For some food health enthusiasts, these three words are like calling the plagues down upon us. They’re dangerous, they’re evil, they should be avoided at all costs, and ditto any foods containing high amounts of any of them.
But like so many debates on what’s good for our diet and what needs to stay in the cupboard, the fears associated with nitrates, nitrates, and MSG need to be taken with a grain of salt (pun intended) when it come to beef jerky.
Here’s a breakdown of these three substances including how their backgrounds; what they can do when consumed excessively; and what role they play in beef jerky.
Nitrates: Sodium nitrate is the most frequently-mentioned member of this family. It’s used to preserve foods including cured meats, which obviously includes jerky along with the likes of hot dogs, bacon, and ham. It’s found naturally in a couple places in the world, namely Chile and Peru,or can be made artificially. Ironically, what most people don’t know is that it’s also found in vegetables - particularly lettuce, celery, carrots,spinach, and beets. About 80% of the nitrates you consume come from devouring vegetables, not meats. Is sodium nitrate bad for you? Just like everything else, in high enough quantities it can be linked to some nasty things, including colorectal cancer, heart disease, leukemia, lymphoma and several other types of cancer. However, the amount of sodium nitrate used in beef jerky is considered very safe.