Bacon Sodium Nitrite

For years I’ve bought into the idea that meats (especially bacon) cured with sodium nitrite were terribly dangerous to one’s health.

As is so often the case these days, however, upon additional research thanks to the Internet, my beliefs regarding sodium nitrite are changing.


You’re going to flip when you hear this, but many vegetables actually contain hundreds of times more nitrites than cured meats.


Don’t take my word on this. Instead, look at the research cited in Does Banning Hot Dogs and Bacon Make Sense, a fascinating article by Sandy Szwarc, BSN, RN, CCP…

… the Scientific Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain of the EFSA by the European Commission published its report on Nitrates in Vegetables in the June 2008 issue of EFSA Journal.

They compiled 41,969 analytical results from 20 member states and Norway examining the nitrate levels in produce. Nearly every vegetable tested contained measurable amounts of nitrates, with averages varying from 1 to 4,800 ppm. For example, average levels were:

  • arugula 4,677 ppm
  • basil 2,292 ppm
  • butterhead lettuce 2,026 ppm
  • beets 1,279 ppm
  • celery 1,103 ppm
  • spinach 1,066 ppm
  • pumpkin 874 ppm

This compares to standard hotdogs or processed meats with average nitrite levels of 10 ppm.

Now if the above FACTS don’t make you perk up and take notice, you need an injection of adrenalin to restart your heart.

Okay, I’ll stop at this point because there’s no way I could cover this topic half as well as Sandy Szwarc’s article.

After you finishing reading the article, go buy some bacon with sodium nitrite because it’s conceivably more healthy for you than arugula and God knows it tastes a LOT better. 🙂

[Oh, a quick addendum to this post. On Wednesday, April 14, 2010, Mark Sisson of Mark’s Daily Apple posted yet more informative reading material on why you should be eating bacon, which you can read by clicking here.]


36 thoughts on “Bacon Sodium Nitrite”

  1. Hi:

    In response to the above. Ms. Szwarc has provided only half-truths in her article. Nitrates are naturally occuring in fruits and vegetables because they nitrogen in the soil is used by plants to grow. HOWEVER, when those nitrogen requirements are being met artificially by toxic chemicals sprayed on the soil and plants to farm commerically the biggest and most profitable plants possible you end up with heavily toxic food. The above information is based on research, thinking, and opinion grounded in toxic, commerically grown produce. Water contains un-naturally high levels of nitrates becuase of run off from commerical farms. Just because poison is the norm in the environment in today’s world does not mean that we should take it into our bodies willingly as a health food. I’ll stick with my organic food, filtered water, and the least amount of poisoned meat possible.

  2. Picture yourself in the garden of Eden picking a hot dog from a tree, or chasing down and slaughtering a wild boar; oh, I forgot. Humans are so intelligent they’d lie in wait until mama pig turned her back and steal away her young. When they were finished pigging out, they’d wonder why they felt unusually awful, physically and spiritually. Nature’s simplicity should be our guide in all areas.

    1. I’m not a huge hot dog fan, but I’d definitely run down a pig not only in the Garden of Eden but also right through the Pearly Gates if a rasher of bacon was going to be the end result.

      During my vegan daze, there was never a single recipe, meal, or food that made me feel as healthy, happy, and spiritually content as eating a half dozen strips of delicious, perfectly-fried bacon, along with three eggs sizzled in the drippings!

  3. Hi Chet,

    finally some sense! While I do agree that the figures shown refer to commercially grown veg, we don’t live in a toxin-free world: pesticides have been found in lichens in the Arctic, therefore all organic produce are contaminated in some way. Of course, they’re miles better than the rest, so it’s always good to buy organic, but what I mean is that they contain toxins as well.

    Having said this, I don’t advocate for a moment the consumption of bacon and hot dogs on a daily basis, but if we have a good fry-up or a scrumptious BLT a couple of times a month, it really won’t kill us.

    Thanks for putting some perspective into this issue. After moving to a land where you can get healthy frankfurters and speck, I have realized how flawed my ideas on cured meats were.

    Greetings from Austria!

  4. Eating bacon every day for ten years definitely won’t kill you, though sticking strictly with organic produce on a 100% vegan diet probably would.

  5. To compare chemicals applied to conventional produce to chemicals deliberately added to bacon in an attempt to justify putting sub-standard so-called food into your body really disappointed…
    I expect better of your eZine…
    Maybe another cleanse is in order so as to clear up issues of discernment, assessment and judgment as to what to include in your newsletter and on what to take a pass.

    1. Maybe another cleanse is in order so as to clear up issues of discernment, assessment and judgment as to what to include in your newsletter and on what to take a pass.

      Linda, I’m sorry you’re feeling so hateful this morning that you had to resort to a mean-spirited (and feeble) attempt at sarcasm to express your disagreement with an article I’d bet a dime to a donut you hadn’t even bothered to read.

      But then when people have NO evidence to back up their opinions, taking cheap shots usually results, don’t they?

  6. C’mon– Let’s be real– I cannot believe that in any way shape or form this can make sense. First of all, ( although I have not flipped over to the actual article as of yet) — are we talking ORGANIC vegetables — I doubt it– and since we are not– to me this is saying, well since my good friend is jumping off a bridge, geee– why don’t I join him????

    Don’t get me wrong — I love bacon too– How often do I eat it? Maybe three times a year and if I do it is DEFINITELY without nitrites or nitrates–and no it is not putrified turkey bacon which I abhor, it is pork bacon! The last time I ate bacon with nitrites my stomach turned and turned all morning long like nobody’s business– so there is no way you can sell me this idea.

    Isn’t the idea to put healthier food into your body and not just give up and have a pesticide feast just because it has been discovered in one more food product?? Gee, I wonder who is behind this article. I wonder whose vested interest fueled this information. Hmmmmmmm……

    1. “… whose vested interest fueled this information…” — OMG, it must be the MEAT INDUSTRY insidiously trying to take down all the judgmental veganites who condemn information before they’ve even bothered to read it!

  7. I sincerely believe that not everyone should be eating the same way. Some people feel terrific on a vegetarian diet, and others like myself do exceedingly well on a high protein diet (which includes lots of bacon) with very few carbs. We are all different with different constitutions and makeup, and one size does NOT fit all. So I say YAY bacon!

  8. Thank you for all yur research and thoughts about us Chet. I love a Great hot dog with all the trimmings and perfectly fryed bacon YUM, These I would not eat often, why? I go by how I FEEL after eating anything, If it agrees with my body I am OK, if not, then it is a NO Go.

    In the bible God gave us Dominion over ALL things on the earth. Yes I beleive that veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds in theri natural uncooked form are the VERY BEST for MY BODY as Proven by how I feel when I eat them ( physically, mentally, emotionally & spiritually.

    Sometimes when I even think about eating a hot dog or some other cooked food I can feel my feet starting to be effected with swelling, my body signals me and it is MY choice whether to listen or not.

    I have also pndered the thought of WHY did our CREATOR put all thee animals on the earth? Hmm If they were not eaten by other animals or us, would they not Over Take a lot of the land at one point?
    What is their reason for being here?
    Just some food 4 thought.

    Choice is great, My words of wisdom are: Be mindful of how food affects your body and take it from theres. Yes I agree that there are toxins in EVERYTHING. If you know how nature works U wil know this is TRUE We are ALL one, we are all connected..

    The winds blow things around the world, The birds and other animals carry seeds and other material that can end up around the world, When it rains and then condensation takes place and things are drwn back up into the clouds, those cloudes move everywhere then drop down the toxins and rain it down somewhere else and on & on.

    So if U really get into life itself U will see what I mean.
    Also we just need to be mindful of what we do to ourselves, & others, life is about choice. To most of us Food is nourishment, entertainment, emotional support, escape..whatever..because we r human and we take the path of least resistance….so if we just hink about what we eat, see how if affects us and choose from there…no matter if it is soda pop, chips, chocolate, cheese, bacon hot dogs, steak, veggies or fruit…see how it affects your body, mind spirit ( yes it does affect all of these)

    Ok said a lot Thanks Chet 4 all U do. I do not always agree with your choices but what is Kool is that you state them and what else is kool, is we all have our choices as different as they may be..that is what life is about.

    Happy hot dogging & yes once in a great while ( 4 me) those bacon strips with some sunnyside eggs , whites crisped up around the edges..Oh Yeah

    By the way I am pretty much a Raw food Queen…and one day hope to be 100% if that is what my body needs…

    Love ya bro…hugs & miracles Geri

  9. I joined a church in 1996 that espoused a vegan holistic diet. I had generally eaten healthily before, as my mother was registered dietician but a huge proponent of organic produce, deep sea fish, homemade meals, kefir and yogurt, and I was a daily 3-6 mile/day runner. On my vegetarian diet of organic grains, beans, rice, tofu, miso, fruit and greens, my joints ached constantly that some days I could barely walk, and my weight ballooned. My medical bills were outrageous. Heart problems, Hashimotos Thyroiditis, Hip and low back problems in spite of the fact that I continued to walk 3-4 miles daily and work outdoors.

    In November 2009 I returned to a diet of raw whole milk, grass fed meat, and eggs from my chickens, a few greens here and there, small amounts of frozen wild blueberries, an occasional green apple, cod liver oil, Irish butter and bacon, the cheap stuff. NO GRAINS or TOFU ever.

    I’ve never felt better. I’ve lost 60lbs. My thinking is clear and my body is pain free. Thyroid antibodies are the lowest they’ve ever been, no palpitations, no bradycardia, normal BP, no swollen ankles and ZERO joint pain anywhere.

    Am I crediting the bacon with my good health, no, but it tastes good and I haven’t seen any downside to eating it!

  10. So, Chet, you would rather eat an animal that eats its own feces (most pig farmers will tell you this fact), is known to eat medical dispose with puss-filled bandages (Civil War era), has no sweat glands, an extremely large amount of parasites that are dangerous to humans, and will even cannibalize other pigs over healthy organic vegetables?

    Makes me wonder about your “healthy” advice in other areas.

    There’s a reason why God specifically says not to eat pork in the Bible. They are garbage disposals.

    And anyone who owns fish knows, a build-up of nitrates will result in a buildup of nitrites, which will have a catastrphic result (at least on your fish tank). But as Ms. Szwarc showed, there are different forms of nitrates/nitrites.

    If you want something that cooks, smells, and most importantly tastes like pork bacon, try beef bacon. It’s made from brisket, and is very tasty.

    1. Is there evidence proving that nitrites will kill you… quickly… or slowly? If so, point it out, please.

      With the above question asked, I agree that it makes sense to buy nitrite-free bacon, even though it costs significantly more.

  11. So, I like the sounds of the way Chet and Maggie eat. I don’t feel great when I eat grains, although I love them. And I have a hard time managing my cravings and thus my weight. I seem to have to exercise ALOT and be very strict with my eating in order to maintain a somewhat healthy wait. I’m wondering if your way of eating would make sense for me. But how do you find enough healthy proteins to keep you satisfied and not bored! And I eat alot of fruit…seems like you don’t? And you don’t eat many veggies? What DO you eat? I’d be interested to try your way because I love meat and eggs.

    1. Lori, these days I’m eating fruits (blueberries and grapefruit, as well as tart cherries and occasional apples), vegetables (Romain lettuce, celery, sweet and hot peppers, cabbage, green beans, etc), and plenty of eggs, grass-fed beef, Alaskan wild salmon, bacon, raw milk cheeses, and heavy cream).

      For nine weeks now I’ve had NO grains whatsoever, no potatoes, no rice, and zero sugar or sweeteners.

      My endless cravings for grains and sweets disappeared within four days of starting this way of eating.

      The only way anyone will know for sure if this kind of eating makes sense for them is to give it a try. 🙂

      That’s what I did, even though I was pretty skeptical of the whole low-carb approach of eating mainly fat and protein.

  12. Mmmmm….. bacon….. drool… Look, I don’t live on bacon, I wish I could, but there is something to the metabolic typing, for sure. I have been vegetarian (and overweight) and went back to meat and lost the weight. That tells me a lot about what works for me. I have a dodgy liver and can’t eat too much fat, but that’s me listening to MY body. As Geri says, it’s how I feel after a meal that determines what I eat. I’m a colon hydrotherapist and complimentary health therapist, and I tell my clients to be very aware of how they feel after a meal. It’s not a one-size-fits-all things. Good on you, Chet, for having the courage of your convictions, keeping things real and not just sprouting all the “expected” health stuff.

    1. it’s how I feel after a meal that determines what I eat

      Yep, after studying health and nutrition seriously since 1993, I firmly believe listening to our own body is the only expert whose advice we can count on.

      It’s possible — and smart — to read what others have to say, but relying on any guru or so-called expert as THE fount of Truth is a dangerous mistake because as you’ve so correctly observed, “It’s not a one-size-fits-all” kind of thing.

  13. God knows that He said do not eat the flesh of a swine.

    Leviticus 11:7-8 while the pig is unclean for you, because, although it has a separate and completely divided hoof, it doesn’t chew the cud. You are not to eat meat from these or touch their carcasses; they are unclean for you.

    God also knows that He said that He changes not.

    Malachi 3:6 For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.

    And, God knows that He said this warning…

    Isa 66:15-17 For, behold, the LORD will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire and by his sword will the LORD plead with all flesh: and the slain of the LORD shall be many. They that sanctify themselves, and purify themselves in the gardens behind one tree in the midst, eating swine’s flesh, and the abomination, and the mouse, shall be consumed together, saith the LORD.

    1. Dannah, I beg you to pull out your copy of the Bible again to read Matthew 15: 1-20, where he throws out the dietary laws that the old rascal Leviticus originally gave to those with a religious bent who like to be told what to do by some expert, guru, pastor, priest, or whatever.

      To quote a little bit of Matthew, where he’s clearly dumping on the Leviticus Diet:

      So he said, “Don’t you under stand even now? 17 Don’t you see that anything that enters the mouth goes into the stomach and passes out into the latrine? 18 But what comes out of your mouth is actually coming from your heart, and that is what makes a person unclean. 19 For out of the heart come forth wicked thoughts, murder, adultery and other kinds of sexual immorality, theft, lies, slanders. . . . 20 These are what really make a person unclean, but eating without doing n’tilat-yadayim does not make a person unclean.”

      Since you’re citing what Leviticus has to say about our porcine brethren, I suppose you also support his other dictums, some of which are…

      Hares are unclean since they chew the cud. 11:6

      Baby girls are twice as dirty as baby boys. 12:1-8

      Menstruating women are unclean to God. 15:19-30

      Homosexuality is an abomination to God. 18:22

      Children who curse their parents, adulterers, and homosexuals must be killed. 20:9-12

      The unchaste daughters of priests must be burnt to death. 21:9

      Handicapped people must not approach the altar. 21:16-23

      “And ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters shall ye eat.” 26:29

      Ah, the mumbo jumbo of Leviticus.

      He’s certainly an authority that we can all look to for good advice on what to eat, how to behave, and what we should and should not do, eh?


  14. Having had two hotdogs for supper I’m really sad I hadn’t this info sooner as I would have wrapped bacan around them and french fried them in my grapeseed oil. Now that sounds good I don’t care who you are.

  15. I am like Matt astonished that you are recommending to eat pork
    as it is one of the unhealthiest meats you can eat according to what I learned from many researches from different scources.
    The most critical issue about pork in general and bacon in special may not be the sodium nitrite ( I can get headache from any meat and cheese that has been treated with sodium nitrite) but the so called su-toxines that the pigs carry on which are mainly elimiated through inflammation when for some reason the immun system is down. To focus and compare bacon only from the perspective of sodium nitrite feels for me like missing other points about pork in general and bacon in specific that might be even more important than the amount of sodium nitrite.

    1. Wa, you’re apparently privy to facts and information that others don’t know.

      For example, I’ve never heard of “su-toxines” (and neither has Google!), so I hope you’ll return and post the “many researches from different sources” you mention so others can see if your point has any substance to it.

      You may well have an important point to make, but what you’ve posted so far doesn’t prove anything other than the fact that you personally consider pork to be a unhealthy meat and that you get headaches from eating foods with sodium nitrite.

      I’m sorry to hear about the headaches, but if you’re going to condemn bacon for everyone, you need some kind of proof to make a case for your blanket condemnation of our porcine brethren. 🙂

  16. For the last 10yrs I’ve been eating bacon along with wonderfully delicious foods like real butter, cheese, eggs, steaks, fish, fruit & veggies and I can’t remember the last time I was sick with a cold, flu or allergies. Oh wait, I do recall…it was 10yrs ago:)

    I started eating this Atkins type diet after I gained almost 75 lbs from eating things like whole grains, pasta and the like. Not only did I blow up like a cow, I had allergies galore. NEVER AGAIN will I eat what only “sounds” like a healthy diet, but instead I will continue to eat what others call heart stopping food.

    I’m 49, 5’6, 138 lbs, female and I feel fabulous! Test show my heart is healthy, blood pressure perfect. I realize everyone is different and we all need different types of food to help us feel at optima levels. I’m just so thankful I’m the type that can benefit from these types of foods because I love them so very much! I’m just saying….


    1. Greeneyes, I had the same problem. Eating all those grains and pastas blew me up like a balloon.

      Eating the Aging Boomers Diet with NO grains whatsoever as well as lots of fat has me feeling really good. 🙂

  17. HI! Greetings. I think that yes, ultimately we should follow advice like “STOP CHOWING DOWN SUGAR LIKE THERE’S NO TOMORROW” but otherwise natural foods work differently for different people. I’m someone who trained myself to stuff galore on grains and all since young so I have minimal problems with them. On the other hand, eating too many nuts makes me completely bloated although they are probably ten times healthier than my wonderful grains (no, not whole. :D) So the bottomline is, listen to your poor stomach and system, not the numerous audios online!

  18. Chet, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of Leviticus as being a person, which you seem to be saying (unless I’m misunderstanding you).

    1. Mike, you’re right. I did write about Leviticus as if he were a person rather than part of the Old Testament. With that said, to set the record straight, according to Biblical scholars, the book of Leviticus comes from what they’ve named “The Priestly Source,” who they think was an Aaronid priest.

      Click here
      for some interesting reading on The Book of Leviticus and then click here for details about The Priestly Source.

  19. Our toxicology professor, who was the least earthy-crunchy person I’ve ever known, absolutely told us to avoid nitrites in foods that will be cooked at high temperatures (bacon and hot dogs, anyone?) They form nitrosamines at those high temperatures, particularly on charred meats, that have been found to be highly carcinogenic–no question about it. Maybe added vitamin c takes care of the problem…but why risk it? There are lovely brands of bacon that don’t have it. Yum!

  20. Bacon is one of the treats we enjoy in our varied diet. I buy bacon from organic farmers. The pigs are raised outdoors and eat clean diets. The meat is processed without nitrites or msg. Each person in our family enjoys 1-2 slices of bacon about once a week. I save the fat for seasoning cooked greens, etc… It is kind of pricey buying organic, which is why I consider it a treat.

    I have heard that smoked meats present a cancer risk. We eat a lot of organic vegetables, meats, eggs and dairy in addition to taking cod liver oil and some other vitamins.

    If we choose a diet based on how our great-grandparents cooked and which foods they ate, we would usually be eating the right whole foods for our bodies. Mediterranean diets for for people with that ancestry. My family came from northern Europe. A diet with meat and dairy works best for me.

  21. Chet, I’d like to also add this from chapter 10 of the book of Acts, concerning clean/unclean foods (supporting what you quoted in Matthew):

    9About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. 10He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. 11He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. 12It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air. 13Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”
    14″Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”

    15The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”

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