Bacon is so good it’s almost deadly—and in a certain way, it is. However, a new kind of nitrate-free bacon can keep all that’s good about this breakfast staple while getting rid of all the bad.
Bacon, the healthy way
It seems that a whole lot of good things have turned out to be particularly bad for us. Take bacon, for example. It’s good by itself, and if you add it to other foods, the finished product is often amazing. However, unsurprisingly, it can also be harmful. According to a 2015 report by the World Health Organization, processed meat—which includes bacon—is carcinogenic. The report says that one possible reason for this particular aspect of processed meat is the presence of nitrites.
Bacon in particular is treated with nitrites and nitrates. These two can produce a carcinogenic substance called nitrosamines, which have the ability to cause harm to DNA. But what if there’s a way to have our cake and eat it, too?
Processed meats contain harmful nitrites. [Image via Shutterstock]
We’ve always known that there’s a risk to indulging in bacon, though it would be nice if we could enjoy it and stay healthy as well. Finnebrogue, a Northern Irish food manufacturer, has obviously had the same thought. The company, alongside a chemist from Spain, have come up with Naked Bacon, a nitrite-free type of bacon that’s become the first of its kind.
Nitrites and nitrates are added to processed meats like bacon, ham, sausages, and hot dogs as a preservative that prevents the growth of bacteria. These meats are also pink or red because nitrites become Nitric Oxides, which react with certain proteins in the meat. Without the addition of nitrites, the meat would turn brown and thus look unappetizing. Other than preserving the meat and making it look fresh and pretty, nitrites are also what give the meats their salty flavor.
If you want to remove the carcinogenic properties of bacon, it follows that you’ll need to remove the cause of those properties. However, would bacon still be bacon without nitrites? Finnebrogue says yes.
“Finnebrogue have used a combination of innovation and natural fruit and spice extracts to come up with a bacon that is made without the need for added nitrites,” says Chris Elliott, Institute for Global Food Security chair.
Naked Bacon can make breakfast great again.
Now, nitrites in themselves aren’t actually bad. We get nitrites from a lot of things, including vegetables. Our bodies even produce the compound as well, and if nitrites lose an oxygen atom, they turn into the gas Nitric Oxide. This gas has important functions in the body.
However, when nitrites are exposed to high temperatures and amino acids, they turn into nitrosamines. Processed meats like bacon are high in protein, which makes them full of amino acids. As a result, processed meats are capable of producing nitrosamines, which are carcinogenic. This is why even though vegetables also have nitrites, they don’t carry the same cancer risk that processed meats do.
Elliot claims that Naked Bacon has done well in blind taste tests, which means that it tastes just as good as regular bacon. Thus, it’s like you’re getting the same product, but a much safer one.
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