Chemistry, Eating

“My Diet Dichotomy”, or, “At Least My Salt Pork is Nitrite Free?”

Guys, when I was 6, I moved from Mississippi to Los Angeles. This morphed me into a weird creature, food-wise. Moving from the land of fried and lardy to the land of wheat grass and veggie burgers does things to you. It might have become a gluten-free vegan, except I visited Mississippi at least once a year throughout my entire childhood and into my adult life. I’m going there tomorrow in fact.

Though I get muscle-tested to figure out which foods I should avoid (decidedly Californian), I also keep a container of bacon grease for cooking beside my stove (decidedly Monroe County). I’m not eating any wheat, sugar, or cow dairy right now, but I am eating fried salt pork. It’s nitrite free.

Speaking of nitrites and how evil they are, do any of you know what one looks like? Sodium nitrite looks like this:

From a chemical structure stand point, it looks like this:

Just a sodium ion hanging out with a nitrite ion. Not so scary guys, just four little atoms. Why is everyone always hating on the little guys?

BECAUSE THEY WILL GIVE YOU CANCER. Maybe…Probably. Though my food science bible says it hasn’t been proven, it does say you should avoid cured foods for the most part. This is because nitrites react with the nitrogen contained in amino acids (found in meat proteins) and form nitrosamines, which look like this:

Those R’s symbolize the organic (that means carbon-based, not pesticide-free) back bone of the amino acid. These guys are DNA damagers.

Anyways, I’m still going to eat bacon, and it’s not always nitrite-free because, even though the L.A. part of me wants to ask a million questions about how the food is prepared at restaurants, the southern part of me is too polite.

One tip: Nitrites form in highly acidic environments (your stomach) and high heat. If you have to have your bacon, cook it on lower heat. Not much you can do about your stomach pH though.

Two tips: Nitrite-free salt pork is super cheap at whole foods, but it is basically salted bacon fat. Fried, it taste like a salty bacon-flavored snack. Sean will not touch it.

I’m going to go off my diet this weekend, and I am going to love every minute of  it. Nom nom nom catfish nom.

And when I come back, I think I might do this. Because the California me hates the Mississippi me.

All images from Wikipedia


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