Nitrates during Pregnancy

Nutritionist Maria Pari-Keener, MS, RD, answers the question, Could nitrates be harmful to a fetus?

Question

I was told to avoid nitrites while pregnant, but it seems as if they're in a lot of foods that I enjoy eating, such as cold cuts and sausages. What's so bad about them?

Answer

Most people don't realize that nitrites and nitrates, such as sodium nitrite, were originally added to hot dogs, cold cuts, and other processed foods in order to combat botulism, a deadly food-borne illness. Once the nitrites are digested in our guts, however, they can form nitrosamines, which are considered possibly carcinogenic. The good news is that eating a vitamin C-rich food with your nitrite-containing food will prevent the formation of nitrosamines. Food manufacturers often add vitamin C derivatives, listed as sodium erythrobate or ascorbate. It has not been determined that nitrosamines are harmful to a fetus.

The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your pediatrician or family doctor. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your or your child's condition.

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