Nitrates – a new weapon in the fight against myocardial infarction
Nitrates don’t have a very good reputation in the medical world. There are many risks associated with high nitrate intake from a diet full of processed meats.
However, the latest studies show that, when obtained from a plant source, nitrates can provide major benefits in the fight against myocardial infarction. To better understand these benefits, let’s find out in more detail what nitrates really are and where they can be found.
What are nitrates?
Nitrates are a set of chemical compounds, made up of nitrogen and oxygen. They are found in large quantities in some plants, but also in processed meat. In foods such as cold meats and hot dogs, nitrates help with long-term preservation and add color and taste.
The dangers associated with nitrate consumption
When you consume nitrates, your stomach can break them down and turn them into different nitrites. These compounds are associated with an increased risk of cancer and complications during pregnancy. The unhealthiest foods rich in nitrates are:
- Ham – contains up to 900 mcg of nitrites/100g
- Bacon – contains up to 380 mcg of nitrites/100g
- Cold meats – 300-500 mcg of nitrites/100g
- Hot Dogs – 50 mcg of nitrites/100g
Where can we get nitrates in food?
However, in a standard European diet only 5% of dietary nitrates come from processed meat. More than 80% of nitrate intake actually comes from plant-based products. This type of nitrate is associated with many health benefits.
Here are some of the healthiest sources of nitrates:
Natural nitrates vs. added ones – what’s the difference?
The difference between the effects of natural nitrates in plants and those added to processed meats comes from how they break down in our bodies.
Nitrates in plants are broken down into nitric oxide, which is associated with many heart health benefits such as improving circulation and regulating blood pressure.
Instead, the nitrates in processed meat can combine with the amino acids in animal protein and form nitrosamine, associated with an increased risk of cancer. According to the WHO, 50g of processed meat per day is sufficient to increase the risk of colon cancer by up to 18%.
The consumption of Vitamin C or foods rich in antioxidants can block the production of nitrosamines and therefore can stop the negative effects of processed meat. In other words – if you want to eat a bacon sandwich, add a handful of spinach to it.
How do nitrates protect against myocardial infarction?
Eating one portion of vegetables rich in nitrates a day can help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease up to 12%.
A study from the Karolinska Institute from Sweden brings to light yet another benefit of a diet rich in natural plant nitrates.
This study focused on the protective role of red blood cells when it comes to myocardial infarction. Researchers have shown that, in the absence of oxygen, red blood cells will try to protect the tissues, potentially increasing the survival rate in the event of a myocardial infarction.
Not only that, but the study also showed that this protective effect can be maximized by high consumption of natural nitrates from plants.
Depending on where you get them, nitrates can be your heart’s best friend or a health hazard. The road to a healthy heart can have many obstacles, so you need a devoted ally to help you on this mission. This ally can be the Dahna app, where you will find tasty and nutritious menus built on the basis of medical expertise and in combination with the latest scientific discoveries. Download the app today to take the first step towards a healthy heart!