Back in the 1970's a rather damning (and somewhat flawed as it turns out) report coming out of the MIT gave nitrates and nitrites a bad name. These two compounds natural occur in the human body and largely in vegetables. In a knee-jerk reaction to this report the FDA of the day cut the allowable levels of nitrates and nitrites allowed In food products. This especially had a knock-on effect on the reputation of cured meats.
Since then some people are still wary of cured meats, despite the fact that a good number or additional studies and reports has disproven the original MIT report and that it has now been discredited entirely.
As it turns out nitrates and nitrites are naturally occurring and evidence suggests that they could actually be helpful when it comes to immunity and heart-related issues especially. No "evidence" now exists which suggests either of these compounds in any way causes or contributes to cancer.
Indeed, in order for nitrates and nitrites to be harmful we would need to ingest them in their purest chemical form and at levels which are not found in food. You could quite literally stuff yourself with cured meat every day and still not be near these levels, so that puts that question to bed.
So is it "Ok" to Eat Cured Meats?
The biggest victim in he earlier MIT misinformation fallout was the cured meat industry who were linked initially with producing foods with higher nitrate and nitrite levels. As it turns out hot dogs and cured meats don't necessary have a significantly higher level of these compounds at all; certain vegetables have more. Meats labelled "nitrate free" are still not nitrate and nitrite free because they contain naturally occurringnitrates and nitrites from the vegetables used to cure them. Our own saliva contains nitrates which makes up the majority of the nitrate content or levels in our body naturally. Your spit and your vegetables (such as beets and celery especially) contain more nitrates than the cured meats once so poorly looked upon.
A Balanced Diet
I believe I (and numerous highly-esteemed scientists) have shown that eating cured meat is no longer considered harmful. Indeed many studies link nitrates and nitrites with killing of harmful digestive bacteria and boosting the immune system.
While cured meat is now back on the menu remember the benefits of enjoying a balanced diet with plenty of variety. You'll get your nitrates from vegetables as much as anything else and while cured meat is a great source of protein, just don't overdo it as the magic that is an effective diet for health is one which incorporates many different types of foods, including protein sources.