“Ask Matt Caputo” is a new, ongoing feature where Matt answers commonly asked questions from the market. This week, he clarifies a few misconceptions about nitrates.
Q: I’ve heard that I should avoid nitrates in food, but I noticed that some of Caputo’s meats don’t claim to be nitrate-free. Why not? Are nitrates really that bad for me?
A: Many of our meats are nitrate free, but that doesn’t mean they are any better for you. Even all the “uncured” salami out there uses nitrates—even if it’s not on the label. Nitrates can come from natural sources, such as celery powder, rosemary extract, etc. These natural sources of nitrates convert in your gut to nitrites just like sodium nitrate from pink curing salt. However, they can be listed as “natural flavorings,” even though they contribute nitrate, not flavor.
Unlike pink salt, these “natural flavorings” and the exact amount of nitrates are not regulated by the USDA or FDA, unfortunately. So in unlabeled salami, the actual dosage of nitrates you are getting is often much, much higher than if you just ate the stuff with sodium nitrate listed on the label. The key is balance. Eat some fresh veggies with a few bites of salami and cheese, and you’ll be fine. Everything in moderation!
Disclaimer: While Matt Caputo is a Certified Cheese Professional and specialty food fanatic, he is not a medical professional, doctor, or certified nutritionist. Please consult with your doctor or other qualified health care professional before making any healthcare decisions, diagnostics or treatment decisions based on Matt’s answers.