Sodium nitrate, nitrite & sorbic acid - A quick guide

A quick guide to Nitrates and Nitrites E250 & Sorbic Acid

Food preservation to increase the shelf life has driven the use of nitrates being added to our food. Sodium nitrate is naturally occurring in many foods, and our bodies are able to cope with digesting and processing this natural salt, however by having the levels increased in many packet foods, our physiology simply can’t cope.

When sodium nitrate is used as a curing agent, the process converts it into sodium nitrite, so they are in effect derived from each other. Curing food has been used for years, and salt (sodium) was used to draw the fluid from meats in particular, so bacteria growth was prevented.

Some foods will have both sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite listed (quantities are very rarely given), so there will be active curing occurring even on the shelf, speeding up production times as well.

So, whilst the above are naturally occurring (you would think that means they are fine to ingest) the quantities can cause health issues.

Sodium is after-all salt. High blood pressure, sleeplessness, hyperactivity, palpitations, anxiety, headaches and migraines are just some of the symptoms which a high sodium diet can contribute too.

Our tendency to buy cured meats, jars of pre-made sauces and packet meals has led to an increase of salt in our diets. The salt quantity on a label in some cases will not take into account the sodium nitrate/nitrite which can lead to overuse. So, where people are watching their salt intake, it could be undermined by the additives.

Nature provides this natural salt in vegetables such as spinach, cabbage, radish, carrots and beets for example.

Sorbic Acid

This is a naturally occurring compound and its usage has become the largest, global preservative of ‘rip and go’ foods.

Sorbic acid was initially used to fight against clostridium botulinum or botulism, which means it has actually saved many, many lives by inhibiting botulism growth on transported and stored foods.

It also has anti-fungal properties, which has lead to its use in tinned foods, pickles, prepared salads, prunes and figs for example.

Therefore, its presence in our foods, bearing in mind, pre-prepared, pre-chopped, packaged foods are a huge part of our diets now, has grown beyond measure.  Interestingly, some food types, when coated with sorbic acid, will not show signs of decay for 30 days.

The evidence is slowly growing that by ingesting substances that suppress bacterial growth, we are in-fact suppressing our own internal gut biome, as those substances will act on our gut population in the same way it acts on foods.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Nutritionist Resource are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Faversham ME13 & Folkestone CT19
Written by Victoria Shorland, Nutritionist, Allergy Testing, Phlebotomist, Faversham, Kent
Faversham ME13 & Folkestone CT19

Victoria Shorland runs The Therapy Clinic Rooms from Faversham, Kent, and also works with Spire Hospitals. The clinic offers integrated services:

Food intolerance testing available with instant results.
Specialist IBS/IBD clinic.
Candida/FODMAP clinic.
Consultant Nutritionist clinic.
Hypnotherapy & CBT clinic.
Cancer tailored massage.

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