Taking food safety into your own hands.

Earlier this year, food safety company Alvarita launched the world’s first portable nitrate and radiation detector in South Africa – GreenTest. Nitrate occurs naturally in fruit and vegetables, and in small amounts is not harmful. Modern agricultural methods, however, have resulted in fresh produce absorbing excessive levels of nitrate. Similarly, nitrites, which convert to nitrosamines, are used in the food industry for the curing of meats.

Meats with the highest nitrate levels would be those that are processed and preserved with nitrites (e.g. viennas, polony),” says Lila Bruk, a Johannesburg-based registered dietitian. “There is significant research linking these processed meats with having carcinogenic properties.”

Studies have shown that exposure to nitrates, nitrites, and nitrosamines is associated with higher incidences of Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s disease, baby blue syndrome, and diabetes, while consumption of foods containing large amounts of nitrates or nitrites leads to higher incidences of several cancers.

Since South African regulation does not make provision for mandatory package labeling of nitrate and nitrite levels in food, GreenTest has bridged this gap for consumers. The compact, award-winning device tests nitrate levels in fruit, vegetables, meat, and water – helping people to monitor their daily nitrate intake. This can be complemented by more informed food choices.

Choosing the right foods to fight disease.

In light of upcoming Cancer Awareness Month, National Nutrition Week and World Diabetes Day, South Africans are urged to educate themselves in making healthier food choices. Some are as simple as choosing fruits with a lower sugar content.

“Generally, tropical fruits have a higher sugar content (e.g. pineapple, mango),” says Bruk. “However, if one keeps the portion size small (e.g. 3 x 1cm rings of pineapple), then they can be included in a diabetic’s diet.”

According to the International Diabetes Federation, there were 1 826 100 cases of diabetes reported in South Africa in 2017, while Stats SA has put diabetes as the second-biggest killer in SA after TB.

With the advent of fad diets, the debate rages on about their respective health benefits. As far as nitrate and nitrite intake is concerned, Bruk makes a case for vegetarianism in the fight against diseases.

“In theory, yes, a vegetarian diet would be better. It would limit the number of nitrites one would usually consume from processed meat as well. Fruits and vegetables do also contain nitrates, so one should definitely monitor their nitrate intake.”

A diet high in antioxidants, Vitamin C and other vitamins reduces the conversion of nitrates and nitrites to nitrosamines – known to be toxic and cancer-causing (carcinogenic).

Alvarita’s Damian Michael supports this notion of empowering consumers to make healthier food choices.

“I want people to be armed with the knowledge they need to make the choice that’s right for them,” he says. What I love about GreenTest, is that it only takes three seconds to measure the levels of toxins in your food, enabling you to make a choice right there and then.”

Nitrogen is the most commonly-used fertilizer, and today we are using almost 20 times more than we did 50 years ago. This is posing serious health threats. The GreenTest website identifies certain fruits and veg that are at higher risk of contamination with nitrates, and consumers are urged to avoid those with very thin skins (e.g. peaches), or no skins at all (e.g. strawberries, celery).

Going organic

Organic produce is a popular and healthier alternative, if one is to avoid these harmful pesticides used in large-scale farming. Also, synthetic nitrates and nitrites are not allowed as preservatives in organic packaged foods and meats. However, since organic foods are more expensive, and beyond many people’s budgets, are there other (healthy) cost-saving options?

“Generally, choosing seasonal produce is cheaper than choosing those fruits and vegetables that are out of season,” Bruk adds. “In addition, fresh rather than frozen or tinned fresh produce has a lower nitrate content.”

The GreenTest device weighs just 30 grams and is equipped with a database of 64 of the most commonly consumed fruits and vegetables. GreenTest retails from R 999.00, and the four different options available can be ordered from the Alvarita website.

Read more on the Alvarita blog:

Contact details for Alvarita

Email: info@alvarita.co.za

Telephone: 021-811-3333

 

 

 

… because she didn’t use GREENTEST nitrate tester before eating the apple!

 

Consumption of excess nitrates/nitrites/nitrosamines seems to play a role in creating or worsening these disease processes. The professionally-worded title of this 2009 publication conceals a strong underlying message:  Epidemilogical trends strongly suggest exposures as etiologic agents in the pathogenesis of sporadic Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes mellitus, and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis: “Nitrosamines mediate their mutagenic effects by causing DNA damage, oxidative stress, lipid peroxidation, and pro-inflammatory cytokine activation, which lead to increased cellular degeneration and death. However, the very same pathophysiological processes comprise the “unbuilding” blocks of aging and insulin-resistance diseases including, neurodegeneration, diabetes mellitus (DM), and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). Previous studies demonstrated that experimental exposure to streptozotocin, a nitrosamine-related compound, causes NASH, and diabetes mellitus Types 1, 2 and 3 (Alzheimer (AD)-type neurodegeneration).

Potential solutions include:

1) eliminating the use of nitrites in food;

2) reducing nitrate levels in fertilizer and water used to irrigate crops; and

3) employing safe and effective measures to detoxify food and water prior to human consumption.

Why do you need ecotester “Greentest ECO”?

Did you know that the popular word “nitrates” (salt of nitric acid) means the same thing as the forgotten “saltpetre”. All vegetables that are grown with the help of mineral fertilizer (not natural) in themselves have nitrates. So, what else do you need to know?

  1. The nitrates for the human body are absolutely harmless. Danger is represented by nitrites, which are released during the cleavage of nitrates. Nitrites bind to hemoglobin in the blood and as a result, the ability of hemoglobin cells to transfer oxygen is deprived. Nitrites help the pathogens of the intestines multiply and this is what causes the poisoning.
  2. Nitrates accumulate in such parts of plants: stems of parsley and dill; in the upper leaves, stump and pruns of white cabbage; in the apex and in the thin root of the beet; in the inner core of the carrot; in the skin of cucumbers and radish; in the greenish part of potatoes and carrots. 3. The safest way of cooking vegetables is cooking. When cooking vegetables for a couple of nitrates go to a lesser extent. And when frying and quenching nitrates in dishes, it becomes less by only 10%.
  3. Vitamin C inhibits the formation of nitrosamines in the body. Therefore, if you want to consume vegetables in which there are nitrates (not seasonally early), neutralize their effect by using fruit juice (orange, lemon, etc.) or tablets of ascorbic acid (vitamin C).
  4. In sliced ​​vegetables neutralize nitrates can be with the help of vegetable oils: olive or sunflower. But mayonnaise and sour cream accelerate the process of nitrate cleavage in the body.
  5. Order a nitrate tester and be 100% sure of the quality of the products
www.alvarita.co.za | 021 811 3333 | info@alvarita.co.za | Century City

Food safety company Alvarita has launched the world’s first portable nitrate and radiation detector in South Africa.

GreenTest is a compact, award-wining, device that tests nitrate levels in fruit, vegetables, meat, and water, helping people to quantify their daily nitrate intake and make healthier choices. The food safe nitrate levels are determined on the bases of World Health Organisation (WHO) standards.

Nitrate occurs naturally in fruit and vegetables, and in small amounts is not harmful, but over the years the levels of nitrate occurring in food has increased due to modern agricultural methods.

According to GreenTest manufacturer, Anmez, Nitrogen is the most-used fertiliser in the world, and today we are using almost 20 times more than we did 50 years ago, which is posing serious health threats.

“Sadly, most people are not aware of the risks they face daily when shopping for fruits and vegetables; foods that we know are good for us, but the issue is the excess of nitrogen in what we are consuming, that our bodies convert to damaging carcinogenic nitrates,” says Damian Michael, owner of Alvarita.

WHO recommends a maximum daily intake of 3,7 milligrams of nitrate per 1kg of body weight, and we now ingest 10 times more nitrate than recommended. According to many health studies, an excess of nitrates can lead to medical issues including diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, and even baby blue syndrome, which is characterised by an overall skin colour with a blue or purple tinge, called cyanosis.

Registered Johannesburg-based dietitian Lila Bruk highlights the importance of consumers being able to test their own food. “As consumers we are becoming increasingly aware of not only the nutritional value, but also the safety, of the food we eat.

“With conditions like cancer on the rise, it is clear that greater precautions need to be taken to choose foods that will not only provide immediate nourishment but will also manage our future health and wellbeing. Nitrates in food have been linked with cancer and thus are very important to be conscious of in our food. Therefore, the ability to test our own food for nitrate content is both revolutionary and extremely empowering for the consumer.”

The technology was conceived by a group of specialists from Russia, the US and Taiwan in 2006, who gathered with the aim of developing a revolutionary technology that would promote healthy living. In 2014, Anmez was established in China and started the development of the GreenTest device.

Currently, the company operates globally through exclusive distributors in over 20 countries.

“I was introduced to this product when I attended the 37th Gitex Technology Week in Dubai in October 2017, and immediately saw how this innovative technology could be relevant in promoting the health of South Africans,” says Michael. “There are close to 10 000 new cases of diabetes in South Africa each month, and we have the highest incidence f type 2 diabetes on the African continent. With the current drought that parts of the country are experiencing, there is also concern around water quality.”

Michael, who is also the owner of tech company, Innovo Networks, believes in empowering consumers by giving them choices. “I want people to be armed with the knowledge they need to make the choice that’s right for them. What I love about GreenTest, is that it only takes three seconds to measure the levels of toxins in your food, enabling you to make a choice right there and then.”

Currently, South African regulation does not make provision for mandatory package labelling of nitrate and nitrite concentration in foods. In this light, Michael hopes to put the power back into the consumers hands by encouraging the lobbying of retailers and food producers to start including nitrate content on food labels.

“We also want to encourage restaurant chains and independent foodies to practice better sourcing of their meat and fresh produce,” says Michael.

A percentage of all GreenTest sales is donated to Operation Smile South Africa, a global organisation dedicated to helping children with cleft lip and cleft palate.

 

www.alvarita.co.za | 021 811 3333 | info@alvarita.co.za | Century City

Do you pack sandwiches for lunch or grab a hot dog at a barbecue? These foods may contain added chemicals you should know about: nitrates and nitrites.

Manufacturers add nitrates and nitrites to foods such as cured sandwich meats, bacon, salami or sausages to give them color and to prolong their shelf life. When added to processed foods in this way, both nitrates and nitrites can form nitrosamines in the body, which can increase your risk of developing cancer.

These chemicals also contaminate drinking water because of nitrogen-based fertilizers, as well as livestock and human waste. This is most dangerous for infants, who can develop a rare but serious condition known as methemoglobinemia, or “blue baby syndrome,” from drinking contaminated water. Nitrate in tap water also increases the risk of cancer, as shown by the research from the National Cancer Institute. Read more about nitrite in drinking water here.

Research shows there’s a big difference between the nitrates that are added to foods as preservatives and those that occur naturally in produce such as spinach and celery. The naturally occurring nitrates in food come with vitamin C and other compounds that inhibit conversion into nitrosamines. There is no data to suggest that naturally occurring nitrates are harmful, so keep on eating those healthful foods.

Here’s how to keep added nitrates and nitrites out of your body:

TEST YOUR FOODS WITH OUR NITRATE TESTER! Overall, nitrates cannot be eliminated, but they can be AVOIDED. Avoid them with our GreenTest Nitrate tester. Here are a few extra tips;

  1. Minimize your consumption of processed foods and cured meat products such as hot dogs, sausages and cold cuts.
  2. Check labels carefully and avoid products that list sodium or potassium nitrates and nitrites. In addition to lunchmeat, some canned beans and vegetables with bacon, and even packaged seafood, may contain these added chemicals.
  3. Look for organic food. Synthetic nitrates and nitrites are not allowed as preservatives in organic packaged foods and meats.
  4. Find out if your water is tainted with nitrates or nitrites by looking up your water utility in EWG’s Tap Water Database. If you drink well water, your local health department can help you find out if this is a problem in your area. You can also have your water tested by a laboratory.
  5. Eat a diet high in antioxidants. Vitamin C and certain other vitamins can reduce the conversion of nitrates and nitrites to nitrosamines.
www.alvarita.co.za | 021 811 3333 | info@alvarita.co.za | Century City

The Truth About Nitrite in Lunch Meat

The preservative sodium nitrite fights harmful bacteria in ham, salami and other processed and cured meats and also lends them their pink coloration. However, under certain conditions in the human body, nitrite can damage cells and also morph into molecules that cause cancer.

Still, if you wanted to avoid this preservative, you would have to cut out more than just ham to go cold turkey on nitrite. In a typical person’s diet, 80 percent of nitrite comes from vegetables such as spinach, radishes and lettuce, and another 13 percent comes from swallowed saliva.

How is it possible for a substance that seems unhealthy to be so abundant in the body, and in healthy foods?

There are two answers. First, nitrite can be poisonous, but only in huge quantities. And second, a host of factors, including the food and bacteria in your gut, determines whether nitrite in moderate amounts becomes a chemical friend or foe.

Nitrite in the body

In massive doses, nitrite – and nitrate, which changes to nitrite in the body – can lead to a condition called methemoglobinemia. Most common in infants, this condition occurs when nitrite in the blood deactivates hemoglobin, which allows red blood cells to carry oxygen. Nitrate contamination of drinking water, which can occur when nitrate fertilizer makes its way into a well, is a frequent cause.

In theory, moderate amounts of nitrite can also cause health problems. If all goes well in the body, nitrite in the diet transforms in the gut into nitric oxide, which serves a variety of important functions in the body (and should not to be confused with “laughing gas,” nitrous oxide).

But under certain conditions, nitrite can instead form nitrosamines, molecules that cause cancer in lab animals. In an effort to minimize nitrosamine formation, while still preventing food-borne illnesses like botulism, the U.S. Department of Agriculture enforces a limit of 200 parts of sodium nitrite preservatives per million parts of meat, by weight.

New research has suggested that that level of regulation may be unnecessary, however. Nitrite preservatives have “been found to be safe,” said Nathan Bryan, a professor of integrated biology and pharmacology at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston, who says he receives no funding from the meat industry. “It’s a complete change in paradigm,” from what people thought in the 1970s and 1980s, he said. “There’s no difference whatsoever in the nitrite that you get from cured and processed meats versus what you get from vegetables. It’s the same molecule.”

However, the food that accompanies nitrate and nitrite into the gut helps determine how the molecules act once they get there. Meat manufacturers now add the antioxidant ascorbic acid, or vitamin C, to their products, which promotes the formation of relatively harmless nitric oxide and counteracts the development of the possibly cancer-causing nitrosamines.

So is lunch meat bad for you?

If all nitrites were to form nitric oxide in the body, Bryan said, “there’s no concern whatsoever.” People who use proton pump inhibitors, a common class of acid suppressants, may be an exception, he added, because the diminished acidity in their stomachs may allow for the growth of bacteriathat produce nitrosamines.

Despite the growing indications that nitrite is safe for most people, don’t pull out the celebratory pepperoni just yet.

“Multiple [epidemiological] studies have found a relationship between processed meat intake and increased risk of colorectal cancer,” said Amanda Cross, an investigator in the division of cancer epidemiology and genetics at the National Institute of Health. One possible explanation: “In addition to nitrate and nitrite, it is possible that there are other components of processed meats that are responsible for the associations observed with colorectal cancer.”

Bacon is one food that Bryan agrees is a potential health risk. Bacon is especially high in nitrite and can form nitrosamines when fried at high temperatures. To avoid this hazard, Bryan recommends cooking bacon slowly and at a low temperature.

Pass it on: Evidence is mounting that nitrite preservatives are dangerous if you have a large intake, and that includes these processed meats

 

IF YOU DON`T STOP EATING THESE 7 HIGH CARB FOODS, THEY COULD KILL YOU

Low-to-no-carb diets have been all the rage for years. There was the Atkin’s Diet, the South Beach Diet, the Dukan diet, the Ketogenic diet, and the Paleo diet—to name just a few of the more popular plans. Many swear by the diets’ weight loss benefits, but several new studies suggest that limiting carbs may do more than slim your waistline—it may even save your life.

Some people are just plain eating too many carbs, and these are the signs you are one of them. If you overindulge on high carb foods, limiting those carbs can be a life-saver, literally. In one study, people who ate a lot of carbs (more than 60 percent of their daily calories) had a nearly 30 percent greater risk of dying during a seven-plus year period than people eating a low-carb diet.Here’s how the researchers figured this out: In their Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study, they followed people aged 35 to 70 from 18 countries for 7.4 years on average.

Participants answered questions about the foods they ate using a standard questionnaire, and researchers categorized them into groups based on their intake of carbs, fats, and protein.During the study period, 5,796 participants died and 4,784 had heart attacks or strokes. Researchers took a look at their diets and found that those who consumed the greatest amount of carbs were more likely to die, when compared with their counterparts who consumed the least. Fat, however, seemed protective.

People who ate high-fat diets (about 35 percent of daily energy intake) had a 23 percent lower risk of mortality, and an 18 percent lower risk of stroke compared to low intake group (11 percent energy).

CARB LINK TO HEART DISEASE

The study was not designed to determine why carbs may increase risk of dying, but some older research does provide some clues. A higher carb intake may increase dangerous blood fats known as triglycerides and low-density lipoprotein or ‘bad’ cholesterol, explains study author Mashid Dehghan, PhD, an Investigator in the Nutrition Epidemiology program at the Population Health Research Institute and Senior Research Associate in the Department of Medicine at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. ‘It may also increase apoB/apoA ratios,’ she told Reader’s Digest, and ‘ApoB/ApoA ratio has shown to be strong predictor of heart disease.’\

In fact, loading up on carbs is among the worst eating habits for people with high cholesterol.Fat was once considered diet saboteur No. 1, but carbs—especially white, processed, simple ones—now holds this title. In fact, two other studies published in the journal Cell Metabolism also raise hopes that low-carb diets, if followed over time, improve the odds of living longer and can also boost memory. (These studies were in mice, but they do add to growing body of evidence).

NO CARB IS NOT THE ANSWER

Before you start trashing all of the carbs in your pantry for a low-carb diet, remember Dr. Deghan’s caveat: ‘Our study does not support a very low carbohydrate intake (e.g. below 50 percent of caloric intake), and moderate intakes (e.g. 50-55 percent of caloric intake) are likely to be more appropriate than either very high or very low carbohydrate intakes,’ she says. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that carbohydrates make up 45 percent to 65 percent of your total daily calories. This means that between 900 and 1,300 calories should be from carbs, assuming you eat a 2,000 calories a day.

GOOD CARBS AND BAD CARBS

Once upon a time, we thought all fats were bad and should be avoided—just one of the many myths about fat you need to stop believing—but research eventually showed that some fats such as omega-3’s are super healthy while trans fats are anything but, and it’s looking like we will see the same sort of a shakeout with carbs. While Dr. Dehghan and colleagues did not parse out the type of carbs that study participants ate, we already know that some carbs (think whole foods including vegetables, whole fruit, legumes, potatoes, and whole grains) are healthy and some (think refined carbs such as sugar-sweetened beverages, fruit juices, pastries, white bread, white pasta, and white rice) are not, and should be avoided or at least limited.

CARB TO AVOID: JUICE

Yes, juicing may be on trend with many a wellness guru touting its health benefits and juice bars popping up everywhere, but fruit juices are examples of simple carbohydrates to be avoided, says Sharon Zarabi RD, CDN, CPT , Program Director of Bariatric Surgery and a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist/Fitness Trainer at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. ‘Blending is different, as it uses the whole fruit including the fiber content, but fruit juice has no fiber.’ It’s the fiber that separates good carbs from killer carbs. ‘Simple sugars like those in juice and some smoothies spike blood sugar, and what goes high usually goes low and will leave you feeling hungry in the short term as opposed to when you consume fiber-rich foods and drinks,’ she says. Skip the juice and drink water or another low-calorie unsweetened beverage. When you eat—or don’t eat—carbs matters too.

CARB TO AVOID: SWEETENED SODA AND COFFEE DRINKS

Also high on the list of dangerous carbs are sweetened sodas, Zarabi says. A can of Coke has 39 grams of carbs, not to mention at least 150 empty calories. Flavored lattes are also on the hit list as they rank high in blood-sugar spiking carbs, she says. And these beverages, soda especially, have been linked to skyrocketing rates of obesity. If you need more convincing, here are 10 more reasons to never drink soda again.’

Evidence is growing that overconsumption of simple sugars from added sugars—white sugar, agave, maple syrup, etc.—is representative of a more calorie-rich eating plan and likely an eating plan that fails to provide satiety at a lower calorie level, leading to overconsumption,’ says Connie Diekman M.Ed., RD, LD, FADA, Director of University Nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis past president of the American Dietetic Association (ADA), now the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

And we know that limiting carbs helps with weight loss. Low-carb diets lead to weight loss by inducing something called ketosis. Put another way: If you reign in the carbs, your body turns to fat for fuel and you shred weight. (When stored fat gets broken down, it morphs into molecules called ketones, thus ketosis.) Here’s what it’s really like to follow the ketogenic diet.

CARBS TO AVOID: WHITE RICE, BREAD, AND PASTA

These foods are examples of simple carbohydrates that give carbs a bad name, Zarabi says. ‘All carbs are not created equal.’ White processed carbs are low in fiber and tend to spike blood sugar. (Heads up: These 8 sneaky things can also raise blood sugar levels.) Her advice: ‘Read food labels and make sure the fiber content is greater than 3 grams per serving.’Brown rice, wild rice, and quinoa are healthier alternatives to white rice. Whole grain pastas and breads are also smart substitutions.

Wraps—especially whole wheat or veggie-flavored ones—may seem like a heathier choice than a sandwich on a roll, but the darker colors may be food coloring rather than whole grains or veggies. ‘Instead, use collard greens or kale leaves as a wrap or make a salad,’ Zarabi suggests.Plain bagels are high carb foods too, says Boston-based nutritionist Dana Greene, RD. And the bigger the bagel, the worse the offense, she says. Depending on the size, a bagel can have close to 500 calories and 50 grams of carbohydrates. Opt for one of these easy healthy breakfasts instead.

CARB TO AVOID: BREAKFAST CEREALS

Speaking of breakfast, even some of the healthier-sounding cereals in the aisle may be high carb foods loaded with simple sugars and low in nutritional value, Zarabi says. Check the fiber content and make sure it is above 3 grams per serving, and choose single ingredient cereals for breakfast such as oatmeal when and where you can.

CARBS TO AVOID: PRETZELS, POPCORNS, AND CHIPS

Anything that melts in your mouth is a source of empty calories, as there is no substance left to keep your stomach full and sated. So if you’re craving snack foods, choose healthy snacks you won’t feel guilty about eating. ‘Carbohydrates from vegetables, fruits, and grains should be a part of a healthful eating plan in that they provide us with the energy we need, the fiber we need, and overall nutrition,’ Diekman says.

‘An eating plan built around whole grains, vegetables, and fruits is more nutrient rich, provides a greater feeling of fullness, and has been found to promote health.’ Instead of chips, try roasted chickpeas or edamame to get the crunch you crave without the carbs, like The Good Bean Sea Salt Flavor Crispy Crunchy Chickpeas or Seapoint Farms Dry Roasted Edamame.

CARB TO AVOID: GRANOLA BARS

Sure, they sound healthy and are easy to eat on the go, but many snack or granola bars are high in sugar and simple carbs. (Granola is actually on the list of foods we should steer clear of when we want to lose weight.) Instead, ‘look for bars that are high in protein, healthy fats, and fiber with fewer than eight grams of sugar and no added sugars,’ Greene says. It isn’t always easy to detect added sugar but come 2018, the FDA’s new ‘added sugar’ category will appear on nutrition labels and make this task simpler. ‘The fewer the ingredients the better and they should always come from whole foods.’ Some healthy choices include KIND Pressed Mango Apple Chia Bars, any of the Rx bars or all Health Warrior Chia bars.

CARBS TO AVOID: COOKIES, DOUGHNUTS, AND BAKED GOODS

Simple carbs such as doughnuts, muffins, and cookies lack essential vitamins and minerals. They also spike blood sugar quickly and then cause an energy low, unlike complex carbs that are made up of starch and fiber and release gradually to provide a steady source of energy. ‘Never say never as that sets you up to feel deprived and then binge,’ Greene says. ‘These foods are fine as an occasional treat in an otherwise healthy and balanced diet. They should not be staples, however.’ A few simple ingredient swaps can make your desserts healthier and still keep them yummy.

To check the level of Nitrates and Nitrites in your fruit, vegetable, meat and water, contact Alvarita for a Nitrate Tester. Exclusively distributed in Africa.

www.alvarita.co.za | 021 811 3333 | info@alvarita.co.za | Century City

Nitrate and Nitrite in Vegetables and Infant Feeding

Nitrate occurs naturally in the environment and plants. Nitrate in vegetables can be converted to nitrite by bacteria or enzyme actions. The resulted nitrite can cause the rare blue baby syndrome. This article highlights the findings and recommendations of our study on nitrates and nitrites in vegetables.

Local Cases of Blue Baby Syndrome

In Hong Kong, two infants, eight and six months old, were reported suffering from blue baby syndrome after consuming homemade congee mixed with Chinese spinach and petiole Chinese cabbage in 2008 and 2009 respectively. Both babies were subsequently discharged after treatment. The syndrome, also called methaemoglobinaemia, occurs when the haemoglobin is unable to carry oxygen to body tissues. The patients will have their skin and lips turned blue. Infants are more susceptible to it because of the immaturity of the digestive and methaemoglobin reductase systems.

Certain Leafy Vegetables Contain Higher Nitrates

In the study, we found all 73 fresh samples of vegetables tested contained variable levels of nitrates while the nitrite levels were generally very low or negligible. Three types of leafy vegetables, namely Chinese spinach, Shanghai cabbage and petiole Chinese cabbage, contained highest levels of nitrate at a mean concentration exceeding 3 500 mg/kg. Brassica (e.g. broccoli, cauliflower), legume (e.g. snow pea), and fruiting vegetables (e.g. tomato, hairy gourd, sweet corn), root and tuber (e.g. carrot and potato), stalk and stem vegetables (e.g. asparagus, mung bean sprout) were relatively low in nitrate (mean concentration less than 1 000 mg/kg). On the whole, the nitrate and nitrite levels in vegetables were unlikely to pose immediate health risk to general population. Details can be found in the study report.

For nitrates already exist in the vegetables, we can reduce the level by washing and peeling. Nitrate is soluble in water and thus washing and blanching of vegetables can reduce nitrate levels. Nitrate content was found to decrease significantly after peeling of vegetables such as potato. Our study also showed that the nitrate concentrations in Chinese flowering cabbage, Chinese spinach and celery reduced by 12% to 31% when they were blanched for one to three minutes.

Handling of Vegetables Affects Nitrate and Nitrite Levels

On the other hand, we can take some measures to prevent accumulation of nitrites from the existing nitrates. Nitrite in vegetables is formed as a result of bacterial or enzyme (nitrate reductase) actions. When the fresh vegetables are pureed, the broken vegetable cells will release the enzyme for nitrite formation. Cooking can destroy the enzyme activity. However, any subsequent bacteria contamination can also result in nitrite accumulation. Nitrite accumulation is inhibited under frozen storage (at or below -18oC) but not in the usual refrigerators (about 4oC). For commercially processed infant food, the sterilization treatments necessary for canning can effectively destroy nitrite-forming microorganisms. However, once the container is opened, it is still subject to bacterial contamination if the food is not handled and stored properly.

Key Points to Note

  • Nitrates and nitrites in local vegetables are unlikely to pose immediate health risk to the population.
  • Proper handling and storage of vegetables can reduce nitrate and nitrite intake.
  • Vegetables are essential for health and different types of vegetables including leafy vegetables should be given to infants in rotation.

Vegetables in Infant Feeding

 Vegetables contain dietary fibres and other nutrients essential for health. For infants, World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for those up to six months of age. When complementary foods are introduced, the usual quantity of intake for babies of 6-12 months old is around two to four tablespoons per day. Different types of vegetables including leafy vegetables should be given to infants in rotation to maintain balanced nutrition.

Advice for the Preparation of Vegetable-containing Foods for Infants

 1. Prepare carefully

  • Wash and peel vegetables (e.g. potato, carrot, etc).
  • When chopping or mashing is required, do so shortly before cooking.
  • Blanch high-nitrate vegetables in boiling water for one to three minutes and discard the cooking water before consumption.

 

2. Store properly

  • Vegetable congee and puree prepared for infants should be consumed immediately and preferably not be stored at all.
  • If storage cannot be avoided, keep only for the next meal (less 12 hours) and in a refrigerator (below 4oC).
  • If storage for more than 12 hours is needed, the food should be kept in freezer (at or below -18oC).
  • Store the fresh leafy vegetables in refrigerator if they are not cooked immediately.

 

3. Eat it right away

  • It is most desirable to prepare the infant food immediately before consumption.
  • Cooked food taken out from the refrigerator or freezer should be reheated right away by boiling thoroughly for one minute and consumed immediately.

 

With the Greentest Nitrate Tester, you will be able to test the Nitrates in your fruit, vegetable, meat and water. You can purchase a Greentest Nitrate tester from www.alvarita.co.za.

Only available from Alvarita.

 

  • Minimize your consumption of processed foods and cured meat products such as hot dogs, sausage and cold cuts.
  • Check labels carefully and avoid products that list sodium or potassium nitrates and nitrites. In addition to lunchmeat, some canned beans and vegetables with bacon, and even packaged seafood, may contain these added chemicals.
  • Eat organic food. Synthetic nitrates and nitrites are not allowed as preservatives in organic packaged foods and meats.
  • Find out if your water is tainted with nitrates or nitrites. Public drinking water utilities test for these compounds and must disclose their results. If you drink well water, your local health department can help you find out if this is a problem in your area. You can also have your water tested by a laboratory. If the chemicals are present, consider treating your water with a home water distiller, a reverse osmosis filter or an ion exchange filter to remove any fertilizer nitrates in the groundwater.
  • Eat a diet high in antioxidants. Vitamin C and certain other vitamins can reduce the conversion of nitrates and nitrites to nitrosamines.

 

To check the level of Nitrates and Nitrites in your fruit, vegetable, meat and water, contact Alvarita for a Nitrate Tester. Exclusively distributed in Africa.

What is Nitrate?

Nitrate is a polyatomic ion made of Nitrogen and Oxygen atoms. The chemical structure contains one Nitrogen atom and three Oxygen atoms and is represented by the molecular formula NO3-. The nitrate group can be described as a functional group in inorganic chemistry. The compound has a trigonal planar geometry. This tells us how the atoms within the compound is arranged in three-dimensional space. According to the structure of the Nitrate, Nitrogen is the centre and is bonded to three identical Oxygen atoms. However, at any given time, only one oxygen atom is doubly bonded to the Nitrogen centre, the other two Oxygen atoms are bonded through single bonds. But, as the three oxygen atoms are identical to each other, it is believed that the structure is in accordance with the resonance principle in chemistry. Therefore, it suggests that the double bond can migrate between any Oxygen atom and the Nitrogen centre. Also, Nitrogen has an oxidation number of +5 in Nitrates.

Nitrate ions have an overall charge of -1, however considering the charge distribution within the ion, the Nitrogen atom carries a charge of +1, and each Oxygen atom carries a charge of -(2/3), to result in an overall charge of -1. Generally, all nitrate salts are soluble in water. With water, the Nitrate ions form nitric acid, which is considered as a strong acid. Nitrate compounds are used for fertilizers in agriculture, for the production of explosives and gun powder, etc. With the Greentest Nitrate Tester, you will be able to test the Nitrates in your fruit, vegetable, meat and water. You can purchase a Greentest Nitrate tester from www.alvarita.co.za.

Only available from Alvarita.

What is Nitrite?

Nitrites is also a polyatomic ion containing N and O atoms, where Nitrogen has an oxidation number of +3. The Nitrite group contains one Nitrogen atom and two Oxygen atoms and is represented by the molecular formula, NO2-. The O-N-O bond angle is roughly around 120°. This gives us an idea how the atoms are arranged in three-dimensional space. Nitrite ions can be oxidized to form Nitrates since the oxidation number of Nitrogen in Nitrites is less than that of Nitrates.

Upon reacting with water, Nitrites form nitrous acid, which is considered to be a weak acid in inorganic chemistry. In the chemical structure of the Nitrite compound, one Oxygen atom is doubly bonded to the Nitrogen centre, and the other is singly bonded. However, as the resonance principle governs the structure relationship of the group, the double bond between the Oxygen atom and the Nitrogen atom is considered to be constantly migrating; hence, the two Oxygen atoms would have identical status. Nitrites are produced by nitrifying bacteria and is often used in the food industry for the curing of meat. It also has an important biochemical role being the vasodilator for nitric oxide.

With the Greentest Nitrate Tester, you will be able to test the Nitrates in your fruit, vegetable, meat and water. You can purchase a Greentest Nitrate tester from www.alvarita.co.za.

Only available from Alvarita.

 

Every great once in a while mainline medical advice reverses itself about something important – what was bad becomes good or what was good becomes bad. That happened with Vitamin D in recent years when stern warnings never to exceed 400IU a day gave way to recommendations that it is good for older people to take anywhere up to 4000IU per day. A reversal may now be taking place having to do with whether nitrates and nitrites lead to cancers and Alzheimer`s Disease and are therefore bad for you, or whether they have great cardiovascular effects and are therefore good for you. There is controversy about this, clashing and clanging of gears as contradictory health advice is commonly given.

The arguments against consumption of substantial amounts of nitrates and nitrites are both old and new and are fairly convincing:

• Nitrites are converted into nitrosamines under a number of conditions, and nitrosamines are known to be toxic or carcinogenic.

• Exposure to nitrates, nitrites and nitrosamines is correlated with higher incidences of Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s disease and diabetes.

• Consumption of foods containing large amounts of nitrates or nitrites lead to higher incidences of several cancers.

• Shorter telomere lengths, biomarkers of aging,  are associated with consumption of processed meats containing nitrates/nitrites/nitrosamines, but not with consumption of unprocessed meats.