About nitrates in vegetables

Every vegetarian at least once in his life, in response to his stories about the dangers of meat food, heard: “Vegetables are also full of nitrates and all kinds of chemicals. What then is there?!” This is one of the meat-eaters’ favorite counterarguments. Really, what vegetables and fruits can you eat? And how dangerous is the “nitrate issue” for our health? Nitrates: who are friends, who are pirates Nitrates are salts of nitric acid, they are an element of plant nutrition and are necessary for them to build cells and create chlorophyll. A high concentration of nitrates in the soil is absolutely non-toxic to plants; on the contrary, it contributes to their increased growth, more active photosynthesis and high yields. Therefore, farmers may want to “overdo it a little” with fertilizers. For humans and animals, nitrates in the usual amount are not dangerous, but high doses can cause poisoning and even lead to death. Once in the body, in the large intestine, under the influence of microflora, nitrates turn into nitrites – they are toxic to humans. Nitrites have a detrimental effect on hemoglobin: ferrous iron is oxidized to ferric iron and methemoglobin is obtained, which is not able to carry oxygen to tissues and organs – oxygen starvation occurs. According to the standards of the World Health Organization, the permissible daily intake of nitrates for a person should not exceed 5 mg per 1 kg of body weight, i.e. e. for a person weighing 70 kg – no more than 350 mg per day. If you take 600-650 mg of nitrates at a time, poisoning may occur in an adult. In children (the younger, the more pronounced) the synthesis of substances that are responsible for the restoration of hemoglobin is reduced, so nitrates are much more dangerous for babies than for adults. The degree of impact of nitrates on a person depends not only on their quantity, but also on the state of the body as a whole. In a healthy body, the conversion of nitrates to nitrites is slower than in a weakened body. A significant part of them is simply excreted, and some are even converted into useful compounds. The mechanism of protection against nitrates is provided by nature, and normal metabolism even implies some presence of these salts. Being food for plants, nitrates will always be their integral part (otherwise there will be no plants themselves). But people need to be careful with nitric acid salts and, if possible, reduce their consumption. How to protect yourself from nitrates Of course, the easiest way to say that you need to eat only proven vegetables, collected in proven gardens, proven people. Or advise getting a nitrate meter or nitrate tester (if you know anything about the effectiveness of such devices, please write in the comments to the article) But the reality of life is this: you are standing in front of a counter with colorful vegetables / fruits, and everything you can about to find out them, it is written on the price tag – the cost and the country of growth … Here are some useful tips: Find out what kind of this “fruit”. In different varieties of vegetables, the content of nitrates during the harvest period varies significantly from each other. This is due to the fact that all plants accumulate nitric acid salts in different ways. For example, green bean varieties tend to be higher in nitrate than yellow bean varieties. Choose ripe ones. If possible, eliminate early varieties, immature plants, and greenhouse vegetables, which tend to contain high doses of nitrates, from the diet. However, overripe vegetables should not be allowed. For example, overgrown root crops of table beets and zucchini also contain an increased amount of nitrates. In carrots, the best root quality was noted with a mass of 100–200 g. The taste and color. More brightly colored varieties of root crops (particularly carrots) contain less nitrates than paler ones. But not only the appearance is important. If vegetables have an unnatural taste, they are unpleasant to chew – this indicates an excess content of nitric acid salts. Only fresh! Salads and fruit and vegetable juices should preferably be consumed freshly prepared. Even short-term storage in the refrigerator leads to the multiplication of microflora, which contributes to the production of substances toxic to humans. Avoid preservatives. Exclude from the diet canned foods (and at the same time sausages and smoked meats), which are prepared with the addition of nitrates and nitrites. In the manufacture of ham and sausage products, they are added not only to suppress the activity of pathogenic bacteria, but also to give meat products a red-brown tint. Use clean water. About 20% of all nitrates enter the human body with water. Boiling water contaminated with nitrates does not reduce, but increases its toxicity. Poisoning with such water is the most dangerous, as the rate of absorption of toxins into the blood increases. How to reduce nitrate in vegetables (the ones you already have in your kitchen) Even if you lost the first round in the fight against nitrates and bought a pig in a poke, all is not lost. With the help of a knife, a saucepan and other useful tools, you can correct the situation and get rid of excess nitrogen salts. There are various methods: when cooking, canning, salting, fermenting and peeling vegetables, the level of nitrates is significantly reduced. But not all methods are equally effective, including from the point of view of preserving useful substances. For example, if you soak peeled potatoes for a day in a one percent salt solution, then there really will be almost no nitrates in it, and biologically valuable substances too. Fermentation, canning, salting, pickling are special in that the first 3-4 days there is an enhanced process of converting nitrates into nitrites, so it is better not to eat freshly pickled cabbage, cucumbers and other vegetables earlier than 10-15 days later. With prolonged (for 2 hours) soaking of leafy vegetables, 15–20% of nitrates are washed out of them. To reduce the content of nitrates in root crops and cabbage by 25–30%, it is enough to hold them in water for an hour, after cutting them into small pieces. During cooking, potatoes lose up to 80%, carrots, cabbage, rutabaga – up to 70%, table beets – up to 40% of nitrates, but some of the nutrients and vitamins are destroyed. All of these methods have one big drawback – the bulk of nitrates is concentrated in the cells and is not extracted in such ways. The most effective way is to clean the vegetables properly. Nitrates are distributed unevenly in plants. They are least in fruits, so fruits and grains are considered the safest to eat. It is necessary to remove the places of concentration of nitrogen salts, especially when eating fresh vegetables: peel, stalks, cores of root crops, petioles, places of transitions of root crops into roots, stalk. This reduces the “nitrate” of vegetables by two to three times. The Encyclopedia of Safety for each vegetable advises its cleaning method: BEET. Beetroot is considered the queen among vegetables, but it has also been given the title of champion in the accumulation of nitrates. Some of its representatives may contain up to 4000 mg / kg. Nitrates in beets are distributed very unevenly. If their content in the central cross section of the root crop is taken as 1 unit, then in the lower part (closer to the tail) there will already be 4 units, and in the upper part (near the leaves) – 8 units. Therefore, it is safer to cut off the top by about a quarter and the tail – by about an eighth of the root crop. In this way, beets are freed from three quarters of nitrates. GREENERY. In lettuce, spinach, parsley, dill and other greens, nitrates are sometimes even higher than in beets. Moreover, in plants from unfertilized beds, the salt content is usually moderate, but in those grown on a nutrient solution or on well-fed soil, the concentration of nitrates can reach 4000-5000 mg / kg. The concentration of salts in different parts of plants is heterogeneous – there are more of them in the stems and petioles of leaves. On the other hand, fresh herbs contain many vitamins that inhibit the conversion of nitrates to nitrites. A large amount of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) helps to “neutralize” nitrates, so it is useful to add fresh herbs to vegetable dishes. But do not forget that under the influence of microorganisms and air, nitrates very quickly turn into nitrites. Greens are best chopped just before serving. CABBAGE. In white cabbage, nitrates “chosen” the upper leaves (three or four layers). There are twice as many nitrogen salts in them and in the stump as in the middle part of the head. During storage, fresh cabbage retains its nitrate content until February, but already in March, the salt concentration drops by almost three times. In sauerkraut, the first 3-4 days there is a rapid transformation of nitrates into nitrites. Therefore, it is better to eat lightly salted cabbage not earlier than in a week. In the future, most of the nitrates pass into the brine – as well as half of all valuable compounds. Cauliflower often contains more nitrates than white cabbage and is best steamed. RADISH. Radishes sometimes contain up to 2500 mg/kg of nitrates. The concentration of about 500 mg/kg can already be considered excellent (for early varieties). In the “round varieties” of radish, nitrogen salts are much less than in the “elongated”. You can reduce the nitrate content of radishes by half by cutting off the tops and tails by 1/8. POTATO. With good storage, the content of nitrates in potatoes drops sharply by the beginning of March – almost four times. Until February, the concentration remains almost unchanged. Most of the salts in the tuber are concentrated closer to the middle (and valuable substances are closer to the peel!), But the difference is small. Therefore, it is useless to peel it, besides, the vitamins and enzymes contained under the peel limit the conversion of nitrates to nitrites. The optimal method of cooking potatoes with a high content of nitrates is steamed, “in uniform”: small tubers are put whole, large ones are cut into 2, 4 or 6 parts, while up to 60-70% of nitrates are removed. During normal cooking, up to 40% is removed, if frying – about 15%. It is better to pour out the water remaining after cooking the potatoes. CARROT. Carrots, especially early ones, can accumulate up to 1000 mg/kg of nitrates. There are more of them at the top, closer to the leaves, and also in the tail itself. It has also been observed that the least amount of nitrates occurs in medium-sized carrots. However, not only carrots, but all vegetables – beets, turnips, zucchini, etc. it is better to take medium sizes. In chopped carrots (as in greens, beets, etc.), nitrates quickly turn into nitrites. In salads, these processes are aggravated by the presence of sour cream or mayonnaise (mayonnaise itself is poison!), which contributes to the rapid development of microorganisms. Sunflower oil inhibits the growth of bacteria. ZUCCHINI They may contain up to 700 mg/kg of nitrates. Most of them are in a thin layer under the very skin and near the tail. It is better to remove the tail and remove the peel in a thick layer. Zucchini, especially mature ones, are usually boiled, which reduces their nitrate content by more than two times. Can be steamed in a pressure cooker. Cucumbers. Under unfavorable conditions, even cucumbers can accumulate up to 600 mg/kg of nitrates. There are several times more of them under the peel than in the middle. And if the peel is bitter, unpleasant, it must be cut off. It is also recommended to cut off the most tasteless part near the tail. *** Of course, these tips are just a drop in the sea of ​​useful information needed to maintain health. But now the question of meat-eaters about nitrates can be safely retorted: “Are you afraid of nitrates? You just don’t know how to cook vegetables properly!” And you can do it like this: “You don’t like cats?

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