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