the way, have you tried to modify your reaction by using, say, EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques)? People report getting rid of allergies and more with that.

                • Really?

                  I’m not trying to be rude but I don’t think you’re reading what I’m writing. Why is it so hard to believe that I have a reaction? I have a specific over-reaction (not an allergy), probably to the physiological effect (dilated blood vessels) that everyone else has when they ingest sodium nitrite.

                  This is sodium NITRATE:
                  2 NaOH + NO2 + NO → 2 NaNO2 + H2O

                  and this is sodium NITRITE (the one that’s painful to me):
                  2 NaN3 + 2 Na NO2 + 2 H+ → 3 N2 + 2 NO + 2 Na+ + 2 H2O

                  I react to sodium NITRITE (specifically) in any form (warehouse chemical, celery juice) the same way everyone else does only more so, to the point where my body decides it’s not good and causes me pain so I’ll stop. And it works, because I do!

                  People can say over and over again that it’s in lettuce, but it doesn’t have that effect on me. I’m not a big lettuce eater anyway, but when I do, I don’t feel pain. When I eat meat cured with sodium nitrite, even if I think it doesn’t have any, I feel pain. It’s real. It’s not psychosomatic since I react even when I don’t know it’s there.

                • Many people tout the vasodilation effect of nitric oxide from fruits and veggies (i.e. watermelon) for heart health, so yes, people do believe that your body experiences an effect from the nitrites in them.

                • Am very interested in this. Just saw a programme about how damaging bacon is because of the nitrates but of course these programmes are always researched more for their shock value and always in a hurry.

              • Amy, I believe that you have a reaction. I was merely suggesting a method of reducing it. Somehow, using EFT has helped some people modify their physiological reactions to things, according to their reports. E.g., a friend of mine used to have chronic bladder infections that were triggered by several things. Real physiological processes. And despite having had them for years, she stopped them (seemingly for good) by using EFT one time. Take it or leave it… I am OK with either.

                • I also react to added Sulfites in foods. I do not get a migraine but I get extremely drowsy about 10 minutes after consuming the food. I completely avoid anything labelled with sulfites as an additive.

                  And yes, I’ve isolated it to sulfites. Bottled lemon juice is simply lemon juice + sulfites. I immediately reacted when the lemon juice + sulfites was consumed.

              • Amy, perhaps you should ditch the bread. Ditch it completely – and probably try ditching dairy and sugars including fructose for a while too – and see how you feel.

                If you’re eating shite, pro-inflammatory food like bread (and yes, sorry – I love ’em too! – pizzas) among other poor quality foods, then I’m not surprised you react to normally harmless things. (Even though the numbers don’t add up and it’s hard to believe you could react to a minuscule amount of nitrates/nitrites and not the vast amounts found naturally elsewhere).

                When I eat grains (wheat especially) and over-do the dairy, I become intolerant of a lot of good foods – and chemically sensitive to all (even non-allergenic) laundry liquids. Even walking down the laundry aisle in the supermarket makes my sinuses ache!

                Basically, I guess what I’m suggesting is this. Nitrates/nitrites are probably NOT your real problem. I don’t of course know what is, but there are a few likely suspects, grains being a biggie. None of us – really – should be eating grains. Ever. They’ve never been part of our normal diet and most mammals have issue with them, even if they don’t get an instant reaction like coeliacs (or celiacs to Nth. Americans) do (actually, coeliacs are the lucky ones as they hear the alarm bells loud and clear). After all, if we use grains to make cows fat (and subsequently sick requiring constant medication) then why would we think they’d do us any better?

                • Yes, I know wheat is bad. That’s why I don’t eat it anymore. The pizza was an example from past times (years ago) while the turkey was very recently, a rare slip up. I have many other examples of times when i was eating very clean for a long time and it happened, so that’s not the case. I have done literally decades of self experimentation with sodium nitrite and other foods/additives.

                  Why are you so stuck believing that what I (and many others) experience just can’t be real? When the reality doesn’t fit your beliefs, maybe your beliefs are wrong. Maybe you don’t have every possible fact and therefore the conclusions look wrong.

                  I can’t believe you’re still arguing this one. It’s unfortunate that my body experiences don’t parallel what you believe to be true, but that doesn’t make them any less real or that I’m doing something wrong that I’m not. Every time I say “No, it’s not that” you find something else it must be rather than admit you don’t have all of the data (I doubt any of us do) and might not be able to make a complete assessment of the situation. I’m sure you’re trying to help but please stop. It’s to the point of ridiculous, and I don’t care to argue the point anymore.

                • “…if we use grains to make cows fat (and subsequently sick requiring constant medication) then why would we think they’d do us any better?”

                  Don’t cows get raw, unprocessed grains? Humans, on the other hand, process grains to neutralize toxins — they soak, ferment, cook the grains. So, the outcome for humans is likely to be different than for the cows.

                • Sorry Amy,
                  We’re not here to upset you. I – and others here – are not saying you’re not having these reactions, we’re just making the simple reasonably scientific observation that it doesn’t make much sense dose-wise and we’re curious!

                  People aren’t out to harass you, they know your issues are frustrating enough for you, they’re merely responding to a curious point that has grabbed their interest.

                  It’s not my ‘beliefs’ I’m defending, I’m simply trying to encourage logic, that’s all. As for your comment “every time I say “No, it’s not that” you find something else it must be rather than admit you for have all the data…”

                  I’ve never said “it MUST be” anything, I suggested it’s far more likely to be something else. And I don’t have to admit I don’t have all the data, as I’m only going with the data you’ve supplied, and because that’s limited, and because it seems scientifically highly unlikely you could react to nitrites present in small goods but not elsewhere, I presented alternative theories which might go some way to explaining this – perhaps not of use to you, as you now seem convinced and inflexible on your position – but it might be of use to others here who may be having similar issues and are keen to investigate further. Am I saying I’m right? Not at all. I am however, saying that I think you’re perhaps ‘less’ right than you think you are as you don’t seem to be looking closely enough at all the elements at play.

                  From a purely logical perspective, surely you can see it’s like saying “A teaspoon of sugar rots my teeth but a bucket of sugar makes them stronger than ever!” :-). Still, there ARE instances in chemistry where a small amount of a substance could cause a more disruptive impact than that of a much larger amount, but Occam’s Razor would suggest that the most likely issue (ignoring the placebo effect) is a cofactor of some sort, delivered alongside the nitrate in your food that you’ve not been aware of.

                  As you’re unable (as we all would be without a laboratory) to isolate ALL the minute ingredients in your turkey or bacon or ham containing meals that may also contain nitrates/nitrites, there remains the very real possibility – as Roman suggested – that there is something else that might be part of the preparation process at the factory that is either the real culprit, or is altering the nitrates in some way.

                  One KNOWN and very problematic additive that I’m guessing could be present is sulphur and its kinfolk. Do you react to some wines (sulphur is often used as a preservative in wine) or dried fruit in a similar way that you react to nitrate containing foods?

                  Just an idea. Food for thought (someone had to use that pun here) at least.

                  Sorry if I or others have upset you Amy. Again, I’m not saying you’re wrong, I’m simply saying your conclusion didn’t seem logical, so further investigation is something I (and Roman and whoever else has responded) feel was warranted. We’re curious about health issues and want to know more. We wouldn’t be here if we weren’t. (Well, all except the vegan lurkers who’re here for other reasons).
                  Cheers, Matt

                  (SIDE POINT: There’s no need to rail at me personally about caring to respond yet again. This is what public forums are about. We simply can’t ask or tell others to stop discussing a post once we’ve made it.

                  You’re free to opt out of course, but to try and put an end the discourse because you don’t like what others are saying is pointless and more than a little selfish. The thing is, once a comment is made anywhere online, it belongs to the entire World, to respond to as they seem fit – often for years to come.)

                • Replying to this post since I can’t reply directly to the other…

                  “You’re free to opt out of course, but to try and put an end the discourse because you don’t like what others are saying is pointless and more than a little selfish.”

                  Gee, that makes me feel a lot better, and that absolutely makes me want to continue the discussion that involves my personal n=1 and studies research over two decades being disregarded by someone on the internet hazarding guesses about a complete stranger.

                  Ditch the bread – done, years ago.

                  Ditch the fructose – did years ago as well, now just in minimal quantities since it didn’t seem to make a difference.

                  Use EFT – sorry, I don’t buy it any more than I think visualizing it away will work. I can’t please everyone.

                  Now it must be sulphers – haven’t seen them on the ingredient list, which I check rigorously. Yes, I have a problem with sulphites, and I’ve known that for years as well. But if it doesn’t show up on an ingredient list for foods I react with, then what on earth good does that do? I’m still avoiding foods with sodium nitrite because eating them causes me pain. I’ve seen it happen with foods that had basically meat, a couple of seasonings I know aren’t a probably and sodium nitrite as a cure. Same with celery salt or celery juice or celery seed because they’re all just natural versions of the same thing.

                  I’ve heard 20 years of “It’s your imagination” for something that is incredibly debilitating at times, so maybe I’m a little sensitive. If that is the case, then I most humbly apologize.

                • Hi Roman, you wrote: “…Don’t cows get raw, unprocessed grains? Humans, on the other hand, process grains to neutralize toxins — they soak, ferment, cook the grains. So, the outcome for humans is likely to be different than for the cows…”

                  Good point! We USED to soak and ferment the grains, but not any more – unless we visit indigenous folk and watch how they prepare their grains – which most eat rarely. You won’t find any fermented grains in your Wonderbread, or even in 99% of ‘health’ breads. Soaking doesn’t help much, sprouting and fermenting SOME grains (and of course legumes) helps more, but it never eliminates the anti-nutrients completely.

                  Since we’re FAR less suited to breaking down grains than a cow or other ruminants are, even with a bit of soaking or cooking the impact on us is going to be greater. The fact that NONE of us has the ability to fully digest gluten should speak volumes.

                  To put it simply, grains are a VERY new addition to our diet, and because of these and other tragic mistakes of the ‘Agricultural Revolution’, we lost around six inches in height, our teeth began to decay as a matter of course and ‘diseases of civilisation’ came into being. Unlike fruit and berrys, grains don’t ‘want’ to be eaten – there’s simply no payoff for them as they don’t have seeds which they hope will end up in our nutrient rich poop! 🙂 So they defend themselves with anti-nutrients such as protease inhibitors and the like. For a quick read on the subject, including one of the funniest tongue-in-cheek headlines around – read this extract from Robb Wolf’s book:

                  It can’t hurt anyone to give up grains – and I guarantee most people will feel better without them. They’re in no way an essential part of a human diet (they’re the original ‘processed junk food’) and we’ll get more use out of REAL food if we ditch them.

                • Hi Amy, I wasn’t disregarding your n=1 observations, but I thought (only due to the information you provided) that you may have missed something along the way. The most obvious was grains – which you cleared up, then I thought that cofactors may be the issue.

                  Most products that contain sulphur don’t seem to be labelled as such. In fact, indicating the presence of sulphites in wine is only a NEW thing in SOME countries and most don’t require it – or care about it. That’s why I asked if you had issues with wine (SOME wines) or dried fruit.

                  There are LOADS of chemicals used in the production of food that we still don’t have mandatory labelling for. Have you ever seen a ‘May contain traces of insert-toxic-pesticide-here” label on an apple? me neither and I’ve lived in four countries. This needs to change if we’re ever going to be FULLY informed about our food.
                  cheers, BW

                • Curious about your mention that some wines contain sulphites, because I have often read that virtually all wines do so. (My wife gets a migraine from all but Beaujolais (Gamay grapes) and the most expensive red wines and from a few white wines, so I have been researching the subject for years. I have learned that white wine usually has more sulphites than red wine, so it is not logical that they would be the cause. It seems more likely to be related to the tannins, in her case.

              • The trigger foods you’re describing are also pretty hefty sources of a dietary migraine trigger called tyramine. If you haven’t tried it yet, check out a low-tyramine diet (there are a bunch of recipes and lists of safe and unsafe foods, usually recommended to migraine sufferers, people with idiopathic intracranial hypertension, and people on MAOIs). It might not change anything, but it’s another avenue worth exploring if you haven’t yet.

              • I have the same issue. The addition of nitrates to meat produces a chemical that triggers migraines. Meats without nitrates (not the “no nitrates added” that uses nitrate-rich celery) and vegetables that are rich in nitrates have no effect, but nitrate-cured meats give me a migraine every time.

              • Hi Amy, I’m wondering how you react when you eat smoked turkey or pepperoni with nitrates in combination with NO carbs? Not encouraging an experiment, but maybe you already know (as in know, rather than suspect)?

        • Like any food source there is good and bad. So-called good nitrate bad nitrate sources similar to good fat coming from nuts, avocados, and some oils versus bad fat coming from meat sources. The question should not be about whether pork nitrites/ nitrates are good for you, but is pork in general good for our bodies at all? Our bodies are not made for meat consumption. That has been scientifically proven.

      • Trigs are created from sugars when the liver converts excess intake, especially fructose, to palmitic acid, a saturated fat. Your cousin actually has more SF flowing through his body than a bacon eater. It’s this fat production and high systemic insulin levels that leads to fatty liver disease. Those of us who eat high fat low carb diets, including not worrying about bacon, typically dramatically drop our trigs. I dropped from about 130 to 40. It’s the sugar that affects livers, not fat, not protein.

      • There are a lot of vegetables that have higher nitrate (and converted nitrite) levels than bacon…including lettuce. For example a comparison of bacon to lettuce:

        Bacon mean (mg/kg) nitrate: 36.5; nitrite: 15.9
        Lettuce mean (mg/kg) nitrate: 1,590; nitrite: 2.5

        Using just the 5% conversion rate – when humans ingest nitrates and convert to nitrites (which is baseline – it can go up to 20%) on both means we ingest/convert about 17.7 mg/kg sodium nitrite for bacon and 82 mg/kg sodium nitrite for lettuce. For broccoli, it is about even with bacon.

      • Saying “DO NOT EAT bacon” to “be on the safe-side” is akin to saying “SOME people get mugged on the street! So don’t go outside, to be on theSAFE-SIDE!”.

        Saliva is but one example of a source of nitrites/nitrates that far outweighs the levels in bacon. Much of our other ‘safe’ foods have levels higher than bacon too. Your cousin was given utter noncence advice, since nitrates/nitrates don’t elevate triglicerine at all. His high trig. was far more likely to be from seed oils and crappy carbs.

      • I’d tell your cousin to dump the grains and sugars, if he has high triglycerides. Include expelled oils in that group. Just cutting animal fat won’t help much, if at all, in my opinion. Think Paleo.

      • Liz, yours is the most helpful comment. I want to know if nitrates in any (pork, turkey, other)bacon, ham and processed meats like hot dogs are bad for your kidneys.

        My doctor is very concerned that my kidney’s are throwing proteins and have a high creation level. My liver enzymes levels are also high. Of course cholesterol, blood pressure, and AIG readings are high. I am not sure what to eat except vegetables and turkey. Is skinned chicken ok?

      • Thank you Mr. Spam. That article claims the World Cancer Research Fund “just completed a detailed review” of clinical studies. Unfortunately (or fortunately), the article is a complete fabrication.

        From the WCRF website:

        “We are aware of a story circulating social media and blog sites claiming to represent World Cancer Research Fund International’s position on processed meat. We had no involvement in the production of this article.The statement below is a true reflection of our stance on processed meat:

        World Cancer Research Fund International recommends avoiding processed meat. …The articles talking about processed meat being ‘too dangerous for human consumption’ are unhelpful and scaremongering. We would say that if people can’t cut out processed meat completely they should cut down. WCRF International advocates a sensible, healthy, balanced diet.”

        • The only thing the World Cancer Researchers disagreed with was the TITLE of the article. They do not think people should eat processed meat. “World Cancer Research Fund International recommends avoiding processed meat. …We would say that if people can’t cut out processed meat completely they should cut down.” Read the statement again, and you will see that they simply shied away from the attention grabbing (too to scary sounding for the institution to actually say) headline. But not the meat (so to speak) of the original article.

    • If what you were seeing is true, then why has there been so much hype of all the dangers of Nitrites and Natrates over the years ?


    • This article is right about nitrites, but wrong about them not being harmful. Under certain conditions – especially during cooking – nitrites in meat can react with degradation products of amino acids, forming nitrosamines, which are known carcinogens.

      Nitrite is detected and analyzed by the Griess Reaction, involving the formation of a deep red-colored azo dye upon treatment of a NO2−-containing sample with sulfanilic acid and naphthyl-1-amine in the presence of acid. Nitrite can be reduced to nitric oxide or ammonia by many species of bacteria. Under hypoxic conditions, nitrite may release nitric oxide, which causes potent vasodilation.

      BACON certainly falls under the category of dangerous because the nitrites react with the degrading amino acids and other chemicals while cooking. So eat your bacon raw and slimy if you want to follow the advice of this article.

      • Thank you for bringing that up and setting things straight. I have a question though. I make bacon and ham at home and never add nitrites, as I don’t need the meat to be pink. I cure bacon with a rub of celtic sea salt and anti-microbial herbs and spices… bay leaf, all-spice, cloves, etc. Can you tell me if there will be nitrites from my curing salt mix? And would these react with the degrading amino acids in the same way as th nitrite added in salt form?

      • Exactly, Bacon nitrates when fried or cooked at high temperatures is PROVEN FACT to cause serious digestive problems including cancer, gallstones, diabetes, how much longer do we have to go on… Reason, nitrates the ones that are harmful become activated. Don’t believe me, just ask Elvis Presley. This article is a bunch of shock value bs just to cause strife among reasonable and honest people.

        • Just that fact that Texas controls feral pig populations with sodium nitrite should demonstrate it’s toxic effects. Curing a gents act as antibiotics, which kill beneficial bacteria needed to properly digest food. Harvard did a 10 year study that showed chronic exposure to preservatives had a +50% increased risk for colon cancer. Nitrites generate free radicals and nitroso-compounds known to cause cancer. You are insane if you think chronically eating nitrites is okay. That’s called natural selection. If you must eat nitrites, a lot of Vitamin C can help, but never think it’s ok or you’re not hurting yourself. Nitrates are different, Nitrites are horrific!


      . The study followed 190,000 people, ages 45-75, for seven years and found that people who ate the most processed meats had a 67% higher risk of pancreatic cancer than those who ate the least amount.

      Bad news it was re-credited.
      Author never bothered to check his facts he is Wrong.

      This has been retested (a few dozen times)and the study is accurate. Its a Proven fact not a opinion and they understand the chemistry behind it. And in hindsight understand that no study was ever needed.
      Flat out it causes cancer, In places wear they stop using that cure cancer rate drop. Thats a fact like gravity.

      And they do not just use Nitrate in beacon they use Sodium nitrite. Sodium nitrite is saltpeter ,they use it in gunpowder…. They also used to give it to boy-scouts and the army and inmates to cause impotence. So no its not a natural traditional curing salt.

      I cure meats I use Salt or Pink Salt witch is not the same thing as Sodium nitrite.

      Maybe Chris Kresser needs to learn to read before he writes.

      So what Next Chris Are cigarets Really HEALTHY???

      Here the thing Chris is not very smart but he knows how to write to sound smart, and that would be fine but he to proud to admit when he is wrong and hurts people with bad advice, not so fine.

      • Epidemiological studies can not form scientific or medical conclusions or provide actual knowledge, only the starting point for research or clinical studies.

        The problem in that case was a combination of self-reporting and the fact that they did not control for or examine possible co-factors, confounding variables, etc.

        Basically, taking an epidemiological study (even one as long or widespread as that) and trying to use that as a basis for a scientific argument means your argument is, at best, flawed from the get-go.

        It may or may not be correct, but as of right now their “conclusion” and yours are untested hypotheses.

    • Don’t nitrites kill beneficial bacteria we rely on? Or at least make an environment where they can’t flourish?

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