Sodium nitrate, a preservative that's used in some processed meats, such as bacon, jerky and luncheon meats, could increase your heart disease risk.
It's thought that sodium nitrate may damage your blood vessels, making your arteries more likely to harden and narrow, leading to heart disease. Nitrates may also affect the way your body uses sugar, making you more likely to develop diabetes.
And you already know that most processed meats are high in sodium and some are high in saturated fat, which can disrupt a heart-healthy diet.
If you eat meat, it's best to limit processed meat and instead choose lean, fresh meat and poultry, and keep serving sizes small. For greater heart health, consider going one step further and increasing the amount of seafood in your diet.
April 18, 2020
- Micha R, et al. Red and processed meat consumption and risk of incident coronary heart disease, stroke, and diabetes mellitus: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Circulation. 2010;121:2271.
- Sinha R, et al. Meat intake and mortality: A prospective study of over half a million people. Archives of Internal Medicine. 2009;169:562.
- Pereira EC, et al. Biomarkers of oxidative stress and endothelial dysfunction in glucose intolerance and diabetes mellitus. Clinical Biochemistry. 2008;41:1454.
- Kleinbongard P, et al. Plasma nitrite concentrations reflect the degree of endothelial dysfunction in humans. Free Radical Biology and Medicine. 2006;40:295.
- Your guide to lowering your blood pressure with DASH. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/public/heart/hbp_low.pdf. Accessed March 16, 2015.
- Micha R, et al. Unprocessed red and processed meats and risk of coronary artery disease and type 2 diabetes: An updated review of the evidence. Atherosclerosis Reports. 2012;14:515.
- Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/DGAs2010-PolicyDocument.htm. Accessed March 16, 2015.
- Rohrmann S, et al. Meat consumption and mortality: Results from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition. BMC Medicine. 2013;11:63.
- Micha R, et al. Processing of meats and cardiovascular risk: Time to focus on preservatives. BMC Medicine. 2013;11:136.